It’s been almost a full year since First Baptist Church in New Iberia lost its pastor of 22 years, but a new full-time pastor is hoping to help bring stability to the congregation as well as lead the church in a post-COVID world.

The Rev. Roland Fontenot was recently hired as the pastor for First Baptist, and will be the first one to occupy the role full-time since the death of the Rev. Ed Downs last November.

Fonetont is well-acquainted with Baptist churches in New Iberia, having been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church on Bank Avenue for 15 years.

“I retired there about nine years ago,” Fontenot said. “I served other churches during that time, I would serve as an interim pastor and would fill in for pastors that were sick or on vacation.”

Like other churches, First Baptist Church asked Fontenot to fill in, but after visiting with the congregation Fontenot said he felt called to become their pastor.

“They thought I was retired and out of commission,” he said with a smile.

Fontenot said he had been impressed with First Baptist’s congregation, and thought they had done well for themselves in the last year. The pastor said he only lives five minute away from the church on St. Peter Street, which helped make the new role feel like a natural fit.

“I thought it would be a good fit for both of us, to help one another and to heal from the loss of the pastor they had for 22 years,” Fontenot said. “I just felt that being close by, being part of the community, we could join together and move forward together.”

Like other churches across the nation, Fontenot said First Baptist has only been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Services usually have an estimated 30 to 35 people for the small church, but Fontenot said he hopes to bring back many who have stopped going to services.

“The Sunday mornings are very small compared to what they used to be,” he said. “There were times that the sanctuary used to be full, but COVID and all this other stuff has hurt with that.”

This Sunday, First Baptist will roll out the welcome mat for the new pastor, and Fontenot said he hopes to draw people who the church has lost over the years.

“We’re sending out cards to all the members that were on the roll,” he said.

“Hopefully that will help some of those that have been out, to let them know that we’re still here and there’s a new direction with a new pastor.”

For anyone curious about First Baptist Church or for those who used to attend, Sunday at 11 a.m. is the perfect time to re-introduce yourself to the congregation.

“Come and join us Sunday at 11 a.m. to get to know one another so we can do the work of the Lord and further His kingdom,” Fontenot said.

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