Ollie’s Mount Olive Church marks 100 yearscomment (0)
September 17, 2009
By Gary Hardin
On Aug. 2, Mount Olive Baptist Church saw its largest crowd in years as it celebrated 100 years of “[keeping] house for God” in the Ollie community.
While average attendance for Sunday morning worship is about 70, attendance nearly doubled on this particular Sunday morning.
“Our sanctuary was packed,” said James Hooks, a deacon at the Bethlehem Baptist Association church.
During the anniversary celebration, the group Crossroads provided music. Taking part in the service were Pastor Paul Kirchharr and former pastors Bryan Mosely, Lance Sawyer and Mike Leys, who preached. Frances Hamilton, retired executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, presented a recognition plaque to the church. After the morning service, lunch was served.
According to church records, Mount Olive Baptist was begun by eight people with a mission “to keep house for God.” By that, the early members meant they would maintain a place of worship to serve as a beacon to those in the community.
Initially services were held at Ollie School until a building could be constructed. H.W. Rumbley served as the church’s first pastor.
In 1921, the shotgun building that had been constructed near the school was torn down and a new one constructed at Mount Olive Baptist’s present site.
In the 1950s, under the leadership of Pastor C.E. Arnold, a building fund was started for construction of another church building. The women of Mount Olive Baptist made and sold quilts to help raise the needed money.
That building, completed in 1955, is still being used by the church.
In 1973, the congregation added a fellowship hall. Over the years, Sunday School space has been expanded to accommodate growth, and six years ago, a youth meeting area was built.
Of the more than 30 pastors who have served Mount Olive Baptist, one in particular stands out. Hertis Ward served as pastor three times: September 1956–September 1968, October 1968–April 1972 and December 1973–August 1994.
“I guess he couldn’t get enough of us,” church clerk Iris Stacey said laughing.
Like many small churches with a bivocational pastor, Mount Olive Baptist is made up of numerous family units who have been involved there for generations.
Hooks’ wife, Betty, offered one example of this. “My mom and dad were members, and their moms and dads were charter members of Mount Olive.”
James Hooks added, “We’ve been here all our lives. We aren’t going anywhere.”