Church in Locust Fork finds inspiration from recorded voicescomment (0)
September 4, 2003
By Leigh Pritchett
Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Locust Fork (Blount Association) marked its 125th anniversary earlier this summer with a rare sermon delivered by a one-of-a-kind preacher, followed by special festivities celebrating the church’s history.
Though it isn’t unusual for men of the cloth to attend anniversary celebrations at churches where they have served as pastor previously, they generally aren’t centenarians who personally deliver the sermon for that day. But then, not every church has an Andrew Oden in its history.
During the May celebration at Pine Bluff Missionary Baptist, Oden, who was pastor there in the 1930s, was one of five former pastors who gathered in the church filled to capacity for the momentous occasion.
Likewise, not every congregation has access to recordings of members, now deceased, giving their accounts of various events in the life of the church. But Pine Bluff does. Those attending the celebration got to hear some of the recollections, courtesy of member Jimmie Sue Fendley, who made the recordings more than a decade ago as she was preparing to write a comprehensive history of the church.
Mike Young, who is pastor of Pine Bluff for the second time, said hearing those recordings was an indescribable experience for him. And the days since have been filled with other rare occurrences as excavation has unearthed items thought to have been from the church’s early history.
In the current project to construct an addition to the church’s entrance, “we’ve found what we think are stone pillars” from the first or second building, as well as possibly part of a scuttle. Young said those items will be kept for posterity.
A display during the anniversary celebration also offered glimpses into the history of the church and community. Items such as old songbooks, textbooks used at the school and minutes from an associational meeting held at Pine Bluff in the church’s infancy gave accounts all their own.
According to the history compiled by Fendley, “Faith, Hope and Love, The Heritage of Pine Bluff Baptist Church, Locust Fork, Alabama 1878–1992,” the congregation got its start by having services in homes in the Little Warrior area. The church was begun by 12 charter members.
Two years later, land on a bluff overlooking Jackson Trail was deeded to the church by Elias Heedley.
That same year, the church, which held services on the third Sunday of each month, was accepted into what was then Warrior River Baptist Association.
Soon, a log structure was built to serve as both the church and Pine Bluff School, Fendley’s history states. Later, the school moved into a separate building and, subsequently, was renamed Locust Fork School.
In 1913, James Allen Robinette deeded property for both the church and the cemetery. A larger church building was constructed in 1924, and the current structure followed in 1950. A fellowship hall was added in 1982, notes Fendley.
At least two other churches in the Locust Fork area were born out of Pine Bluff, she adds. With a membership of about 225, Pine Bluff is situated in an area that is growing quickly because of its proximity to Jefferson County, said Young.
Though the faces in the congregation have changed through the years, Fendley pointed out that one thing about the church has remained the same: “The church still holds fast to the same principles and doctrines of (the) Baptist denomination as when organized in 1878.
“Pine Bluff is old fashioned in her beliefs, yet modern enough to maintain flexibility to the ever-changing times,” Fendley wrote in the history. “The 12 charter members laid a firm foundation that has withstood the test of time.”