Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Monday, June 05, 2006

150th Anniversary

No, my wife and I haven't aged 140 years since you last looked at this blog. (Although I'm accounted a year older than the last time you looked.)

Yesterday we celebrated our church's 150th anniversary. As it happens, based on what I saw in some really old books, I think the church is actually a little older than that. But 1856 is the year that they settled on quite some time back as the official beginning of the the church.

We've spent weeks, nay, months preparing for this event. We had the state rep from the Empire State Fellowship in (quite a guy -- he reminds me of a college and seminary professor I had named Dr. Johnson.) We also had the national rep from the GARBC. Our church was a charter member of the ESF, and one of the earliest in the GARB. The pastor at the time stood staunchly against the influences of liberalism, and took the church out of the Northern Baptist Convention, fighting in the courts to keep the church building. Today, our connection with those groups is a lot more tenuous, but South Baptist has maintained its membership. The son of the old pastor also came in; he's now an international lecturer, having taught at several prominent seminaries.

As you may have guessed from that list of special visitors coming in, that made for a really long day. Each of them (along with a couple of other, less prominent visitors) had to speak their piece, either during the service, or at the dinner afterward. We started the service around 10:45 in the morning, and finished the dinner at the reception hall around 5 in the evening. Long, long day, especially for the children.

That said, it went very well. We had just about a perfect sized crowd -- the church was pretty much packed, but we didn't have to get too creative with seating people in the vestibule or anything. There were the usual technical difficulties, but on the whole everything ran smoothly. Guests from all over the country (and I think a few from England, tag-alongs with Dr. Grier, the international speaker) came and seemed to enjoy themselves.

During the service, we had a really neat tribute to Ed Johnsen and his wife Dorris. He joined the church back in 1944. At the time, he was actually stationed in Italy for World War II. But he got saved, and insisted on being baptized by a Baptist pastor (I'm guessing those were tough to come by, considering the time and place.) He was baptized in the Mediterranian, and applied for membership by a letter to South Baptist (it was the Baptist church in the town where he grew up, and would presumably live if he made it back from the war.) He did come back, and married Dorris shortly thereafter. They've been incredibly faithful members ever since. Their impact on the church and the community could hardly be overstated. His simple, gentle, clear wisdom and understanding is still phenominal -- for years, when any issue of difficulty presented itself, no one wanted to do anything until they talked to Ed. He was a man of courage, faith, and wisdom, and I still count him among the most Godly men I know. The tribute to him and Dorris was my favorite part of the service, and in my opinion, the most significant. The building is nothing -- it is people like Ed and Dorris Johnsen who made and kept this church what it is.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker