Evangel founding member retires after three decades

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When former Evangel Presbyterian Church administrator Rev. Grady Simpson helped found the Alabaster church in 1980, the congregation met in a building much different from Evangel’s current worship complex off Thompson Road.


After the church congregation outgrew the Alabaster house it originally met in, the group began meeting in the train caboose currently occupied by the Alabaster Parks and Recreation Department near Thompson’s Larry Simmons Stadium.

“When Grady started Evangel in 1980, he had already planted about four other churches. But when he founded Evangel, he stayed here and served as our first pastor,” said current Evangel Senior Pastor Dr. Jeff Lowman. “It sounds crazy, but the first meeting place for the church was in the old caboose the recreation department uses now.”

From the church’s humble beginnings until today, Simpson, now 84, has been involved in many aspects of the church’s operations. And even though he retired as Evangel’s administrator in May, he will still be playing a large role in the church, Lowman said.

“He is still worshiping here, and he is still going to be pretty involved. He just needed to slow down a bit,” Lowman said with a laugh.

On the Sunday Simpson retired, the church threw him a surprise reception and named its annual missions conference in his honor.

“Most of the people who started the church were there. A lot of the families who have been with us since the very beginning are still involved in the church,” Lowman said.

Since Simpson helped to found the church more than 30 years ago, Evangel has moved from the old caboose to a location off Shelby County 95 in Helena to its current location at 423 Thompson Road.

One of Simpson’s life-long passions has been traveling the world to minister to others. He has served as a long-term foreign missionary in several parts of Africa, including Kenya and Liberia.

“His last mission trip was at 81 years old. He is still going strong,” Lowman said. “He has always had a heart for people of other nations.”

Over the years, Lowman and Simpson have worked together closely, and have become good friends.

“We are very good friends. We have been for years and years,” Lowman said, noting Simpson was also heavily involved in Evangel Christian School and Evangel Classical Christian School. “He has a very good sense of humor, and he is a very professional and dignified person.”

Lowman said he supports Simpson’s decision to retire, but he is not fully convinced the decision is permanent.

“This is Grady’s third retirement,” Lowman said with a laugh. “We are fully expecting that he may come back next month.”