Church loses new pastor to drowning

Greg Hamby, who died Monday from complications of a near-drowning the day before while on vacation in South Carolina, was just settling in at First Baptist Church in Essex, Conn., after moving there in January.

By Bob Allen

A Baptist church in Connecticut is mourning the death of a recently called pastor who died July 29 during a family vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

greg hambyGreg Hamby, 52, pastor of First Baptist Church in Essex, Conn., since January, reportedly was wading in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday when for some reason he went underwater. People nearby got him back to the beach and gave him CPR until paramedics arrived. He died the following day at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach.

Prior to arriving at Essex, Hamby served 13 years as pastor of Quaker Hill Baptist Church in Waterford, Conn. He also served as an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church of Greater Toledo in Holland, Ohio, for five years.

A native of Huntington, W.Va., Hamby graduated from Marshall University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree and from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1989 with a master of divinity. He was ordained to the ministry in 1990.

Hamby served American Baptist churches by providing leadership for several national youth gatherings. He worked with the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut leading workshops at educational events and by serving on a number of boards and committees. He led workshops throughout the region on team ministry and the emergent church.

"He was very outgoing," Judy Allbee, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, told the Hartford Courant. "He helped the Quaker Hill church become more involved in outreach ministry in the community."

Members of First Baptist Church in Essex who were just getting to know him were devastated by his death. "He just exuded God's love, love for God and love for people, when you were with him," Mary Ann Blank, a church deacon and a member of the pastor search committee, told the newspaper. "He wanted everyone to feel loved and accepted at the church."

Hamby was in Myrtle Beach with his wife and three teenage children. Church members and others in Essex joined in a prayer vigil Monday evening for Hamby and his family.