GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A pastor was honored Sunday for the many years he spent preaching at his church. Church members say he's the finest example of what a pastor should be. Through his tenure, he's helped and counseled thousands.
When church leaders gave Bishop Jonathan Tate Sr., 80, orders in 1963 to preach at Anointed Temple Overcoming Holy Church of God in Gulfport, he and his wife Mother Shirley Tate planned on staying until all seven of their children turned 18.
Decades later Tate and his wife are sitting under the same roof celebrating his 51st year with the church.
Though the church building is newer and larger, Tate says the word of God that he preaches every Sunday has stayed the same.
"We don't do a whole lot of changing. We have a good manual, a good foundation that we started on and everything. We don't do very much change. We stick with the Bible. And the Bible doesn't change. So we don't change," Tate explained.
His children, wife and grandchildren all play a significant role in the church.
"Anytime you come to the Anointed Temple you will see one of the Tate's running around doing something," said Reverend Reginald Middleton, who is Tate's grandson.
Family members, church members, city leaders and pastors from all over the country came to the church to honor Tate during his pastoral anniversary celebration.
Tate's been the pastor for generations of families and has been recognized by church leaders for his work.
"He has named pastor of the year. He works in the community. We've had a productive day care here as well. We've fed those who are less fortunate here in Mississippi or Gulfport, but also in other places," said Middleton.
Gulfport is also recognizing him by naming a street after him.
"I think, I worked really hard to get here. So we're doing good," said Tate.
His anniversary lasted five days with special guests like Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, Gulfport city council members Ella Holmes-Hines and Kenneth Casey Sr. and former state representative Francis Fredericks. There was also lots of music.
During the occasion, Tate got up with a smile and started dancing. His big spirit is what church members say keep them coming back.
Tate's grandson says his grandfather is also excellent with the church's finances. Their church was supposed to be paid off in 15 years, but Tate and his members managed to pay it off in five years.