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FBC Livingston celebrates 175 yearscomment (0)

November 5, 2009

By Gary Hardin

Neither the Civil War nor two church fires have prevented First Baptist Church, Livingston, from proclaiming the gospel for 175 years.

That fact was well noted Sept. 13, as about 250 people celebrated the Bigbee Baptist Association church’s landmark anniversary. Former Pastor David Whitlock delivered the message, and numerous former music directors and pianists provided music.

“We had so many former music directors and members return, we did not have time for them all to participate in the service,” said Butch Larkin, chairman of the anniversary committee. “So during our churchwide lunch, we asked them to sing or to share a brief testimony. We had a great day.”

The day also included a presentation of a plaque by Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission. Gary Swafford, director of the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), affirmed First, Livingston, for its strong financial support of missions. Church member Johnny Larkin produced a DVD of photos that was shown prior to the service.

A written historical account chronicles how fires in 1834 and 1965 destroyed the facilities and contents of First, Livingston, but not the church’s spirit and determination. The first fire leveled the church’s original log meetinghouse. Its replacement, a frame building, was dedicated in 1854 on the same property.

That building, however, was given to another group of worshipers by a military commander during the Reconstruction era because only one member of First, Livingston — Mrs. R.M. Brassfield — remained at the time. But in 1871, the building was returned after First, Livingston, was reconstituted with 18 members.

The church’s next structure was built on the same property sometime around 1892.

In 1965, a fire not only destroyed the main church structure but also other buildings that had been constructed on the campus in 1918 and 1949.

At the time of the fire, the congregation was working with the SBOM to construct an annex that would house a Baptist Student Union (BSU) for students at nearby Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama — UWA).

“We were able to borrow some money from the state convention to reconstruct the church,” explained David Larkin, a longtime church member and deacon. “Later the state convention constructed the BSU facility on the university campus.”

Today the church’s facilities command an entire block. Current Sunday morning worship attendance averages 165.

And Pastor Jerry Hall, a former Southern Baptist missions representative to Argentina, is leading the congregation to reach even more people.

“Our focus is to reach children, youth and college students because most persons who receive Christ do so before age 20,” he said.

The church knows that the 2,000-plus students at UWA represent a God-given missions field, so it has ministries to reach them specifically. Scooter Kellum, minister of youth and university outreach at First, Livingston, leads a Tuesday night Bible study for UWA students at the church. Also, on the day new students begin to occupy the dorms, church members give them “goodie bags” and assist them with moving in.

Of course, Hall and his church members have a heart for the entire community, visiting in homes several times each week. “One of my goals is to knock on every door in Livingston,” he said.

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