CEREDO - Marty Gute grew up in Ashland.
"My dad and his family came to Ashland in 1925," Gute said. "They were haberdashers and tailors, dealing in men's clothing."
For 75 years his family owned and operated Gute's Men's Shop in Ashland.
"My dad and his family were really strong German Roman Catholics," Gute said. "My mother, on the other hand, was a hard line Methodist from Hazard, Kentucky. They met in college in the 1950s, and you didn't see many marriages between Catholics and Methodists. It made for a very interesting childhood."
Gute said his family was very ecumenical.
"We would go to the Catholic service very early, then to the Methodist service after," he recalled. "As a kid, I was confirmed in both faiths, but my parents left the choice up to me when I became an adult."
In 1980, Gute became a Baptist.
"My salvation experience was not in a church, but at work," he said. "A co-worker at AK Steel Mill and I began talking about spiritual matters, and I realized that I was religious, but I had no relationship with God."
Gute said that is when he truly met the Lord.
"I served in the Baptist church for about 15 years," he said.
Gute said God led him to many different places, as well as many different denominations.
"I think growing up the way I did gave me an appreciation for the differences in the Christian faith," Gute said. "My parents made it acceptable for us to agree to disagree on matters of faith and still keep our identity in our faith. It was all about respecting others and their differences."
Three-and-a-half years ago, Gute became the pastor of one of the oldest churches in the Tri-State. The First Congregational Church of Ceredo was founded in 1874.
"We are nearly 142 years old," Gute said. "The church has been kind of a historical landmark here."
Some of the names in the stained glass in the church are some of the same people that founded the town, Gute added.
"We carry on their tradition here," Gute said. "I immediately fell in love with this church and its people."
Gute says, just like when the church began, the church bell rings Sunday morning and people walk out of the neighborhoods.
"We are a small congregation," he said. "We are not trying to break any attendance records, but we like to branch out and serve during the week."
Gute says Congregationalists believe in the fundamentals of the Protestant Christian faith.
"Congregationalists take care of church matters within the church. We are not governed by a national board of directors and do not have a headquarters in another area. Each church is autonomous."
Gute says many of the founding fathers of America were Congregationalists.
"The church is historically known as the church of the Pilgrims," he said. "We have had re-enactments showing the Pilgrims' role in the founding of America."
Gute says the church participates in the "Backpack Ministry."
"It started in the Good Samaritan Center in Kenova, and every year we band with the smaller churches to pack backpacks for the school children in the community," he said. "Last year, there were probably over 200 students that we fed every weekend."
Gute said the church also offers piano lessons, violin lessons and college ACT lessons and is open for community meetings.
"Our identity is that of a community friendly church," he said.
Gute says he also believes that God wants him to be a follower Monday through Saturday. He is very active in the community. He is a city commissioner in Ashland, an assistant football coach of the Ashland Tomcats and an on-call Chaplin with King's Daughters Medical Center.
"Sunday is just a day we get together, celebrate and refuel from 11 a.m. to noon," he said. "We don't gauge your spirituality or Christianity by how many times you are here at the church. I'd rather see you be a witness for the Lord where you work, where you go to school or whatever you are doing out in the community."
In 1993, Gute began officiating weddings in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
"I saw a great need at time because of all the requirements from the neighboring states," he said.
Although those requirements are now gone, Gute is still marrying couples.
"I have officiated over 33,000 weddings over 23 years," he said. "I don't do as many today, but people know I am available. There hasn't been a week in 23 years that I haven't officiated at least one wedding."
He said he has officiated everything from large weddings to small ones that just included the couple getting married.
"I met a couple at the park and I have also been to big ceremonies and everything in between," Gute said. "On Valentine's Day in 1998, I performed 55 weddings in a single day."
Gute, 61, is married to his wife Sara and they have seven children between them.
"We are kind of like the Brady Bunch," he said. "Our children range in ages from 17 to 40, and we also have seven grandchildren. They all live in Kentucky, so it makes it easy on my wife and I to go visit and for them to visit us."
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NAME: Marty Gute
FAMILY: Seven children and seven grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Paul G. Blazer High School, University of Kentucky and Charity Bible Institute.
EMPLOYMENT: Pastor, on-call chaplain for Kings Daughter's Medical Center, and also four-term Ashland City Commissioner.
HOBBIES: Assistant football coach for the Ashland Tomcats, walking and hiking.
FAVORITE TV SHOW: "Seinfeld."
FAVORITE MOVIE: "Forrest Gump."
FAVORITE BOOK: The Bible.