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'Maybe God was calling me here'

Seven Springs Presbyterian looked at 160 applications before homing in on a minister who used to drive by the New Port Richey church every day.

By MICHELLE JONES
Published August 26, 2006


NEW PORT RICHEY - The Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs searched for two years to find a replacement for its founding minister, who went to another church after serving the congregation for more than 19 years.

Selecting a new pastor can be a complicated and lengthy process within the Presbyterian Church, and Seven Springs reviewed applications from 160 ministers from all over the country.

In the end, the Rev. Philip D. Hollins became the new head of staff.

He happens to live a five-minute drive away.

Hollins will preach his first sermons to his new congregation at the 8 and 10:30 a.m. services Sunday at the church, 4651 Little Road. The community is invited to attend.

Previously, the 37-year-old served for six years as the associate pastor of congregational care at Northwood Presbyterian Church of Clearwater.

"I would drive past this church every day and pray for the congregation," he said. "I thought maybe God was calling me here. I thought (if) God opens the door, I'll be obedient and walk through it."

Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Hollins attended Montreat College near Asheville, N.C., where he met his wife, Tracey.

After college, the couple moved to Lakeland and served as youth directors at First Presbyterian Church. From there they moved to Massachusetts, where they attended the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton. They served as youth ministers at a church there.

Then he served as associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lumberton, N.C., before moving on to the Clearwater church.

Hollins has been married to Tracey for 16 years, and they have four children, Nate, 9, Zach, 7, Josh, 5, and Zoe, 1.

The couple are involved in the New Port Richey community, and their children play various sports.

"It is icing on the cake to be (able to minister) so close to home," Hollins said. "I guess God knew what he was doing when gas went up to $3 a gallon."

Kelly Erickson, an active member of the church, said the church is known for having an outstanding music program.

"We have a chancel choir, praise band, various bell choirs and a children's choir," she said.

And now congregants have a pastor who fits the vision the church has for more community involvement, especially educational and outreach programs to nurture the mind, body and spirit.

"I want to build relationships with the congregation and see where we are," Hollins said. "I want to see what they want so the church can grow numerically and spiritually."

Hollins said he is a slow and steady person and plans to take his time, feeling his way around for a while.

"I'd like to introduce change, not impose it," he said. "I want to get input first."

His personal mission statement, he said, is to glorify God, make disciples for Jesus Christ and be led by the Holy Spirit.

[Last modified August 26, 2006, 06:30:22]


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