CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — 22 years ago, Pastor Thomas Skinner gave his first service at Friendship Baptist Church in Charleston.
Only nine people showed up that day.
But since then, Skinner worked to build up a community. Now, there are more than 60 members. He says it hasn’t always been easy, but it’s what he devoted his life to. It started at age 17, when his uncle asked a question.
“He said, ‘If you were gonna preach your first sermon, what would you preach on?’ And I thought, ‘Lord, you’re trying to tell me something.’ And he did,” says Skinner. “I felt the call and the holy spirit wouldn’t let me go.”
Skinner has delivered sermons at various churches around Central Illinois. His stop in Charleston was one of the longest.
While working for the church, Skinner was also a prominent name in the asphalt paving business. He taught classes and techniques around North America until he retired in 2004. He was inducted into the National Asphalt Pavement Association Hall of Fame for his work.
As for retiring from preaching, Skinner says it’s time for the next generation of pastors.
“Well, one of the main things is, I’m 81 years old,” says Skinner. “And I have a hard time keeping up with everything. And I think the church needs a younger person that could reach out a lot more than I could.”
Skinner and his wife, Linda, will begin retirement by heading to Kentucky to see the Noah’s Ark replica. It was a trip gifted to them by the church community.