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FBC Guntersville holds centennial celebration, remembers God’s faithfulness through ‘difficulties’comment (0)

May 31, 2007

By Sammie Jo Barstow

One hundred years of rich spiritual heritage, friendships and memories were the focus of the centennial celebration at First Baptist Church, Guntersville, April 28–29.

According to Joel Samuels, pastor of the Marshall Baptist Association church, the celebration included "a lot of remembering" but also "a lot of looking forward to the future."

He estimated that 550 people attended the Sunday morning service, including several former pastors and children of pastors now deceased.

Each person attending the celebration received a commemorative copy of a booklet containing a brief history of the church and a collection of memories written by church members.

The celebration had actually begun the night before with dinner and a piano and organ concert by former member Frank Jones, who now serves as assistant music minister and minister to senior adults at Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association.

Sherry Manley, chair of the centennial committee, said the committee prepared the congregation for the weekend celebration with video clips of members sharing what the church meant to them.

Each Sunday during April, the videos were shown before the morning service.

The final video clip, shown on the morning of the celebration, featured Leon Marsh, former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, who had served as interim pastor of First, Guntersville, on two occasions.

Marsh recalled some humorous events and stories about people in the church through the years and commended it for being a "balanced church," knowing what is important to the life of the church and not being overly influenced by passing trends.

The steadiness Marsh referred to all began in spring of 1907.

Six members, including a lay minister and his wife, organized the church, holding their first meeting in the community schoolhouse.

By 1911, First, Guntersville, had grown to 30 members. It had also been given a tract of land and begun construction on its first building.

During the building of the church, the building contractor made a profession of faith and became the first person to be baptized in the new baptistry.

First, Guntersville, has experienced steady growth throughout its history and now has a Sunday School attendance of 365.

One significant event in the church’s recent history was a fire in 1999 that destroyed the sanctuary that had been built in 1954.

Manley and Samuels both described the fire as devastating to the congregation.

"It was a beautiful sanctuary," Manley said. "It was very historic and we all loved that sanctuary."

The congregation, however, quickly began the task of rebuilding and in October 2000, held its first service in the new sanctuary. Although insurance covered much of the replacement costs, First, Guntersville, took out a loan on the new building.

Samuels said there was no special effort to pay the loan off before the centennial celebration but "by divine intervention," the church paid off the loan in January.

During the weekend, the pulpit and communion table from the first church building, as well as several partially burned pews saved from the fire, were on display.

Members supplied pictures and other memorabilia from all phases of the church’s history for the celebration.

According to Manley, one of the benefits of the celebration was seeing that "even though difficulties come and blessings come, throughout all that, the Lord has been faithful."

Samuels said every age level ministry is now strong at First, Guntersville, and the congregation envisions growth and stability in all areas.

"We’re a church with strong historical ties in the community," he said.

"Having that connection with the past and that stability in the church is vitally important for where we go in the future."

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