Wasden celebrates 50 years at Antioch West
For half of a century Watson Wasden, referred to by many as “Preacher Watson,” has led the congregation of Antioch West Baptist Church with unparalleled devotion, preaching from the church’s pulpit around 7,800 times including Sunday morning worship service, Sunday night service and Wednesday evening service. He has devoted his days to praying for Antioch’s members and others. He has led numerous souls to Christ, performed countless baptisms and united numerous couples in holy matrimony.
“Fifty years ago I met with the deacons and they sealed the deal for me to pastor the church,” Wasden said. “Through the years the deacons have handled everything so well and I’m so appreciative.”
On Sunday, church members, friends and family gathered to express their gratitude and love in honor of Wasden for his 50 years of ministry to the church. The choir sang some of Wasden’s favorite traditional church hymns including “How Great Thou Art” and “One Day at a Time.” The congregation heard words of appreciation expressed by several deacons, followed by the presentation of a commemorative plaque to Pastor Wasden and his wife, Grace.
Deacon Bryan Salter said that the celebration service was fitting for such a faithful man. “Preacher Watson is deserving of the respect and honor shown in recognition of his 50-year anniversary of leading the church. I’ve grown up in Antioch West, was baptized here and I can’t remember a time without him here since I’ve been alive,” Salter said.
When asked to describe Pastor Wasden, longtime church member Bill Farrar said “committed” is the first thing that comes to mind. “He’s such a blessing to this church. You have to go far and wide to find a pastor that has been with a church for 50 years. Preacher Watson is committed and he is steadfast,” Farrar said.
Deacon Harold Turner described Wasden as a man of great worth. “When you think about a man’s worth, often times people think of finances and worldly things. A man like Watson, a man that not only tells us how to live but a man that demonstrates what he preaches every single day – now that’s worth a lot,” Turner said. “I came to this church in 1971 and he’s been my pastor and my friend ever since.”
Wasden served as a deacon and music director for Antioch West for 11 years prior to his joining the ministry. “I was born in this community, only about 200 feet away from where my house is now,” Wasden said. “When you have a real good community filled with good people, it’s easy to minister to them.”
However, Wasden admitted that following God’s plan for his life was initially a difficult battle. It was sometime after being drafted into the Korean Conflict in March 1951 that he began to consider a higher call to service.
“I worked construction and I really loved it. I worked for Riley’s Lumber and Supply for 18 years before I went into ministry. But the Lord really laid it on my heart,” Wasden said.
“It was a hard battle, and I didn’t want to give in—but He finally won. And once I surrendered to God’s call, everything in my life settled down and began to work out to God’s will.”
When looking to what the future has in store for the community, he believes today’s youth hold the key. “Children are our future. If we fail to reach our children today, we’ll be in trouble tomorrow,” he stressed.
Watson also remarked on the large number of young people who had grown up to be good role models in the community. “We’ve got a dentist, bankers, auto dealers, poultry farmers, timber dealers, mortgage lenders, healthcare specialists … so many young people that have grown up to go on and do good things,” the long-time pastor said.
Wasden, 86, said that he’s grateful for everyone at Antioch West Baptist Church and for everyone in attendance during Sunday’s celebration service. And 50 years sure do pass in a hurry,” he said with a grin.
Guests enjoyed lunch and a time of fellowship following the service.