St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Gulfport has seen a lot of changes over the years. Despite hurricanes Camille and Katrina, the church still holds services at its building on 31st Avenue, just blocks away from the beach. And this weekend, a new pastor is in the pulpit, eager to keep the historic church moving forward.
"I am excited. It's been 10 years in preparation just to get to this point," said newly ordained pastor, Chris Sutton.
As a young man, Sutton wasn't sure where he would end up, but he believed he was called to become a pastor. That vision became a reality in Gulfport during an ordination and installation ceremony at St. Matthew Lutheran Church Sunday evening.
"In the Lutheran Church, ordination is the beginning of the service in the church and after attending seminary and completing my masters of divinity, I received this call. I'm really ready to go but really nervous at the same time," Sutton said.
Sutton has plenty of support. His wife Christie and 2 year old daughter were on hand for the ceremony, along with other relatives, church members and pastors from neighboring Lutheran churches. At 29, this is Sutton's first assignment as a pastor in the Lutheran Church. He believes faith will lead the way.
"I don't have any specific vision laid out. Wherever God leads, that's where we'll go and from there, just march forward and do His will," Sutton said.
Adam Cooper, who retired as St. Matthew's pastor in April of 2006, delivered the sermon at the ceremony. Long-time church member Roger Ishee had a chance to visit with Sutton and his family and calls them a blessing.
"We're delighted to have them here. They're the answer to our prayers for St. Matthew Lutheran Church," Ishee said.
Gary Weir served as vacancy pastor for St. Matthew Lutheran Church after Cooper retired in April 2006.