Former President Jimmy Carter says he plans to start reducing his Sunday school teaching schedule in a few months.
But he’ll continue attending class and services at Maranatha Baptist Church and taking photos with visitors whenever he’s in Plains, according to a statement released by the Carter Center on Friday.
The statement, which said that Carter would continue teaching “for a few more months,” gave no reason for the decision or how often he would teach going forward. But those close to the 93-year-old former president suggested it was a logical decision for him to cut back on the grueling pace that has seen him stand and teach for some 45 minutes nearly every Sunday and then pose for photos with hundreds of people.
“President Carter discussed this with members of the church and we are of course supportive of any decision he makes,” said Jill Stuckey, a Maranatha member and close friend of both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. “We love to hear him teach Sunday School and we’re happy he’s going to continue doing so as long as he wants.”
Maranatha’s pastor described the decision as more of a “weaning” that will also prove beneficial to the church and the entire community, Maranatha has about 45 active members, but on Sundays when Carter teaches his 10 a.m.class, 350 or more people may pack the little church.
Many are visitors from around the world who line up after the 11 a.m. service to take photos with him and Mrs. Carter and who spend the weekend in Plains and nearby Americus. The wrench it would cause if the former president were to suddenly and completely stop teaching was a prospect no one liked contemplating, said Pastor Brandon Patterson.
“He’s not planning on quitting anytime soon, but we’re cutting back and planning for the future,” said Patterson, adding that Carter shared his decision at the church’s quarterly business meeting.
Carter’s teaching schedule will continue to be posted on Maranatha’s web site. It currently shows him teaching on three Sundays each in January, February and March.