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Editor's note: This story was written by Linda Waggener, the marketing and media relations coordinator at Campbellsville University, and is reprinted with her permission.
Campbellsville University alumnus, Dr. Jeff Eaton, traveled from Anderson County to Russell County on Labor Day weekend for his annual guest speaking engagement at the church he founded at Lake Cumberland’s Jamestown Marina boat dock 21 years ago.
Eaton is a native of Campbellsville who planted a new church, Hope Community Church, in Lawrenceburg after having served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Russell Springs for many years.
His wife Julie Winn Eaton, also a Campbellsville native and CU alumna, sings on Hope’s praise teams.
Another CU alumnus, Pastor Rick Mann, at Fairview Baptist Church in Russell Springs, now directs the lake service. Mann always invites Eaton “home” to his lake service for the anniversary, and to also speak at Fairview’s homecoming.
Eaton recalls many stories from the lake service over the years before he moved on. One of them is of Gary Bullock who is now a pastor in Florida.
“Gary came here to get away, from everything including church,” Eaton said, “and not only found the peace he was looking for, but a calling to the ministry.”
When Jamestown Marina was developed on Lake Cumberland in Russell County, a village of 1,500 people soon came about, people from Kentucky and surrounding states came to enjoy the boating, fishing and camping.
Eaton said at that time the Kentucky Baptist Convention was guiding pastors to “points of service” and that the lake service was deemed to qualify. Local Baptist Elder Rabon Smith originally delivered the request for a church on Lake Cumberland to then young pastor Eaton.
The idea for the lakeside service was born and has been in continuous service ever since.
The service on the lake is relaxed and informal with a continental breakfast.
Julie Eaton led the congregation in a cappella singing of hymns as the boat rocked on the water. The service is held in the yacht club room of the marina. It started out in the conference room of the hotel, but has grown to need the full meeting room space of the yacht club down on the water at dock level. Surrounded by pleasure boats, pontoon boats and houseboats, the clubroom is central to all who live and vacation on the water.
Dutt Wilson, a longtime member of the lake service, said, “this is the perfect church, no winter services, no collections taken up.“
Eaton said, “but you have to admit it is a convenient place for baptizing.”
Eaton is a guest lecturer in the School of Theology at CU Louisville Center this semester.
He will likely share with new students that as a preacher’s kid, he “had absolutely no intention of following in the footsteps of [his] father, the Rev. Thurman Eaton, Pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Taylor County.”
Eaton got his Bachelors of Science degree in business administration from Campbellsville University and headed into management at UPS. He said that he didn’t wrestle with the call in the belly of the whale as Jonah did, rather in the belly of a brown UPS delivery truck.
He says that Al Hardy, dean of academic support, was like a second father to him as he worked through the decision to go to on Southern Seminary. He recently completed his Doctorate at Fuller Seminary.
He and Julie have two children, Andrew and Laura. Andrew is a student pastor at Hillview Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green. Laura is a pre-pharmacy student at WKU. She accompanied her parents to the anniversary service at the lake church with her fiancé, Tom Cannon.