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Dr. Jerry Light new pastor of First Baptist Church

When God called, Dr. Jerry Light didn’t answer.

Light knew, since he was 18 years old, he wanted to work in ministry, but after watching a petty argument among church board members, decided a profession in the restaurant business would be more meaningful than the politics of church life.

But at a Sunday service seven years later, Light was dumbfounded as he listened to the pastor’s sermon about sinning by not following what God has called a person to do.

“I was up in the balcony in this large church,” Light said. “It was almost like he put a spotlight on me and stripped me naked. I was sitting there thinking ‘who told him?’”

After the service, Light went to the pastor and told the story of his personal connection with the sermon.

Light then earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Mercer University, master’s in divinity from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate in divinity from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham.

Light worked in churches in the Atlanta area for 26 years before moving in April to Selma’s First Baptist Church to serve as pastor.

Meeting and interacting with new people, such as the diversified community of First Baptist Church, is the most important purpose of a pastor, according to Light.

“I love people, and to me a pastor is not somebody that feels comfortable and is wonderful at pulpit preaching,” Light said. “I think a pastor must first and foremost love people.”

Light also enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork of the downtown churches, seeing that first-hand on Easter Sunday, his first Sunday as pastor in Selma.

“This community of churches has made a habit of working together,” Light said. “I like that relationship, and it’s one that I am hoping to foster and to grow.”

The congregation and staff appreciate the new perspective and ambitions Light brings.

“[Members of the congregation] have definitely opened their arms to him,” said Jane Driggers, secretary for the pastor and church. “I know we have. We have been delighted. He’s like a breath of fresh air. He loves people and wants to be involved in any aspect of this community that he can be. He has been wonderful for us.”

Light has been married for 20 years to Suzanne Light, and they have two daughters and one son.