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Elba’s Mount Gilead Church holds ‘emotional’ centennial celebrationcomment (0)

May 29, 2008

April 27 was doubly special for Fred Fowler.

Not only was he celebrating his 52nd wedding anniversary but Fowler — pastor of Mount Gilead Baptist Church, Elba, in Coffee Baptist Association — was also participating in the congregation’s 100th anniversary celebration.

"Emotion overtook me that day," he said. "Those two parts of my life are very important to me, and I was blessed to be celebrating both in one day."

On hand for the centennial celebration were approximately 60 current and former members and guests, some of whom traveled from as far away as Georgia and Florida. Highlights of the day included presentations by John Granger, director of missions for Coffee Association, and Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission.

Former pastor Bobbie Hattaway offered encouraging words, and The Harrelson Family provided music.

The congregation also sang hymns that held special meaning for it. Those included "Balm in Gilead," the church’s anthem; "We’re an Old Country Church," which represented the way the congregation has not changed throughout the years; and "Until We Meet Again" and "Brethren, We Have Met to Worship," which symbolized those who came together for the special event. The service was held in the same wood-frame building that housed the first worship service 100 years ago.

Since then, a fellowship hall, additional restrooms and central air conditioning have been added.

Attendance throughout Mount Gilead Baptist’s history has fluctuated from as many as 100 at one time to as few as five. The church currently averages 15 people for its Sunday morning worship service.

"God has used our church to minister to the community no matter how many we’ve had in our doors," explained Fowler, who became pastor of the rural church in June 2002. "We are still here because God planted us here many years ago and we’ve stayed.

"We are a symbol of God’s presence in this area.

"We want to share with the people in our community that we’re here to minister to them. Our members want them to know that we’re available as a place of refuge." (TAB)

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