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Life in a small town is about family. It’s about community, school and God. Some of the most influential people are not only those who sit on the board but those who stand at the altar, in front of the pews, to spread the word of the almighty himself in an effort to enrich the lives of so many. And for small town pastors like Allen Calkins, reverend for Star Hope Baptist Church, there is nothing better.
“When I entered the ministry I didn’t really think I would be a small town pastor because I have always lived in more urban areas,” said Calkins. “So when I was called to a town not much larger than Elsberry, but definitely more isolated, it was a big culture shock.”
Calkins was first called to Doniphan, which sits right on the border of Arkansas and Missouri, and according to him it was such a remote area that a town of 2000 was the biggest town in the county and at night it would get so dark a person couldn’t see their own hand a foot in front of their face.
“The Wal-Mart was an hour away; the movie theater was an hour and a half away; the mall was two hours away and the place was just different from anything I was used too,” explained Calkins. “Even at the parsonage, which was in the middle of the town, it was still extremely dark at night, there weren’t lights like you would see in a big city. But the one thing I learned, especially about a small town was, you have to learn and respect the traditions.”
When it came to learning the traditions of small town living Calkins explained it is something that can make or break a person. If they fail to learn what makes the town what it is then they fail to fit in to what the town is. Going further, he said that the people of a smaller community almost worship their traditions and it’s the job of their pastor to accept and adapt to those traditions in an effort to better the lives of those they are trying to touch by the words of God.
“It’s what makes them feel significant,” said Calkins. “Whether it’s a Clarence Cannon hometown or an astronaut or somebody they are proud of, you have to learn and respect those things and brag on those things and also realize that you’re never going to be treated like family, as a pastor.”
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