Sunday, August 24, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Tampa Tribune
Published: August 18, 2008
BRANDON - Still reeling from the deaths of their senior pastor and his 14-year-old son in May, members of Bell Shoals Baptist Church are leaning on each other again.
Simeon Nix, the church's gregarious minister of music and worship, suffered a heart attack late Saturday night and died a few hours later at Brandon Regional Hospital. He was 47.
He leaves his wife, Beth, and the two children they adopted as toddlers from Russia, Bre'Ana, 7, and Sterling, 7, as well as a church family of about 7,000.
"He had big shoes, and they will be hard to fill," said Gary Payne, the church's pastor of adult education. "He was big at heart, big at leadership and big on faith. His loss is big, but we have to believe his death was no accident and it is part of God's great plan."
Nix would have celebrated his 13th year at Bell Shoals, one of the Bay area's largest churches, in October. He was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed nearly 300 pounds. He had the physical presence of a Russian wrestler but the countenance of a teddy bear and the voice of an angel, making him one of the church's most popular and respected leaders.
He recorded two solo CDs and produced several large-scale Christmas and Easter musical productions. When attendance outgrew the church's facilities, he moved the shows to the Florida State Fairgrounds for three years, drawing 10,000 people each season.
Nix Was Counseling Congregation
It was Nix who helped the congregation work through the loss of the Rev. Forrest Pollock and his son, Preston, who died when the single-engine Piper that Pollock was piloting crashed into a North Carolina mountainside May 12. Nix spoke eloquently at a prayer gathering and memorial service, directed the music and led the church's praise team in song. He kept his composure and humor most of the time on the podium, breaking down only once.
Nix continued to counsel church members still grappling with their grief and questioning their faith from the loss of their 44-year-old pastor.
"Simeon mentored a lot of people, he discipled a lot of people," said Payne, a fishing and hunting buddy of Nix's. "He was a man's man, but he was never afraid to give you a big hug and tell you that he loved you."
Nix, who also had diabetes, had complained of chest pain a week earlier. He got some medication Aug. 10; when the pain didn't subside, he saw a doctor the next day and learned he had suffered a mild heart attack. He had a stent put in that evening and remained in the hospital through Friday.
Over the weekend, he told other church staff members how well he felt. Saturday night, he even took a short walk in his neighborhood with friends.
"We thought he would just be down for the count for a little while," said Rich Nelson, the church's associate pastor of music and worship. "There was talk he would take some time off - maybe six weeks - and we were wondering what would happen to all those lives he was keeping together since May.
"People depended on him."
Bell Shoals had been in its new $24 million, 3,450-seat sanctuary for only a few weeks when Pollock and his son died in the plane crash, which remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration. The church dedication hadn't even taken place.
'A Great, Big Lovable Man'
It wasn't the first time Nix had to guide congregants through a troubling time. When senior pastor Ken Alford had to resign in February 2002. Nix was part of the leadership team that kept the church running smoothly for the 10 months it operated without a senior pastor.
Pollock served Bell Shoals for 51/2 years. A search team is expected to be selected by the end of September to replace him. Although the church has been in transition, Payne said attendance has gone up by 10 percent since May.
"The church is not about the man. It's about the body of Christ working and serving together," he said.
"There are no promises in the Bible about life being easy. But there is the promise that God will be with us, and he is always faithful."
The Rev. George Thomasson, the church's senior associate pastor, stood before the congregation Sunday to offer solace and Scriptures to church members. Most first heard the news when they arrived for the 11 a.m. service.
"The Lord called him home," Thomasson said to the congregants, many of whom wept or looked shocked. "None of us anticipated it. But it was not a surprise to the Lord."
In his first week at Bell Shoals, "Simeon Nix got into my heart," he said.
"It didn't take long to understand what kind of man he was - just a great, big lovable man who loved God and people with all this heart."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
News Channel 8 reporter Indira LeVine contributed to this report. Reporter Michelle Bearden can be reached at (813) 259-7613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Sunday, August 03, 2008
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."2 Chronicles 7:14