By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
HERMITAGE — Larry Kelly, a member of Hobson Pike Baptist Church here, preached at the church Sept. 13 because the pastor had to be away. He often preaches at the church though he just turned 100 years old.
Kelly was recognized by the church on Sept. 13 on his upcoming birthday.
Amazingly, Kelly just returned to Hobson Pike Baptist as a member in the spring after serving as pastor of a Presbyterian church in Unionville for six years. He left that church mainly because it was some distance away from his home. His wife, Ruth Ann, needed to be closer to home for medical treatments. Kelly stopped driving a few years ago but is helped by family members who transport him and Ruth Ann where they need to go.
“He often says he feels the call to preach today as strong as he did when he started,” reported Carolyn Atkinson, a fellow member of Hobson Pike.
Another member of the church, Steve Freeman, deacon, spoke of Kelly during the Sept. 13 worship service. Freeman reported that Kelly joined the church when he was 93 years old and “started working.” Then Kelly became pastor of the church so he left for six years.
When Kelly returned to Hobson Pike recently, he said he was worried that he couldn’t do more for the church, reported Freeman.
Of course, preaching often at the church is no small thing. The church’s new pastor, Seth Rone, has to be away regularly because he also is a chaplain in the U.S. Army National Guard.
The two preachers have the chaplaincy in common. Kelly also was a military chaplain. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-54 during World War II and the Korean War.
After Kelly left the military, he served as pastor of churches in three denominations, Southern Baptist, American Baptist, and Cumberland Presbyterian. He has been pastor of churches in Arkansas, Wyoming, Maryland, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee. He also has preached in Iceland, Mexico, and Canada.
“I’ve been around,” he reported dryly.
Currently Kelly has a somewhat unusual ministry. Kelly records a sermon once a week and sends the cassette tape to a Baptist church in London, England, where he has relatives. The tapes are available in the church’s tape ministry. Kelly has been producing the tapes for about 10 years.
In his Sept. 13 sermon, during which he stood the entire time, Kelly called people repeatedly to commit their lives to God.
He explained this following his sermon.
“You must give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s no other way, there’s no other way to be happy but to trust Him.”
Kelly also commented on current events, noting though he is limited in what he can do for God, he often prays for people in the news. He recently prayed for the refugees from Syria fleeing ISIS.
He also prays for the United States.
“If God doesn’t move on the heart of our nation, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”