First Baptist Dresden music minister retires after 46 years
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
DRESDEN — Marshall Anderson likes to joke that one week he was creating “havoc” in the youth choir at First Baptist Church, Dresden, and the next week, he was leading the entire choir.
While that is probably a mild exaggeration, there’s no doubt that Anderson has devoted most of his life to the music ministry at First Baptist.
He grew up in the church and became a member in 1960. Twelve years later he was asked to “fill in” until a new music minister was found. That day still hasn’t officially come.
What is official is that Anderson is retiring after 46 years as bivocational minister of music. He was honored by the church on Feb. 18.
“I never thought it would last that long,” Anderson said, crediting his tenure to the members of First Baptist. “They were gracious. They put up with a lot.”
Anderson has enjoyed “every minute” of his ministry at First Baptist. He said he strived to instill in his choir over the years that they were not “performers.” Rather, he continued, the choir helps lead in worship. “We are not performing or putting on a show,” he stressed, adding that his goal was to let the congregation “see the worship in our eyes and our faces as we sing. That’s what I really strived for.”
In addition to his role as music minister, Anderson has been a “member” in every sense of the word. He has taught Sunday School and served as a deacon at First Baptist since he was 26 years old. One of his favorite ministries over the years has been visiting a local nursing home and doing a worship service every Sunday morning prior to heading over to First Baptist for his responsibilities there. “It’s all been for God’s glory,” he affirmed.
Scott Shepherd, music and worship specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board said Anderson’s tenure at First Baptist ranks third among current music ministers throughout the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
“That is a testament to not only how well he loved his congregation, but how well they loved him,” Shepherd observed.
“It’s hard to put in words the kind of impact that Marshall had on First Baptist Church, Dresden,” continued Shepherd, who served as minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church, Paris, prior to assuming his position with the TBMB.
“Over the past 15 years I’ve been in the area, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone from the congregation or music ministry of First Baptist Church talk about your ministry there — the way you’ve loved them, the way you’ve led them, and the way you’ve encouraged them,” Shepherd said during a video presentation at Anderson’s celebration service.
First Baptist Pastor Don McCulley has served with Anderson for 28 of his 46 years.
“It has been my privilege to serve alongside Marshall. He has proven to be a man of dependability and faithfulness. For 46 years he has shown devotion and integrity to God’s Kingdom and the ministry of first Baptist Church, Dresden,” McCulley said.
“For his guidance, help, wisdom, and principles, I am deeply grateful,” the pastor added.
McCulley also cited Anderson’s sense of humor. “I am often reminded of a couple of Marshall’s favorite sayings,” he noted. Among them: “You can’t be a show horse, if you’re not a work horse.” “One monkey don’t stop no show.”
As Anderson steps down, he says he is just happy that he was able to be “used” by the Lord for His ministry.
He also is quick to point out that he is only retiring from his role as music minister. “I’ll continue to teach every Sunday and will continue singing. I just won’t have the responsibilities of planning services and having to be there every Sunday.”
While he said he won’t be gone much from First Baptist, he noted that he and his wife Debbie have 24 grandchildren between them (his first wife Sammie died in 2008). “Every now and then we’d like to go see one of them sing or do an activity like Bible Drill. We can do that now,” he said.