Rev. Eric Nelson retired from the Washington Street Baptist Church in Lynn after 34 years. (Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke)
By Michele Durgin
LYNN — Spending time with the recently retired pastor of Lynn’s Washington Street Baptist Church, Eric Nelson, is refreshing and inspiring.
Rev. Nelson has been the pastor of the 142-year-old parish since 1982 and reports that he’s leaving the church in good hands, which makes him hopeful about its future.
“There’s a terrific core group here,” he said. “They are truly committed to the future of this church and I believe these wonderful people will continue to make improvements.”
Nelson became an ordained minister of the Baptist faith in 1969. He served in a few parishes in the Boston area before settling in Lynn in 1982.
He and Priscilla, his wife of 34 years, raised two children along the way. Today, Priscilla is enjoying a career as a professor at Gordon College in Wenham. Their son, Samuel, 28, is the organist at St. Paul’s Church in Lynnfield, and daughter, Abigail, 25, is a third grade teacher at Hood School in Lynn.
“I look forward to spending more time with my family as I move into retirement,” said Nelson. “I am taking so many fond memories with me and I am happy to be leaving on a good note. The leadership is strong and committed to the future, and I am hopeful that improvements will continue to be made.”
Nelson is leaving a legacy of community involvement that has served local young people well. He and his staff, with support from Gordon College, North Shore Community College, congregation members and a grant from the city of Lynn, host an afterschool kids club that began about 10 years ago. It is attended by about 25 youngsters each day, and they have access to homework help, Bible time, character building activities and occasional field trips, all at no charge.
“Our director, Fred Mathieu, is doing a wonderful job, along with help from NSCC and Gordon College students,” said Nelson.
The congregation is also supporting two women who are serving the world as missionaries. One of them is opening a daycare center in Uganda and the other is developing a ministry dedicated to victims of violence in Kenya.
“We’ve become more mission-minded during my time here and I hope that continues,” Nelson said. “I have learned that we don’t minister alone, and working in collaboration with agencies in Lynn and the surrounding area have been a blessing for so many in need.”
Nelson hopes that attendance at Sunday services continues to be steady, and said he is especially pleased that about 30 percent of the congregation is under the age of 18.
“I am happy that we are reaching young people,” he said. “They are the future of this church and it is so important to keep them involved.”
As Nelson contemplated his time in retirement, he smiled and said, “I have a coffee cup that reads ‘Old ministers never die, they go out to pastor.’”
And then, after a moment or two, he added, “We will see where the Lord leads me. I can promise you one thing. I won’t be playing golf.”