Powell has ministered to Sixth Street Christian for 15 years. At age 75, he looks back, laughingly noting that he intended to retire at age 65.
“I’m having the time of my life,” said the ebullient pastor. In addition to shepherding his congregation of about 75 members, he gets in a couple of miles each day at Mounds State Park. “I intended to retire, but the energy and creativity is still here.”
Powell will display some of that verve Sunday when he performs with his acoustic jam band, Roots and Branches. With a little bit of blues, Celtic, Cajun and old mountain gospel all in the mix, Powell said, “They have described us as the Grateful Dead of gospel music.” Guest speaker Livingston happens to play bass in the group that also includes fiddle, accordion, keyboard, dobro and guitar.
The musical entertainment comes after the old-fashioned pitch-in dinner furnished by the Christian Women’s Fellowship following the worship service.
“We’re not as traditional as a lot of churches and yet we have a lot of tradition,” observed Powell.
Powell himself is coming up on an anniversary of his own. Come this spring, he’ll mark 50 years in the ministry. Originally from Fredericksburg, Md., Powell studied engineering at Virginia Tech. He served as a mechanical engineer in the Navy. The pastor did his graduate work at Northwestern University and was ordained in 1964 when civil rights issues dominated American culture.
“I stepped into the middle of that,” said Powell. “That’s when my education started.” He said he went to the predominately black city of Petersburg, Va., to minister to a predominately white congregation.
“I went there specifically to integrate that congregation,” said Powell. By the time Powell and his wife, Mary, came to Middletown, they felt as if they had finished their mission, but 15 years later, they are still on the job and looking forward to Sunday’s celebration.
“This is a very open, ecumenical church,” said Powell. “We’re a church that reaches out into the community a lot.”
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