MASCOT — When Kenny Shinlever accepted the pastorate of Roseberry Baptist Church here in 1975 he expected to stay about five years.
“Boy was I wrong,” the 66-year-old Shinlever said.
God had other plans for the Knoxville native.
Thirty-eight years after coming to Roseberry Baptist, Shinlever has stepped down. The church held a retirement celebration for him on Oct. 20.
“It’s been a good 38 years,” Shinlever said. “The people have been very good to me.”
The retirement service in which Shinlever delivered his final sermon as pastor included many people from the Mascot community of Knxoville.
Shinlever noted that once he planted his life at Roseberry he was totally involved in the community. His children played on the sports teams and went to the local schools.
He is well known throughout the community and is considered by some to be their “pastor” or their “second pastor” even though they do not attend Roseberry Baptist Church.
For Shinlever, it was part of building relationships. “The longer you’re at a place the more people you know and the more you become involved in their lives,” he observed.
Shinlever noted that before he went to Roseberry a minister advised him to not get close to the people in the congregation.
“He was dead wrong,” Shinlever said with conviction.
“You need to get as close to the people as you can,” he advised.
Getting close to the people in the church and community is a great advantage of a lengthy pastorate, Shinlever affirmed.
“You become a part of each family. You’re there when they are married, when they have children, or when they lose a spouse or other family member,” he shared.
What’s more, he continued, “you build friendships.
“I’m not leaving a church. I’m leaving a family of which I am very much a part of.”
He acknowledged, however, the very things that have made his 38 years at the church so special have taken a toll on him personally.
“I’ve done a lot of funerals for people who were very close to me,” he said. “Every time I go to the cemetery I leave a little piece of me there,” he added.
As Shinlever reflects on his ministry at Roseberry he said he can honestly say that he only had one “rough year” and that “made me a better pastor,” he affirmed.
Shinlever said he would not trade the experience he had at Roseberry for any other. “I enjoyed getting up every morning and coming to the church.”
Roseberry was “my haven,” he continued. “It was a place I loved and I was loved back.”
As Shinlever heads into retirement, he won’t be far away. He and his wife Donna are moving into their home they built years ago on Cherokee Lake in nearby Jefferson County. Their house is 22 miles from the church, he noted.
Though his children will remain as members of Roseberry and he will visit on special occasions, Shinlever said he plans to stay away for awhile in order to let a new pastor get started.
He has already been encouraging the church to accept whoever their new pastor will be for who he is. “The Lord doesn’t want another Kenny here. I’ve told the church they need who the Lord wants here.
“No one will be praying for the pulpit committee more than me that they will find His man for this church,” Shinlever pledged.
While he noted “there is never a good time to leave” he does feel the church is on an upswing. “We are growing,” he said of the congregation which averages about 175 in worship each week.
Though he will miss the church he has grown to love he is looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his wife who has had some health issues.
Shinlever plans to take the next couple of months to settle into their house but he is open to considering interim pastorates or supply preaching beginning in January. “I don’t want to totally retire from ministry.”
Shinlever can be contacted at (865) 659-5253.