Pastor Makes Retirement A Hobby

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Members of Central Christian Church recently changed the name of their house of worship.

"It was Christ's Community Church before I came to it," Pastor Robert Baird said. "Community doesn't mean anything, but it can mean everything.

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Pastor Robert Baird

"I just wanted us to be identified a little more as to what we were, so that's why we changed the name to Central Christian.

A church pamphlet states that they believe a divided church is contrary to the teaching of Christ and his apostles.

"There is only one church described in the New Testament and that's what we're striving to be," Baird said.

Central Christian governs itself with the Bible as the only source of authority and direction for the congregation.

"We need to love people into Jesus," Baird said, naming other New Testament Christian denominations "brothers and sisters in Christ."

Baird identifies himself with a gentle laugh as a "CIO -- California-improved Oakie." He moved to Payson with his wife, Margaret, when a member of the Payson Christian Church called him saying the church was without a minister.

Baird retired from a church in Camp Verde after suffering a heart attack. Like many men of the cloth, when called upon to minister, he went back to work, relocating from Camp Verde to Payson.

After a second heart attack, Baird retired again, and he and his wife went on vacation back East.

When the Bairds returned, a church in Globe was in need of a minister so they split their time between living in Payson and preaching in Globe.

"My wife had Alzheimer's, so after a year and a half of driving back and forth it just became too much for her," Baird said. "We retired again."

The couple returned to Payson full time five years ago. Once again, Baird was asked to come out of retirement.

Although it was sometimes tough going about the Lord's work while taking care of his wife, Baird persevered. The couple was able to celebrate 55 years of marriage before she passed away.

While Baird continues to mourn for his wife, he said the unique fellowship and love between he and the members of the congregation give him strength to carry on.

"When I was a kid there were three things I wanted to be. First of all I wanted to be a minister. If I couldn't be a minister I wanted to be a pilot. If I couldn't be a pilot, I wanted to be a driver of an 18-wheeler."

Baird brought Army recruiting papers home for his parents to sign at 17.

"They hit the ceiling," Baird said.

He went to speak to his pastor who counseled him to start summer courses at San Jose Bible College then enlist at age 18.

Four of his fellow students came of age at about the same time. The five young men went back to the recruiter only to be told that the Army was short chaplains and would they please come back after they finished Bible college. By then World War II was over.

Baird has never flown an airplane himself, but through his work as a preacher he helps pilot people's lives.

He has been ministering in non-denominational churches 57 years so far.

"You have to love what you are doing," he said. "Whether you are singing or playing an instrument, or preaching, it must come from the heart."

The congregation of Central Christian Church currently meets in the Seventh-day Adventist facilities on the corner of St. Phillips Street and Wade Lane. Sunday Bible school for all ages is at 9:30 a.m., followed by tradition worship services at 10:30 a.m.

This story is a another part of the Roundup's continuing series on how the churches in the Rim country add beauty and grace to our community.

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