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Shorterville Church marks 150th yearcomment (0)

December 13, 2007

By Brian Blackwell

Coming home to Shorterville Baptist Church always has been an emotional experience for Larry Arnold.

Raised in the small Judson Baptist Association church, Arnold said it was there that he accepted Christ as his personal Savior.

Though Arnold left in 1960 for Georgia, memories of Sunday School teachers laying the foundation for his walk with Jesus still are fresh in his mind today. Their influence has resulted in his three children serving in various ministerial capacities in churches throughout the United States, along with most of his eight grandchildren becoming Christians.

“I can honestly say that they are the reason that my family and I have grown deeply in our relationship with the Lord,” said Arnold, now a deacon at First Baptist Church, Kennesaw, Ga. “It’s difficult to put into words the appreciation I have for folks who laid down the basic tools that I needed for the rest of my Christian life.

“Small churches like Shorterville Baptist are the backbone of our country,” he said of the congregation that averages about 50 in attendance. “Even though they’re a small church, they have a big impact on the world.”

On Nov. 11, Arnold joined more than 300 current and former members and guests attending Shorterville Baptist’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Festivities included a sermon by Ray Reiley, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Newville; singing old hymns such as “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “Precious Memories;” reading the church’s history; and a presentation of a plaque by the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission.

The church also unveiled a collage featuring pictures of older members, the original wood-framed church building, the former Shorterville School building and other memories.

Additionally older members spoke about memories from Shorterville Baptist’s past, such as one Sunday service when children unleashed BB gun pellets that eventually covered the entire floor of the sanctuary. Such humorous testimonies were one of the highlights of the day for Mike Lee, the pastor of more than four years.

“Some of our older members — and even those who are young who have moved away to other states — made me realize how far-reaching the church has been throughout the years,” Lee said.

Robert Phillips, who was baptized at Shorterville Baptist when he was 12 years old, agreed.

“It was overwhelming to see folks drive hundreds of miles just to get here,” he said. “I enjoyed hearing story after story about how the church touched people’s lives.”

Phillips added the church has been blessed not only to have impacted so many but also to have survived this long.

“We don’t have the membership we had at one time but we are still here.”

Building on Phillips’ thought, Lee said the congregation is re-prioritizing the way it conducts ministries within the church. The purpose is to reduce the “busyness” so many churches are accustomed to and concentrate on strengthening worship and Bible study, he explained.

“God is using this time in the life of our church to better equip us to go out into Shorterville and share the gospel,” Lee said. “And that will improve our whole church body.”

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