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Almost twenty years ago, Dr. John B. “Mike” Loudon and his loving wife of forty-eight years, Joyce, came to Lakeland, Florida, with a deep desire to know and to serve the surrounding community. Originally from New Castle, Pennsylvania, Loudon felt a call to full-time ministry around the age of ten years old.

“A lot of kids wanted to be firefighters, nurses, policemen…but I had this strong desire to preach,” Loudon recalls of his childhood. After growing up in a large, thriving church environment and making an intentional commitment to the faith, he began his career as a youth director at his home church of Clen-Moore Presbyterian Church before attending and graduating from full-time seminary in Massachusetts in 1973.

Here we were––a couple of midwesterners––as the new people in town, but the locals here embraced us with their warmth and Southern hospitality in a way that made us feel right at home.

Mike Loudon

Eventually, Loudon moved on to happily serve as the lead pastor of Eastridge Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska for twelve years. After the twelve year mark, Loudon felt it was time to transition into something completely new. When he heard about the open pastoral position at First Presbyterian Church (FPC), Loudon connected with a pastor from the nominating committee and flew down with his wife, Joyce, in January of 1999 to run as candidate for the position. When the church congregation officially voted Loudon in to be pastor/head of staff, Loudon and his wife were incredibly excited to join our city’s community in hopes of making a huge difference. “[We] hit the ground running that April when I stepped into the role to raise funding for the addition of a new building for FPC,” Loudon shares. Loudon and his family were welcomed with open arms into the city of Lakeland––an aspect of their transition Loudon always admired about the people in our community. Loudon shares, “Here we were––a couple of midwesterners––as the new people in town, but the locals here embraced us with their warmth and Southern hospitality in a way that made us feel right at home.”

In ministry, you walk with so many people through some very important times in their lives and enter into their lives in ways that other people aren’t invited in.

Mike Loudon

He recalls the last twenty years serving in his role as incredibly busy and exciting––all at once. “In ministry, you walk with so many people through some very important times in their lives and enter into their lives in ways that other people aren’t invited in,” Loudon admits. He also expresses that during his twenty years of service, some of the most memorable moments are these shared experiences with congregants––from cheerful, elaborate wedding days to sorrowful, sometimes unexpected funerals. “One of the aspects of ministry you will always remember is the times where you had to walk with someone through the valley of the shadow of death,” he acknowledges.

In October of this year, Loudon announced his official retirement and looks forward to embarking into this new season of life with his wife, Joyce, who also served for 10 years as a musical instructor at All Saints Academy and teaching children with dyslexia at Roberts Academy. They are excited to spend time together traveling and visiting their three children and nine grandchildren. “We definitely want to make more time for family outings––go to our grandchildren’s concerts and ballgames,” he tells. While he moves into this new season of transition, his message for our tight-knit community is that we “continue to be the welcoming and diverse community that [we] are.”