A well-known figure in the Bogalusa community and longtime pastor at First Baptist Church in Bogalusa, Rev. Bob Adams, is retiring this spring.
Adams and his wife, Janice, arrived in Bogalusa 12 years ago, with his first Sunday as pastor of First Baptist taking place in May 2001.
While Adams spent his early years in the high plains deserts of southeastern New Mexico, his wife is a Louisiana native. Thus, when the time came for him to enter the seminary — the late 1960s — he began studying at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He served a couple of area churches during that time period before going to Miami in the mid-1970s.
He served churches in southern Florida, in the area of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, for 26 years before coming to Bogalusa.
“So we came from a very cosmopolitan, massive, crushing world to a small, kind of out-of-the-way place,” he said. “People wondered how we were going to do that. But it’s been tremendous. It’s been a great privilege.”
Adams’ last Sunday in the First Baptist pulpit will be April 21. As he explained in a letter to his congregation, his decision to retire was motivated by a desire to focus on his family and by the factors of his ability to carry the load and looking toward the future needs of the church.
Though Adams, who will be 68 by that time, is retiring, he and his wife are not leaving Bogalusa or First Baptist Church. He plans to spend some time away from the church, to give the members of the congregation a chance to connect to their next pastor, but Janice Adams intends to continue with church activities, including her Sunday school class and music ministry.
“We love this community very deeply,” Adams said. “Our lives are here. This has become our place and our people, and we really trust that we’ll be able to continue to be here.”
While he is already serving the city of Bogalusa in a variety of ways, Adams’s desire is “to be an even larger part of the community” during his retirement.
For nine years Adams was part of the organization that is now the LSU Bogalusa Medical Center Foundation Board, and he was part of the discussions and movement to bring the family medicine residency program to the hospital. He has participated in a number of civic events and was part of a special study committee with the Bogalusa City School System several years ago, during a time of transition and strategic planning for the future, he said.
Adams was also chosen as 2005 Bogalusa Citizen of the Year, with the selection made in May 2006.
Writing is an important part of his life and ministry, Adams said, and during the last 25-30 years, he has written for multiple publications. Some of his pieces have been Bogalusa-themed, including one titled “You Can’t Come Here in a Hurry,” written when was named Citizen of the Year.
Adams said he and Janice were moved by the way the local citizens opened up to, embraced and invited them into the community upon the couple’s arrival in Bogalusa.
“They have invited me into many events in the life of the community that I’ve been privileged to be a part of as a minister,” he said.
Janice Adams has been an active member of the community as well. She is part of the LSUBMC auxiliary and was the organization’s secretary for several years. Furthermore, she is involved with the Civic League, of which she was president last year, and is a member of a local book club.
During their time in Bogalusa, Adams said, he and his wife have “gained a deep sense of belonging here and of being received and loved.”
“I often say that the treasure of Bogalusa is its people,” he said. “It’s not a shining, glittery place. It has some challenging problems economically.”
The city’s glory days were some years ago, and the signs of that struggle are visible through some of its structures, Adams said. But if one gets to know its citizens, they’ll find that they’re “just tremendous people.”
Adams said it has been a privilege to get to express his confidence in the future of the city. He has also seen significant, if not overly dramatic, changes during his 12 years in Bogalusa.
“I believe there’s a greater sense of hope today than there was 12 years ago,” he said, adding the physical improvements have taken place, along with the opening of new businesses, especially in recent years, show that.
Adams also discussed what serving First Baptist Church has meant to him.
“They’re a church with a strong history and an important influence in the life of the city, and it’s been my privilege to be part of that,” he said. “They are a strong, healthy congregation that’s full of grace.”
Seeing the Christ for the City effort grow and develop over the years has been a rewarding part of Adams’ ministry. The first Christ for the City meeting was held in November 2002, when area churches of all denominations reached across boundaries to come together for a week of prayer and worship services at First Baptist. This work, he said, continues today. As part of Christ for the City, First Baptist hosts noon services, led by area pastors, during Holy Week, he said.
First Baptist also reaches out to the community through various ministries. The children’s ministries have grown and have much involvement from local youth, Easter sunrise services have been conducted at Cassidy Park for years, the church’s Christian Fine Arts Academy provides art and music lessons for community members, and the church has developed a ministry to people with special needs, he said.
Additionally, First Baptist provides a house where the Children’s Advocacy Center conducts counseling sessions, interviews and meetings, and the church now has a Hispanic congregation, led by Pastor Frank Gutierrez.
“These are some of the ministries that have come in the last 12 years that have helped to engage the church with the community and strengthen the community as well as the church,” he said.
Adams said First Baptist was privileged to have a strategic role in Bogalusa’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina. With the assistance of hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention volunteers, First Baptist volunteers provided food and water to Bogalusa’s citizens and helped pull the city back together, he said.
“That was a huge event in the life of the church and the life of the community,” he said.