HODGDON, Maine — After a decade of teaching local youths the X’s and O’s of basketball, baseball and soccer, Houlton resident Robert Smith has answered a call to preach the word of the Lord.
On Aug. 28, Smith was named the new pastor of the Hodgdon United Baptist Church after filling in as an interim pastor since May. He replaces Mark Lunn, who left the church in January to pursue a position with Child Evangelism Fellowship serving all of Aroostook County.
“Pastoring is always something that I wanted to get back into,” he said. “It was hard to leave [SAD 70] because they really welcomed me into the family. Sometimes it is hard to get out of your comfort zone, but I know we will be taken care of and the Lord will provide for us.”
Sunday, Sept. 4, was his first sermon as the new pastor of the church.
“I came in and shared my testimony with the church, so they could get to know me better,” he said. “It was a little bit strange because I had already been here all summer serving as the pastor.”
Smith worked for the past 10 years in the education field, in the SAD 70 district. He began as a substitute teacher and was later hired as an education technician for the district. He also coached a variety of sports at Hodgdon High School, including varsity baseball, soccer and basketball.
He is currently coaching the Hodgdon varsity boys soccer team and has a committed to the varsity boys basketball program, where he will be entering his seventh year this winter. At the end of the school year, Smith said he plans to sit down with the church deacons and membership to see if coaching is something he will continue with.
“I would like to continue with coaching because I feel that my sports coaching can be used as a ministry to reach out to the youth,” he said. “If it is taking up too much of my time, however, I will stop because this ministry is my first priority.”
Smith attended Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina, earning his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, with a major in Christian ministries and a minor in youth ministry.
Smith was employed as a youth pastor at the Wesleyan Church in Easton in 2003 for one year before taking a similar position with the Chesnee Wesleyan Church in South Carolina from 2004-06. He and his wife moved back to The County in 2006.
According to the church records, the Hodgdon United Baptist Church dates back to 1835, when it was formed under the name of the Calvinist Baptist Church. On July 16, 1916 that church merged with the Free Baptist Church and was reborn as the Hodgdon United Baptist Church.
“From Day One we have felt welcome here at the Hodgdon United Baptist Church,” Smith said. “The church had been praying for a new pastor since January and this was where I felt the Lord wanted me to be.”
Smith said he was looking forward to being even more involved with the community in his new role. He hopes to grow the church’s membership and expand its youth ministry. He would also like to add a men’s ministry session.
“It will be a change for me for sure,” he said. “Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult, but I feel this is what I have been called to do.”
Smith resides in Houlton with his wife Jennifer and children Madison, Morgan and Logan.