After 31 years of leading Market Rasen New Life Church, Paul and Katy Hiley are passing on the baton to a new leadership team.
More than 140 people gathered in the Festival Hall for a party to thank the couple for their pioneering work and long service.
As well as church members and ministers of other churches in the area, people travelled from as far away as Manchester, London, Carlisle and Spain.
There were also messages of thanks from Zambia and China.
Paul said: “It has always been a great privilege to work with other churches in the town over the years on projects such as The Christmas Mime, The Street Passion Play, Hopes & Dreams and the Queen’s Jubilee.
“I am so pleased that this co-operation is continuing with new church leaders involved.”
The Hiley family moved to the area in 1975, when Paul was appointed as an English teacher at De Aston School.
Always an initiator, in the eight years he was at De Aston, Paul started the school newspaper “Inside Story” and the Viking Challenge Cross Country relay, as well as running the Debating Society and being the Sports Day Commentator.
In 1979, Paul and Katy were asked to start a Crusader Group by the then vicar, the Rev Searle Barnes, and this inter-Church Christian Youth Group reached 130 children at its peak.
Its leadership formed the core of what was to become Market Rasen New Life Church, which launched in 1986 with just 12 members in Paul and Katy’s front room.
As numbers grew, the church moved to the Committee Room of the Festival Hall and in 1990, Paul returned to De Aston as a part-time teacher so he could devote more time to leading the church, becoming its full-time pastor in 1993.
De Aston School Hall was the gathering place of New Life until 2001, when they moved to their present home at the Festival Hall.
Paul said: “Church is always about people not buildings and we are thrilled that 111 people have believed in Jesus and been baptised over this period.
“Nevertheless, these people still need somewhere to gather and the purchase of a building in the town is currently underway, which we hope will benefit the whole community.”
Leading the church into its new phase will be Rhona Sheppard, Jane Bridger and Mike May.
‘Retired but far from retiring’
Although he is retiring, Paul, who can often be seen out running, has entered his first triathlon - at the age of 70.
Through his efforts, Paul is hoping to raise £1,000 to help support Market Rasen inter-church projects of the future.
Support for Paul in his fundraising quest will be gratefully received.
These can be made by logging on to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-hiley-1
So far, Paul is at 16 per cent of his target figure.