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Montgomery Hill bivocational pastor still going strong after 42 yearscomment (0)

March 14, 2002

By Dan Rutledge

Sherod Matheney makes his living in Saraland as an air-conditioning contractor, but his real life’s work the past 42 years has been as lay minister and pastor of Montgomery Hill Baptist Church, Tensaw.

In 1959 when he first answered the call as minister to the rural church, the oldest church in Baldwin County, Matheney had to drive a round trip of almost 150 miles.

When Alabama Highway 225 between Spanish Fort and Stockton was opened, the trip was shortened by eight miles, and the completion of the I-65 bridges in the 1980s cut his every-Sunday trip in half.

Under Matheney’s leadership the church has undergone several improvements. Its foundation has been replaced, new air conditioning has been installed and the sanctuary has been refurbished.

“All of that was accomplished without any bake sales, car washes or fund-raising events,” Matheney said. “When I came here, I told them I wasn’t called to beg or sell.”

One particularly hot summer, Matheney himself donated an air-conditioning system to the church, hauled it to Tensaw and installed it with the help of church volunteers.

In 1975, the county building inspector condemned the church building after an exterminator discovered that the 104-year-old support beams had been rendered useless by termites.

The deacons decided to take out a loan to finance the repairs but hit a snag when they discovered two conflicting deeds for the church property. When the adjoining property owner, heard about the church’s plight, he asked the deacons to order a survey to include all the property they had always believed belonged to Montgomery Hill Baptist. He then presented the church with the deed to the land. Now in possession of a valid deed to show prospective lending institutions, the church was able to borrow $800.

Their expenses, however, were unexpectedly cut when one church member spotted a pine tree on her property which was large enough and tall enough to be sawed into the needed beams. Then, Matheney said, a woman who had previously been a member 50 years sent $500.

In the long run, the foundation work was completed without ever using the borrowed $800, which was repaid to the bank.

“I’ve seen so many miracles associated with pastoring this church, and the way we got the church foundation repaired is one of them,” the pastor said.

Matheney also proudly points out Montgomery Hill’s truly ‘open door’ policy.

“The front door to the church is never locked — you can never tell when somebody needs to pray or talk to the Lord — and we’ve never had anything taken or disturbed,” he said. “I remember a few years back when a church down the road, a church that does lock its doors, was broken into and burglarized.”

Matheney has made the long trip from Saraland with amazing regularity over the years, only missing a few Sundays because of health problems. The few times he has missed, the pulpit was filled by seminary students through an arrangement with the local Baptist association.

Montgomery Hill Baptist, built in 1853, was the second church of record in Baldwin County. The first was Union Church Methodist on Holly Creek in Tensaw, but it is no longer active.

Montgomery Hill was built in Greek revival style. It has a single story with a balcony that was originally used as a slave gallery. The building was constructed with wooden pegs, although square nails were added later for strength and sturdiness.

Matheney has seen the church membership numbers change little during his 42 years. When he first came to Tensaw, the church had 30 members, while the current membership is 32.

Martin McGuire is the minister of music for the church and a deacon. His wife, Edith McGuire, has been the church organist for more than 50 years.

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