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In June, the First Baptist Church of Westwood held a farewell luncheon for the Rev. Stephanie Salinas as she prepared to move out of state and continue on the path to become a hospital chaplain.

The church has started the formal search for its next settled pastor, a process that often takes a year or more. In the meantime, First Baptist has selected the Rev. James W. Leavitt to serve as its interim pastor.

Rev. Leavitt grew up in Sharon and later Hingham, and received his Bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst. As a youth, he twice attended camp at Grotonwood, the Christian camp in Groton, Mass., founded in the 1950’s by the Massachusetts Baptist Convention, and he served on the Grotonwood staff during summers while he was in college.

His first career was working as an insurance claims person for over twenty years, during which time he married and settled in Tewksbury, where he and his wife raised two children. He became very involved in church leadership at the First Baptist Church there, and continued to volunteer at the summer camps.

He eventually left the insurance field and entered Andover Newton Theological School where he obtained his Master of Divinity degree. His chosen area of concentration is working with churches in transition, especially as an interim pastor, and he has served three other churches in this capacity, both short- and long-term. He was also an academic program assistant at Andover Newton for several years.

When Rev. Leavitt introduced himself to the congregation, he concluded by saying, “I look forward to my time here in Westwood as we work together to see where God is leading First Baptist into the next phase of its long history in this community.”