The Rev. Shelby Light preached his first sermon Feb. 15, 1931, in a small church in Junction City, Ohio.
Today, the 85-year-old clergyman plans to celebrate his 60th anniversary by delivering the sermon at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, where he has been the assistant pastor for 15 years.
About 300 are expected to be in the pews of the 103-year-old church in downtown Long Beach.
Betsey, his wife of 26 years, three children, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be among the worshipers.
Over the years, he has been pastor of congregations in such diverse places as Burwell, Neb.; Waubay, S.D.; and North Hollywood.
Light said he was never eager to go into the ministry because ministers "were poorly educated and poorly paid. But gradually I drifted into it."
He also received a good education and combined a preaching career with teaching.
He has a bachelor's degree in education from Illinois State University and a master's in British and American history from the University of Illinois. He has a theology degree from the University of Chicago.
Light taught Latin and history in high school in Athens, Ill., for three years before accepting his first pastorate in Junction City. He returned to teaching in 1957, when he moved to the Los Angeles area. He taught high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. Then he returned to preaching.
And he expects to deliver many more sermons at First Congregational Church. "I don't want to retire. I can't think of anything to do that would be interesting," Light said. He also visits elderly church members in their residences, hospitals and convalescent homes.
He keeps a detailed account of his activities. Last year, for example, he made 1,132 such visits, led 371 evening church meetings, performed 20 weddings and conducted 19 funeral and memorial services, he said.
The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Mary Ellen Kilsby, said Light has boundless energy and a dry wit. She recalls one Light quip about his parents and the number of children they had. "They had six children. They kept having them until they had a good one." Light was the sixth child.