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FBC Leroy celebrates 100th anniversary, continued growthcomment (0)

November 4, 2004

By Anthony Wade

A 100-year-old Baptist church in Washington Baptist Association is ringing the same bell it rang in 1904 when the church was founded.

The church turned 100 in October and to open the anniversary celebration, former member Connie McClinton — a 96-year-old who traveled from Texas to be there — rang the heavy bell where it was perched in the steeple tower of the church.

“He rang the bell at both services the very first thing,” said Pastor James Watkins. “I told him to pull on it as long as you want to.”

Watkins noted that McClinton is the oldest living person who has ever been a member of the church.

Watkins said the bell has weighed in as a memorable part of worship through the years, calling the church to Sunday worship in the old building, completed in 1904, and the new building, completed in 1953.

“It’s very heavy and has always been in the bell tower in the steeple in the old and new church,” Watkins said.

The Oct. 3 centennial celebration also included a video presentation that invited members and guests to reflect on the past. And of course, there was plenty of food and lively conversation.

The church has received wider acclaim through pictures of the old and new church buildings appearing in the Southern Baptist Encyclopedia.

And in 1953 the church received second place for outstanding progress in the Town and Country Church Development Program, sponsored by Emory University and the Sears Roebuck Foundation.

Noting the growth of the church, Watkins, who has been the pastor of First, Leroy, for 13 years, said he has seen the church membership double to more than 600.

He noted that the communities of Washington County view the church as somewhat of a ‘mega church’ within the rural environment where many churches have 40–50 members.

About 13 people chartered the church in 1904 under the leader­ship of founding pastor S.A. Adams. Later he would serve the church during two tenures as pastor — spanning 20 years. Since its inception the church has had 22 pastors.

The church predates the Washington Baptist Association by five years. The Association was not founded until 1909 with First, Leroy, a founding member. The church history shows many young men among its membership answering God’s call to preach. This year alone eight have answer the call to ministry.

The church membership of 615 with an annual budget of more than $321,000 causes members to look forward to writing more history as they seek to make a name not for their church, but for Christ, information from the centennial committee says.

“This church takes the great commission very seriously,” Watkins said. “The members have tried to follow that closely over these last 100 years and in turn the Lord has blessed tremendously.

“Our heritage, our doctrine, our beliefs are embedded in the teachings and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “As a beacon of light in this community, our purpose is to proclaim and profess Jesus in life and lifestyles as we point people to Him.”

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