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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Chilton Association church marks 50 years since first meeting on memberís front porchcomment (0)

November 8, 2007

By Laura K. Womble


Fifty years ago, worship services at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Maplesville, were held on the front porch of a church member’s home.

Thirty to 40 people gathered in folding chairs for the morning service, followed by Sunday School under the trees on the surrounding property. Then the evening services would be held by porch light.

Joe Bob Mizzell, Hillcrest Baptist’s first pastor, remembers those days fondly.

So it was a homecoming for him to preach during the Chilton Baptist Association church’s 50th anniversary celebration Sept. 23. Mizzell even preached one of the sermons he preached at Hillcrest years ago from Ecclesiastes 12:1–7 in which King Solomon reflected on his life and came to the realization that “happiness comes through the Lord.”

Mizzell was still a student at Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham when he started preaching at Hillcrest. “They (the church members) were very generous to me,” said Mizzell, now director of the office of Christian ethics and chaplaincy ministries for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

Members of the congregation helped him pay for college, and one couple even paid for his graduation ring, which he otherwise would not have been able to afford.

Mizzell said many of those charter members are still at Hillcrest today, including one current deacon who, when the church was being built, was “just a young man helping pack dirt down on the church’s foundation from his tractor.”

Today, just a couple miles north of the original site on U.S. Highway 82, the congregation meets in a modern-day building on a hilltop acre of land given by one of those charter members.

The first building was a small educational building, followed by the present-day sanctuary. Building projects were funded by generous donations from members of the congregation and with help from the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

Jason Vinson, Hillcrest’s most recent former pastor, said the church is young, not just in terms of history but also in the age of its members. “The median age is around 45 to 50,” he said, explaining that there is a very strong youth ministry.

The strength of the church was highlighted during the celebration service. A reading of the church history from “inception to present­-day” was given, followed by a presentation from the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission.

“It was a great day of celebration and remembrance of all God has done in and through Hillcrest Baptist Church,” Vinson said. “It’s also a challenge … to continue the ministry of the church.”

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