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Huffman Baptist marks 100 years, embraces communitycomment (0)

November 20, 2008

Almost a year’s worth of activities commemorating the 100th anniversary of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham Baptist Association culminated the weekend of Oct. 11–12 with celebrating and witnessing to an area that has transitioned from mainly middle-class, white families to elderly whites and black families.

While average attendance for Sunday morning worship is approximately 450, that number jumped to almost 1,000 for the centennial celebration, said Senior Pastor Tim Lovett.

“It was a very successful weekend,” said Lovett, who has served as pastor since 1997 and was a member of the church for 26 years prior to that. “The amount of people who came back — that was an awesome experience.”

Some of those who returned included former pastors. Richard Brannon, Huffman Baptist’s pastor from 1958 to 1965, said the opening prayer during the 11 a.m. service that Sunday, and Harper Shannon, pastor from 1973 to 1985, said the offertory prayer. Former pastor Richard Bills, who served from 1951 to 1958, wasn’t there for the service, but he was included in the festivities in a recorded interview with Lovett.

Testimonies by church members, historical photographs and letters and certificates of recognition were displayed Saturday afternoon and Sunday in the recreation center, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about Huffman Baptist’s history.

The church began as a weekly Bible study in the Huffman community in the summer of 1906 and was officially organized as Huffman Missionary Baptist Church in 1908 by 21 charter members, according to Pat Ray, business administrator at Huffman Baptist.

In 1912, the name was changed to Whatley Memorial Baptist Church in recognition of efforts by Maj. S.J. Whatley of the Georgia Baptist Convention, who secured $500 to go toward construction of the first church building.

The church’s name was changed to Huffman Baptist Jan. 12, 1941, Ray noted. The current worship center, which is located near the site of the original building, was completed in 1958 and totally renovated in 1999.

And though the centennial celebration served as a time to look back on the church’s ministry, more than 125 church members used it as an opportunity to move forward with the Praying, Giving and Going: Acts of Kindness in Jesus’ Name missions blitz.

On Oct. 11, they went to various locations — such as a facility that ministers to women and children and a crisis pregnancy center — in the community to assist with tasks such as painting and sorting clothes.

Linda Bryant, a member of Huffman Baptist for almost 16 years, said the church’s love for people is evident through its efforts to remain in the community and adapt its ministry to the changing demographics of the area.

“I love the church more and more every year because of the passion we have for saving a community that a lot of churches may not want to minister to,” Bryant said. “The community has changed but the heart for church service has not changed at Huffman Baptist.”

Bryant added the congregation is learning about “what the ministry and the mission of a church should be.

“And that’s what I enjoy most — that we’re not getting lost in differences with other races, but we are there to minister and help that community as much as possible.”

Church member Don Hadden believes that a spirit of unity has been instrumental in helping Huffman Baptist to prosper.

“This is a very loving church. The people are faithful and I can’t recall there ever being any disputes. We’ve all gotten along for years and we work well together,” said Hadden, who, along with wife Joyce, has been a member of Huffman Baptist since 1966.

Throughout 2008, the church has come together for events celebrating its 100 years of service:

• a Bible study and senior adult revival led by Shannon Jan. 13–16.

• presentations of “The Album,” a play including clothing and music from the last 100 years, May 4 and Sept. 7.

• guest speaker Bobby Bowden, Florida State University football coach, June 22.

• a presentation of “The Cornbread Revue,” a variety and comedy show, Aug. 9.

• guest preacher Larry Wimberly, pastor of Huffman Baptist from 1986 to 1996, Sept. 14.

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