The Rev. Al Perkins, second from right, stands with Luann Russell and members of his family at Church in the Pines. | Virginia Spears photo

Archived Story

Perkins honored at Church in the Pines

Published 3:44pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Rev. Al Perkins, former rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Alexander City, was honored Sunday to recognize his 50th year of preaching at Church in the Pines.

“He’s been preaching there once a year every summer,” said Jim Ray, chief executive officer of Children’s Harbor, who said he has known Perkins for 22 years. “Very few of us spend 50 years doing any one thing – whether it’s a marriage, working at a business or whatever. To know that he’s been coming for 50 years shows that he’s dedicated.”

Perkins said his first time preaching at Church in the Pines was in 1962 while he was rector at St. James.

“I came (to Alexander City) in 1961 and had been there a year,” Perkins said. “In Alex City you meet everybody and get to know different people. Mrs. Julie Russell invited me to come preach at Church in the Pines that day, so I arranged to get somebody to take my pulpit that day and went to preach. Somehow or another, they kept inviting me back 49 times.”

Perkins said he doesn’t remember the topic of his first sermon there.

“I can’t remember any one (of my sermons there) particularly,” Perkins said. “After I preach, I start working on the next Sunday, so it starts becoming past history.”

Perkins left St. James in 1974 to become rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery.

“I was at St. John’s for 20 years and formally retired,” Perkins said. “I couldn’t stand that, and two months later I went back to Roanoke (St. Barnabas Episcopal Church) and have been there for 18 years since my retirement. I have a different definition of retirement, apparently.”

Perkins said his favorite part about preaching at Church in the Pines each summer is that he has “a very mixed audience.”

“It’s not a single denomination,” Perkins said. “I get to address a broad spectrum of theological thoughts … and I do appreciate the fact that they’re from all over.”

Perkins said he has to approach sermon topics differently when faced with a different church body than his usual congregation.

“Normally I tailor my sermons to the congregation I’m serving. These are people I know intimately. I know where they hurt, and I know what their hopes and dreams and aspirations are,” Perkins said. “I try to avoid stepping on toes. When you’re speaking to a crowd like that at Church in the Pines, it’s unavoidable because I don’t know what toes hurt.”

Perkins was not notified that he would be recognized for his continued service to Church in the Pines, but he “had a feeling” he would be honored.

“Three years ago, Luann Russell said if I made it to 50 years she’d bake me a cake,” Perkins said. “She was as good as her promise. I was very pleased with Jim Ray presenting me with a framed print of Church in the Pines as well – I was thrilled to get that.”

The cake read “Thank you Al for 50 years” and had Church in the Pines drawn in the icing.

Part of Perkins’ family was at Church in the Pines to celebrate with him.

“My wife, my two daughters and some of their families and children were there,” Perkins said. “We have 13 grandchildren and they’re spread out all over the world right now, but we had a number of them there (Sunday).”

Perkins said his favorite part of preaching at Church in the Pines is “the opportunity to share with others the joy that I have in my own understanding of the love of God.”

“He is just a good man with a great family and great support group behind him,” Ray said. “It is nice to have people so well rounded with no pretense about themselves. He has no ego as far as being a preacher or knowing the gospel better than anyone else – he just wants to witness to others about his faith. We wanted to honor him and let him know how deeply we appreciate his service to the Lake Martin community.”