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FBC Butler celebrates 100 years of serving Choctaw Countycomment (0)

November 30, 2006

By Sondra Washington

Until 1906, Baptists living in Butler worshiped with the local Methodist congregation or traveled to nearby Baptist churches on Sunday mornings. Although the young town had grown significantly since 1847 when it was named county seat of the newly formed Choctaw County, Butler did not have its own Baptist church at the turn of the 20th century.

But when the town’s Baptist residents were stirred by a "fiery revival" in 1905, 14 charter members organized and began working to found First Baptist Church, Butler. Members donated land, lumber and various services, and the congregation began meeting the next year and had its first Victorian-style church building less than two years later.

Recently the Choctaw Baptist Association church celebrated its 100th anniversary by recognizing former pastors, music ministers and longtime members in a special worship service.

"It was a worshipful day in which we looked back at all God has done with still great hope for the future and what God will do," said Pastor J.D. Weed. "Many came to reminisce about old times and instrumental church members, but Jesus Christ was still the focus."

During the celebration, Marie Miller was honored for having the longest membership at First, Butler — 70 years. "My daddy gave the lumber for the church when it was built," she said. "I was raised in a good Christian family, and my mother and daddy were good, Christian people. They made sure I was in the church every Sunday. I love my church. I go every Sunday that I possibly can."

Jean Shaw Morris was also recognized at the celebration. At 96 years old, she is the oldest member of First, Butler. More than 25 years ago, she researched the church’s history and wrote a chapter on it for the book "Churches of Choctaw County."

"To find the beginning of the church takes one back to another era," Morris wrote. "This was the period of the steamboat; the horse and buggy and wagon; kerosene lamps; water by the bucket; sugar, flour and lard by the barrel; vegetable gardens; and the family cow. In 1906 when Baptist services began to be held regularly once a month, Butler had been a county seat town for almost 60 years."

According to her, First, Butler, has supported "missionary, educational, benevolent and denominational causes" from its early days. Through the years, the congregation was led by many influential, missions-minded pastors who gave their money and time to ensure the life of the church and its impact in the community.

"Perhaps the title of ‘Big Heart’ has always fitted the people of Butler First Baptist Church as they have given faithfully of themselves and their special gifts," she wrote.

Franklin McLelland has witnessed the church’s work and strong ties to the community during his tenure as director of missions for Choctaw Association.

"(First, Butler) has been strong through the years and has had good leadership within the church through the years that has sustained it," he said. "They’ve held a good place in the community and have been a good, solid biblical base for the community."

Over time, the church has been remodeled and relocated across town and membership has risen and fallen but the congregation’s connection to the community has not changed, according to Weed. Experiencing this attitude as youth pastor from 2000 until 2002, he decided to return as pastor of First, Butler, this year while attending seminary. In the future, he hopes the church will strengthen its ministry to the community and focus on evangelism.

"There is a growing concern for sharing Christ," he said. "Numbers are important but I’m focusing on church growth in spiritual maturity among the believers, and I think with that everything else falls into place."

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