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Bethsalem Church celebrates 125 years of impacting Chilton County for Christcomment (0)

May 1, 2008

By Megan Norris Jones

The name "Bethsalem" means "house of peace," but April 6, Bethsalem Baptist Church in Chilton County was a house of celebration as 319 people gathered to celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding.

"We were expecting a full house, but we weren’t expecting that many," said Brad Eubank, Bethsalem Baptist’s pastor since May 2003.

The Chilton Baptist Association church averages 150 in worship each week, but the anniversary celebration service brought in former church and staff members and people with family buried in the church’s cemetery.

Eddie Lightsey, a former minister of music at Bethsalem, returned to lead the congregational singing and to sing as part of a trio.

"You could feel the presence of God through the music and through the testimony," he said.

The extended service also featured a message from former pastor Tony Smitherman, who, along with Lightsey, is now serving at nearby West End Baptist Church, Clanton. A dinner followed the service.

Beginning in a log cabin not far from its current site, Bethsalem was founded in 1883 as Bethsalem Baptist Church of Christ with 14 members.

The church is now in its fourth building, which was constructed in 1959 and has been expanded and renovated many times as education space, a fellowship hall and a paved parking lot were added and the sanctuary was renovated.

In addition to being a celebration of Bethsalem’s past, Eubank sees this anniversary as an opportunity for the church to focus on its current ministries and convert that spirit of celebration into a spirit of commitment to the work at hand. The church has produced a Vision 2008 plan to invigorate and refocus its mission in the county.

"It’s good to look back," Eubank said. "But now let’s look forward."

Bethsalem continues to reach out to the community through members old and new. Terry Johnson, who has been a member for two years, said he loves inviting people to church. After all, that’s how he and his family got there.

In the midst of a family crisis, Johnson’s daughter was invited to Bethsalem by neighbors who were church members. Within two weeks, she was asking how to join the church, and after speaking with the pastor, Johnson, his wife and his daughter were baptized.

"It was one of the most tender moments of my life," Johnson said of being baptized. "Since that night, God has just worked wonders in our home."

Johnson now uses opportunities like the men’s fellowship breakfast at Bethsalem to remind others of the urgency of the gospel.

That need to share the good news with the lost people who pass the church as if it is just another building motivates other church members and Eubank as well. "We want to sit and celebrate for a minute," Eubank said. "But we don’t want to sit too long."

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