South Union Baptist pastor, 81, not ready to step down from pulpit anytime soon

The Rev. Dale Norfolk, pastor of South Union Baptist Church in Maywood, Mo., is 81 and was technically retired before being convinced to take over at South Union, which was without a pastor. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Aug. 2, 2014 2:40 am Updated: Aug. 16, 2014 3:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

MAYWOOD, Mo. -- The Rev. Dale Norfolk, who was once chaplain for the Missouri Senate for 26 years, preached his first sermon at age 17.

He's celebrating his 64th year in the ministry this month, and he shows no signs of wanting to leave the pulpit.

"I can still preach as well as before and really don't have any plans to retire," the 81-year-old Norfolk said. "I'm not planning on giving up preaching until I can't do it anymore."

Norfolk, a life-long member of the Southern Baptist Convention, is now the pastor at South Union Baptist Church, with a congregation of about 30. It's the only church in Maywood. Norfolk and his wife of almost 60 years, Barbara, make the commute from their home in Hannibal every Sunday morning.

Norfolk, who grew up in Hannibal, has been pastor at South Union for a short time. While he has no plans to quit preaching, he said he actually considered himself retired when South Union contacted him late last year.

"I was 81 years old and retired, and I said, ‘No,' " Norfolk said. "Eventually, though, we came to an agreement."

Most of Norfolk's career was spent pastoring a church in Holts Summit, a small town of about 3,200 seven miles northeast of the state capital in Jefferson City. During his time at Holts Summit, Norfolk became chaplain of the Missouri Senate through the help of a friend, a position he said is much like being a chaplain at a hospital.

Norfolk visited lawmakers who were hospitalized, conducted memorial services when needed, visited governmental offices and opened each legislative session in prayer. He said his chaplain duties averaged about 90 minutes a day.

"I really enjoyed that time," said Norfolk, who served as Senate chaplain from 1971 to 1997.

Norfolk's background also includes work with the Missouri Baptist Children's Home. One of his longtime friends and fellow Hannibal native, the Rev. Bob Kenison, was an administrator with the home for 36 years.

Norfolk said he will always remember the friendships he has made during his long ministerial career.

"It's gratifying when people come back to you and let you know you may have inspired them," he said.