Pictured left to right: Dr. Bruce Porter with Rev. John Cairns.
I started writing articles about the history of the Church of the Palms in the Fall and Winter 2021 issues of Connect. This article covers the Dr. Bruce Porter years. Bruce and I sat down last October to talk about his time with our church. He was called to become our Senior Pastor in 1983 and served in that role until his retirement in 2003.
Bruce oversaw the 1990s growth on our campus. The Campus Center (then the Sanctuary) was expanded. However, soon the Sanctuary could not support the membership. The Education Building replaced buildings that housed classrooms. Those buildings were demolished to make room for our current Sanctuary. With the assistance of The Foundation of the Church, the ten-acre property where the Palms Center is located was acquired. Another property to the south was purchased and used for a time as the youth center.
The congregation grew to 2,600 members. Another 200 people were affiliate members, a category added during Bruce’s years. Bruce attributes some of the growth to a program initiative to call and invite visitors to join the church. Some of his favorite memories were Palm Sundays with many, many children in the aisles waving palm fronds, World Communion Sunday and people parading in their native clothing, coffee hour under the oak tree, and candlelight services.
Mission initiatives experienced tremendous growth. The Back to Basics Tutoring program started with 12 children and grew to 250. Bruce dropped in to meet the children who proudly shared a good grade on a report card.
Pictured left to right: Dr. William Grosvenor, Rev. John Stump, & Dr. Bruce Porter.
Doug and Maxine Perry’s medical eye mission to Honduras was launched. The church and the congregation provided the money and the labor to build not one, but five houses for Habitat for Humanity. The impact of the mission initiatives started during Bruce’s years cannot be overstated as many continue to love God and love neighbor through our support and service. Examples include TV Ministry, Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast and Stephen Ministry.
I asked Bruce how he decided it was time to retire. He said simply he had done what he could do. In 2004 at his Celebration of Service, Dr. Thomas Gillespie, President of the Princeton Seminary, gave the sermon. He said the past is only a prologue. Bruce interpreted that as you ain’t seen nothing yet! As much as Dr. Porter’s years blessed the church, he knew the best was yet to come.
After Bruce’s retirement, the Foundation of the Church of the Palms helped to finance the construction of a room in the new library at Princeton Theological Seminary. The room is named in honor of Bruce and his predecessor Dr. Bill Grosvenor.
In recognition and appreciation of Dr. Porter’s years of service to Church of the Palms he was named Pastor Emeritus. He continued in our pulpit as a guest preacher for many more years.