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FBC Opelika celebrates 150 years of growth, support of missionscomment (0)

December 3, 2009

By Gary Hardin

Nineteenth-century railroad agent Lemuel P. Grant might be amazed today if he could see what the congregation of First Baptist Church, Opelika, has done with his donation of a parcel of land.

Today the church campus covers multiple blocks, spreading across Grant’s donated land and beyond, and hosts about 3,000 people each Sunday, attending the three morning worship services.

And Oct. 25, after the morning worship services, the Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association church celebrated 150 years of fulfilling its mission statement: “Lifting up Jesus and loving people.”

The anniversary celebration featured lunch and a book signing by Daniel “Buddy” Hollis III, a retired Jacksonville State University history professor and church member who wrote “A History of First Baptist Church, Opelika, Alabama, 1859–2009.”

In addition, boys and girls in the children’s ministry presented a historical sketch of the church. And Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller assisted with the dedication of a historical marker at First, Opelika. A prayer of thanksgiving was offered by Pastor Steve Scoggins.

“We’ve had a strong church all along, but these past several years have been marvelous,” said Yetta Samford, a 76-year member of First, Opelika.

Myrlene Gray, a church member since 1948, pointed to the rapid growth of First, Opelika, during the past 10 years. “Our church, a Bible-teaching church, has diversified ministries, and our pastor is really committed to the church,” she said.

So was the small group of Baptists in Opelika who established the church. It secured the services of a pastor, Willis B. Jones, who preached every fourth Sunday, and in 1859, 16 individuals formed what was called Opelika Baptist Church. Until the congregation could construct a worship facility, services were held at the local Methodist church.

The congregation completed its first building, a white frame structure with three fireplaces, a steeple and a bell, in 1861 on the land Grant had donated. In the mid-1840s, he and another railroad agent, Charles Byrd, bought 160 acres of land for possible use by Montgomery and West Point Railroad. According to Hollis, Grant sold his half of the land in lots and donated a parcel to each Christian congregation in the area.

In the early 1900s, the church changed its name to First Baptist Church, Opelika.

During its 150 years, the church has never wavered in its enthusiastic support of missions from international to local.

For example, First, Opelika, gave $112,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in 2008 and an extra $82,000 in August.

Scoggins said the church sends out more than 100 members on short-term missions trips annually.

Locally First, Opelika, reaches out to hundreds of Auburn University students.

“We have seen God do some amazing things in bringing back students who have been running from the Lord for a while in college. We’ve also seen many students place their faith in Jesus,” said Trace Hamiter, minister to college students.

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