A staple in the religious community of Madison County is stepping away from the pulpit and into retirement this weekend.

First Baptist Church's pastor, Bill Fort, will be retiring after 22 and a half years. To celebrate his time both with his congregation and outside of the church, there will be two receptions in his honor.

The first reception is set for Saturday, June 8, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Eastern Kentucky University's Perkins Building, according to Tim Wilson, First Baptist Church minister of music.

"The main reason we're having the Saturday reception is so that the people that go to church at different churches in the area have a chance to say goodbye or thank you and whatnot on Saturday because they go to their own churches on Sunday," Wilson said.

Fort's reputation reaches past the area on Eastern Bypass where First Baptist Church sits. Over the years, Fort has served on numerous boards in the community, making connections and being a leader when the time has arisen, Wilson said.

The second reception will be held on Sunday following his final worship service at 11 a.m. Everyone in the community is invited out for a large church potluck, which will be around 12:30 p.m.

Wilson noted that there will be a table set up for those who wish to leave a card of appreciation or a small gift for the pastor. He also said the two receptions will serve as a great way to spend some time with Fort before he steps down.

While Fort is stepping away from First Baptist, he isn't stepping away from his work with the Lord. Wilson said he plans to do some interim work or will fill in for pastors at area churches when they need some vacation time. His work continues on, having started preaching ministry 44 years ago.

"Bill will continue his mentality of service. He puts everybody and their feelings above himself. He is the epitome of the scripture, to put everyone above himself," Wilson said. "He has a servant's heart and will help anybody. God has used Bill in an awesome way for the past 22 years here in Richmond. God will continue to give his blessing on him and will continue to use him until he calls him home, and he wouldn't have it any other way."

First Baptist Church is located at 425 Eastern Bypass. For more information, call 859-623-4028.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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