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Tribute made to longtime pastor

July 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Even though the new multimillion dollar addition at Emmanuel Baptist Temple has been open since January, it went nameless until Sunday night.

In honor of Pastor R. Edward Hampton, who has led the congregation for the past 34 years, the huge multipurpose building was christened The Hampton Center during a two-hour tribute to the man and his legacy.

Hampton, his wife, Coleen, their four daughters and a host of other family members were present for and participated in the event, which featured tearful testimonies, songs and stories, as well as a slide presentation that elicited laughter and shared memories from more than 400 people who packed the sanctuary.

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While all the tributes were heard and prayers said, Hampton and his wife sat quietly in the front row with their family. For once, Hampton wasn't in the pulpit leading his flock - instead he was where so many of his parishioners have been through more than three decades of his leadership.

"He's my pastor," said Donna Mowen, a State Line, Pa., resident who started coming to Emmanuel in the early 1970s. "I was saved in his ministry and it was because of him. He's my pastor."

Mowen said she and her husband, Cliff, have needed Hampton many times during crises in their lives. "And he has always been there for us," she said.

Shirley Stotelmyer said she first attended Emmanuel in the '70s and brought her children to the church.

"I drifted away for a while but I found I had to come back," Stotelmyer said. "Ed was a big reason for my coming back three years ago."

Taking Hampton's place at Emmanuel is Pastor L.G. Aikens, who told the congregation Sunday night that he knows what big shoes he will have to fill.

"But what a fitting tribute this is for a couple who have been an example to us all," Aikens said. "They leave a living legacy."

Hampton, 69, was born in rural West Virginia and after a stint in the military, attended Bob Jones University to become a minister. After founding a small church in Yorktown, Va., and leading it for three years, Hampton came to Hagerstown to lead a congregation that was then meeting at the Wacohu Grange just east of the present church at 16221 National Pike.

Even though 34 years have passed, Hampton isn't planning to give up his life's work. He will be journeying to Romania in September to continue an annual teaching mission there.

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