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Guntersville’s Sweet Home Church honors 100 years, ‘amazing’ growthcomment (0)

May 28, 2009

By Gary Hardin

When the time came for Andy Brown to choose a speaker for his church’s 100th anniversary celebration and homecoming, he knew the perfect person — his dad.

Andy Brown, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church, Guntersville, in Marshall Baptist Association, invited his father, Harold Brown, pastor of New Center Baptist Church, Hartselle, in Morgan Baptist Association, to deliver the sermon for the landmark occasion.

“My dad has 40 years of preaching experience and has familiarity with the Sweet Home community. I knew he could look back to the church’s history, as well as look forward to the church’s future. I’ve used my dad in sermon illustrations numerous times. Many church members have said to me, ‘We need to hear your dad preach,’” Andy Brown said.

Harold Brown preached from John 4, challenging the congregation to lay a foundation for future generations.

“It meant much to me to preach for my son and to have a part in his church’s celebration,” he said. “I had preached revival services at Sweet Home about 25 years ago. I felt excited to see the progress the church is making.”

More than 275 people attended the April 19 celebration, where they also enjoyed a fellowship lunch and the music of the Dixie Echoes.

Initially a Methodist church, Sweet Home Baptist began with six members in 1909, according to historical records. Regretfully, a house fire burned the church’s records for most of the first half of its history.

According to Johnny Chamness, a current deacon, the original church building consisted of a wooden structure situated in a forest in the Sweet Home community. The congregation decided in 1957 to construct a new building. The old building was moved and later torn down.

Nan Hawk, a longtime member of Sweet Home who began attending when she was 4 years old, can remember horse-and-buggy days.

She also recalls vividly when construction started on the new church building. “The women of the church helped finance the construction project by preparing meals and selling them to nearby factory workers. Quilting gatherings, held in homes, provided quilts sold to make additional money. These were precious times in the church.”

Later renovations added classrooms and a fellowship hall to the church. In 1961, the church installed its first baptismal pool. Prior to that, baptisms took place at a pond on the property of deacon Harold Burnett, according to Andy Brown.

In 2003, the congregation discussed enlarging the sanctuary but decided instead to build a new one. It was completed in 2004, along with additional classrooms and restrooms. Most recently, the church finished an addition to the back of the sanctuary, which enlarged the fellowship hall and provided more classrooms.

After a low period during the late 1960s, the church today is experiencing numerical growth. Present attendance at Sweet Home averages near 200 on Sunday mornings. And the church has future plans for building a family life center.

Andy Brown attributed the beginning of the growth spurt eight years ago to the ministry of then-pastor Ryan Childress. A variety of programs and ministries, including an Awana club, have brought additional members to the church.

“Our growth has been amazing,” Hawk stated. “I’ve been blown away by the Lord. We’re just hanging on while God is at work.”

While members and pastors have come and gone during Sweet Home’s 100-year history, Chamness pointed to one thing in particular that has not changed. “This is a country church with a good bunch of loving and friendly people. That’s why we call it Sweet Home.”

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