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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Shiloh Church celebrates 150 years of ‘God-centered’ service in Elbacomment (0)

June 28, 2007

By Greg Heyman


The year appeared to be 1857 as members of Shiloh Baptist Church, Elba, in Coffee Baptist Association celebrated the church’s 150th anniversary May 20.

Amid the realities of modern life like electricity and automobiles, members of Shiloh Baptist arrived for services with men in overalls and women wearing bonnets and aprons. "We’ve made it tradition for the past several years (on the third Sunday in May for the church’s anniversary) for everybody to dress the way they did during the early days," Pastor Joe Farris said.

This year, the historic milestone made the nod to the past even more poignant.

"I think it’s significant that the Lord has seen fit to keep the church here for 150 years," said Farris, who has served Shiloh for four years. He said it is humbling for him to know that God has allowed him to be pastor of a church that has "such a legacy and history, where great men have stood and preached the gospel."

A weekend of activities began May 19 with a spaghetti supper and gospel singing by father and daughter evangelists Jerry and Tammy Sullivan of Wagarville and continued the next day with more gospel singing during the morning service and dinner on the grounds.

Shiloh’s long history was recognized through letters of congratulations from President George W. Bush, Gov. Bob Riley and Congressman Terry Everett.

The anniversary celebration also saw attendance double, swelling from the typical 50 or 60 to more than 100.

"It was a touching event that we were able to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church," said Shiloh Baptist member Edie Sasser. "The Spirit of the Lord was there."

Wayne Harrison, a member of the church since 1980, said reconnecting with former church members was what made the weekend special for him.

"There were a lot of the old members visiting and recalling things that happened many years ago," he said. "It was a celebration of the many years the church has been here."

Harrison said he is one of the long-standing members of a congregation that has had members either pass on or move to different areas of the country.

But for Sasser, Shiloh is a family affair. She joined the church after marrying her husband, Joe, who was raised there. Their two married daughters are also members.

And Sasser believes she knows the secret of Shiloh’s longevity.

"Most of the pastors are Spirit-filled men who let God run the church and not the members," she said.

"The success of a church comes when you let God be at the center."

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