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return to old fort

by John Arlon Hawke

To find out more about Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement, call toll-free (877) 767-7738.

THE BUSIEST MAN IN NORTH CAROLINA'S SWANNANOA VALLEY has been retired since 2002. He’s 80 years old and still ministers weekly in four nursing homes, makes hospital calls, and counsels those with needs. But that’s not his real job.

The rest of the time Reverend Milton Hollifield travels among the Blue Ridge Association’s 28 churches as a representative helping them locate pastors, encouraging congregations with dwindling memberships, and serving as interim pastor.

Mission: North Carolina

He’s a member of Swannanoa Valley Medical Center’s Board of Directors, a facility he helped nudge into existence to attract medical personnel to the area. He and others led Black Mountain and Swannanoa residents to build a medical facility 400 feet from the centerline between the two communities 30 years ago.

This past year, Milton has been interim pastor at Old Fort FWB Church, the congregation where he started out as a rookie preacher in 1948.

He pastored 54 years without missing a Sunday as pastor, all in North Carolina except for a two-year stint in Michigan. His final pastorates at Swannanoa FWB Church and Rocky Pass FWB Church spanned 41 years and established him as a state and national leader.

He served two six-year terms on the national Board of Retirement and 12 years on North Carolina’s Board of Care. He was elected state moderator and assistant moderator, and served two years on the national Executive Committee.

Dean of Pastors

“One of the highlights of my ministry,” Hollifield says, “was organizing a 10-day tent revival in McDowell County that resulted in more than 50 conversions.” That’s when local ministers began calling him the Dean of Pastors. Some twenty preachers answered the call to preach under his ministry, including his son Milton, Fred Warner, and Steve Lytle.

Milton and Elizabeth Hollifield got an early start on their 61-year marriage—she was 17, he 19. “She was my red-haired high school sweetheart,” he says. “But I didn’t court her on a mule like my daddy did my mother.”

In addition to pastoring, he served as an evangelist, preached in four foreign countries, supervised five building programs, conducted revivals in 18 states, and preached on the radio.

Ready for Retirement

Thanks to the Board of Retirement and a budget committee at Rocky Pass FWB Church, the Hollifields were financially ready when they retired four years ago.

“I was in the Free Will Baptist retirement plan from the first day,” Milton says. “I had $10 a week deducted from my check. But what really helped was a wise budget committee at Rocky Pass FWB Church that invested every raise the church gave me in my retirement account. There was plenty to retire on when the time came.”

For the first time, the Hollifields live in their own home. Best of all, it’s almost debt-free. “I encourage churches to give their pastors a housing allowance,” he says. “When a minister retires, he needs a place of his own to live.”

Full Circle

The busy minister is writing his life story. “I have 50 hand-written pages so far,” he says. “Maybe some of what helped me can help somebody else.”

Milton admits that he’s busier now than when he pastored and loves it. “I started out in 1948 at Old Fort FWB Church where we built a new church. I’m right back where I started. I’ve come full circle.”

The Hollifields have four children. Their son Freddy went to Heaven at twenty, a victim of Downs’ Syndrome. Another son, Milton, Jr., is executive director and treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Two daughters are active in church music. Of the four grandchildren three are teachers while another is an attorney in Asheville, North Carolina.

John Arlon Hawke is a freelance writer and journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. He currently makes his home just south of Nashville, TN.






©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists