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Montgomery churches rally to help sister church during recent tragedycomment (0)

July 19, 2007

By Jennifer Davis Rash

When tragedy struck a Montgomery Baptist church in June, the church and its association discovered just how prepared they were to face a crisis — well prepared.

“We just trusted God,” said Eddie Newton, chairman of deacons for Thorington Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association. “It is impossible for man to do what has happened in our church in the past three weeks.”

But Newton and hundreds of others have watched “the impossible” happen from the minute Gary Aldridge, pastor of Thorington Road Baptist, did not show up for Sunday morning services June 24. He was found dead in his home.

From that moment, Newton and the other three members of the church leadership team took charge. They made necessary and immediate decisions, guided and shepherded the congregation and worked to keep the church on track with its ministries and programs.

“The first thing we did was bring our church together in a prayer time,” Newton said. They also helped plan the memorial service for Aldridge a few days later.

The following Saturday, the church leadership team spent several hours dissecting every part of the church, evaluating each ministry and how to sustain that ministry and determining what needed to happen in each area. The team then gathered the leaders of each of the church committees and shared the direction, encouraging the leaders to move forward.

While some projects were put on hold, such as finding a new minister of music, most everything else stayed on course, Newton said. “We stayed with what was already in place and are moving forward.”

A church experiencing such a tragedy most always contacts the associational office right away, but Thorington Road Baptist didn’t even have to make a phone call. Bob Dempsey, associate director of missions (DOM) for Montgomery Association, is a member of the church. He contacted DOM Ken May, and they immediately began discussing how the association would assist in this situation.

May briefed the State Board of Missions (SBOM) officials and pulled from their resources as well. SBOM leaders will be helping fill the pulpit, and media relations leaders have provided guidance to the church on dealing with the press.

Chaplains were provided by Montgomery’s Baptist Medical Center during the memorial service. Head chaplain Jim Williams and Kline Johnson, director of the Montgomery Association Family Resource and Counseling Ministry, provided guidance and assistance.

Montgomery-area churches of all denominations offered help. They kept the nursery during the prayer and memorial services. And they spoke words of encouragement.

While the greater Christian community has reached out to Thorington Road Baptist, the associational leaders noted the tremendous impact of the Baptist family.

“The general sequence of our role in helping our church deal with such a devastating tragedy … comes from the knowledge of the Montgomery Association churches and the available resources,” Dempsey said. It is also about “being able to make timely decisions and networking to provide help where it is needed.”

May said, “Our goal is to help the church process all of their grief and to help them any way that we can to deal with this tragic loss.”

The Baptist family and greater church community “have been a great source of strength,” Newton said. “There has been a tremendous outpouring of folks on our church.”

Careful to give God all the credit for being faithful to His Word and for the sustainability in this situation, Newton said, “It’s putting feet to the faith. That’s what we are doing. We are proving [His Word].”

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