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FBC LaFayette honors history, celebrates 175th anniversarycomment (0)

August 6, 2009

By Stacey Shields

Throughout its nearly two centuries, First Baptist Church, LaFayette, in East Liberty Baptist Association has made its mark in its community and Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist life. 

For example, the church hosted the 1856 state Baptist convention, helped organize East Liberty Association and planted Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, LaFayette.

In addition, several individuals affiliated with First, LaFayette, have had significant roles in the work of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In fact, the first pastor, Francis Callaway, was one of 14 people from Alabama who went to Augusta, Ga., in 1845 to form the SBC.

Another pastor, William Carey Bledsoe, became corresponding secretary-treasurer (now called executive director-treasurer) of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, serving from 1896 until 1899. And two laymen, Judge Nimrod D. Denson (1906–1909) and Judge William B. Bowling (1941–1942), served as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. 

“It’s humbling to see” how these men went on to do great things, said Pastor William “Bill” Hand. “And it’s an encouragement [to know] they had a challenge, but with the grace of God, they were always able to connect with it and do far and beyond what they could say or think.”  These contributions were recalled as the church celebrated 175 years of ministry May 17.

Approximately 300 people — about three times as many as an average Sunday morning — attended the anniversary festivities. That number included all but three pastors who have served since the 1960s. Lunch followed the service.

According to Calvin Milford, First, LaFayette, deacon and a commissioner with the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, 11 individuals founded the church May 21, 1834. They met in a log structure that also served as the county courthouse. Within two years, the congregation moved into its first permanent sanctuary and in March 1890, moved a block away to the church’s present location.

In 1928, First, LaFayette, built a three-story Sunday School facility. On its 100th anniversary in 1934, the church celebrated paying off the debt on the facility.

“The day that they burned the note on the Sunday School building was a big day in the life of the church. It was a real good day,” said Randolph “Randy” Bowling, who was church clerk for 42 years.

His wife, Faye, remembers a time when all three floors of that building were full each Sunday morning. Today only the bottom floor is utilized.

Even though population is shifting, the congregation of First, LaFayette, sees the missions field around it and is working to bring in the harvest of souls.

“The city is losing population, but there are still a lot [of people] who don’t know Jesus. And there is still a lot of things we can do,” Hand said.

The church is seeking to reach people through a number of efforts, such as hosting a music camp, holding Vacation Bible School and supporting a missionary.

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