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100-year-old Turnerville Church at ‘great place’ to reach peoplecomment (0)

June 5, 2008

By Greg Heyman

The 100th anniversary of Turnerville Baptist Church, Chunchula, marked a century of misfortune, relocation, growth and service.

The congregation recalled some of those events during a homecoming celebration May 18.

Just six years after organizing in 1908 as Missionary Baptist Church of Turnerville, the original building was destroyed by fire. So the congregation relocated to land on Roberts Road that had been donated. In 1916, the church changed its name to Turnerville Baptist and requested membership in Mobile Baptist Association.

By the early 1940s, the congregation had outgrown its building and constructed another a few feet from it. The structure was completed in 1949, and Sunday School rooms were added in 1950. But the church wasn’t ready to stop its physical expansion. In 1978, it purchased two acres adjacent to the church, where a new multipurpose building was completed three years later. A Christian life center was added in 1988.

Now "we’re sitting debt free in a great community, and we’re in a great place to reach people for the Lord," said Kenneth Chambless, pastor of Turnerville since 2002.

And in his homecoming message taken from Revelation 3:8, he challenged the congregation to be "the church with an open door" for the lost.

Each week, about 175 people pass through that door for worship and 100 for Sunday School, according to Chambless. He points to those faithful members in defining the resilience of Turnerville.

"I think the thing that’s been great is that we’ve got some fine, wonderful Christian people," Chambless said. "It’s a strong church, it’s a loving church and I think that’s what has kept them going."

George Lewis has attended Turnerville for as long as he can remember and was baptized there in December 1944. Lewis served in the South Pacific during World War II and recalls the support he and others in the armed forces received from his church family.

"When I was in the service, it was a praying church," Lewis said, adding those prayers were instrumental in helping him survive.

Chambless said the church has always worked to support missions through the Cooperative Program as well as meet needs locally, such as purchasing a mobile home that was recently donated to a needy family.

"We’ve got a great church," he said. "If we reach out to the community, there’s no end to what the church can do in terms of reaching people."

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