The church voted in July to hire the Rev. Bill Boyd, pastor of All Saints’ Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. Hay preached his last sermon Aug. 28, then took a month of vacation to let Boyd get settled in without having the former pastor around.
The Rev. Bill Hay has been a pastor in Homewood for 45 years, including 33 years at the 1,460-member Covenant Presbyterian Church, which he founded Oct. 1, 1978.
That kind of longevity in the pulpit is rare these days, and Hay has seen a lot of changes in Birmingham-area churches over the past five decades.
“Wednesday was considered a church night,” he said. “I’ve seen that change. Wednesday is no longer a night set aside for churches. I’ve even seen encroachment on Sunday mornings.”
Increasingly, parents are being forced to choose whether they take their children to church or have them take part in secular activities such as youth sports, he said. Spiritual enrichment of children should trump Wednesday night or Sunday morning soccer practice, he believes. “We need to help people think long-term,” Hay said.
Hay has officially retired from Covenant Presbyterian, which will honor him Sunday at the 8:30 and 11 a.m. services, with a reception to follow.
“It will be a wonderful service for a wonderful pastor,” said Stephen Folmar, minister of music at Covenant Presbyterian. “We’ll sing some of his favorite hymns.”
That will include “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” with a brass quintet and orchestral accompaniment.
Hay, born May 1, 1940, and raised in Minnesota, graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., in 1966 and moved to Birmingham that year to become pastor of Edgewood Presbyterian Church. During his 12 years at Edgewood, the congregation grew from about 100 to 300, he said.
He didn’t like the direction of the increasingly liberal mainline Presbyterian Church, however, and decided to join the upstart Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative denomination founded in Birmingham at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in 1973.
Hay befriended the Rev. Frank Barker in 1966 and they remain friends. The two worked together to found Birmingham Theological Seminary in 1972 at Edgewood Presbyterian, seeing the need for an inexpensive but high-quality theological education for area ministers. It later moved to Briarwood, the 4,100-member church where Barker was pastor from 1960-99.
The PCA has fought some of the trends in the Presbyterian Church (USA) such as allowing ordination of openly practicing gays.