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East Liberty Association church marks 175 years of being ‘light to community’comment (0)

September 27, 2007

Carol Holderfield-Shelnutt has been a member of Bethel Baptist Church, Five Points, all her life. She was baptized there and both her son and daughter had their weddings in the East Liberty Baptist Association church.

When she was a child, she remembers Bethel Baptist being a one-room building, where Sunday School “rooms” were sectioned off with “curtains that were drawn across wires.”

“It’s a small, rural church that’s been a light to the community for 175 years,” she said.

And that’s the legacy church members were honoring when they celebrated Bethel’s 175th anniversary recently.

“What makes Bethel Baptist special is not only its strategic location in Chambers County but its commitment to sharing Jesus Christ with the community and its love and concern for each other,” said Steve Langley, who served as the church’s pastor until September.

Established in 1832, Bethel was the first Baptist church in Chambers County and is older than East Liberty Association itself. A log cabin structure was built on land donated by members in the community. The church cemetery is now located at this site. Construction of the current building began in 1880 and was completed in 1884.

In 1947, Sunday School rooms were added, followed by a fellowship hall and kitchen in 1977. Today the congregation enjoys the convenience of modern-day facilities along with glimpses of antiquity in its stained glass windows.

For the anniversary celebration, former pastors returned to share about their time at Bethel. Those unable to attend wrote letters that were read aloud to the congregation. Judge Calvin Milford of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission presented a plaque, and Maggie Rae Avery, 90, was honored as the church’s oldest member. Yancey Sanders, who served as pastor from 1989–1997 and is currently the interim pastor, delivered the celebration message.

Afterward a covered-dish lunch was served on the grounds as members old and new reminisced. (TAB)

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