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Lapine Church marks centennial with large crowd, ‘sweet spirit’comment (0)

December 4, 2008

By Greg Heyman

The Oct. 12 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Lapine Baptist Church in Montgomery Baptist Association provided an opportunity to minister to several residents of the community who do not normally attend church.

Billy Austin, Lapine’s pastor, estimated that 86 people attended the service, an increase from the weekly average of approximately 50 in Sunday worship. The additional worshipers included returning church members, members of other local churches and about six people Austin said were not affiliated with any church.

Austin, who also serves as president of the Alabama Baptist Retirement Centers, said, “In a small rural community (about 2,400), you tend to know people and if they go to church. Personal things like that are generally better known in a community like ours.”

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, preached the sermon from Luke 12:32 on “Facing the Future without Fear.” Austin said Joe Leverette, pastor of Lapine from 1998 to 2006, spoke during the service, and a letter of greetings was read from James Davis, who served as pastor from 1958 to 1959.

The service also included recognitions by the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission and Montgomery Association. The quartet 4 by Grace from First Baptist Church, Prattville, sang; dinner on the grounds followed the celebration.

Austin believes the warmth of Lapine’s congregation helps it in reaching the lost.

“I would say it’s just about the friendliest church I’ve been involved with,” Austin said. “They are extremely loving and friendly. They welcome people and they’re very receptive to each other’s needs.”

Frances Gardner’s late husband, William “Bill” Gardner, was pastor of Lapine for more than a quarter of the church’s life (1970–1998). He died in May 1998. More than 10 years later, Frances Gardner still attends services at Lapine and believes that a heart for the community has helped the church prosper.

“Any pastor who’s ever been to our church will tell you that we have the most loving church around,” Gardner said. “The people are really genuine and they love people.”

Church member Glenda Lacey said the church was organized in 1908 with 24 members.

The church was built in 1911 at its current location of 164 Webster Street. Lacey said an education building that includes a fellowship hall was added in 1985.

Church membership grew to 35 in 1966, Lacey said. The number of regular members had fallen to only 12 when she and her husband, Wally, joined the church in 1999. Their 17-year-old daughter, Sherry Leigh, now serves as church pianist.

Despite the church’s small size, Glenda Lacey said members have always worked to help others in the community.
Giving an example, she cited recent efforts by church members in ministering to relatives of a murder victim.

“There has always been a sweet spirit in our church that was felt by all who entered our doors,” Lacey said. “Lapine Baptist Church may be few in number, but we are rich in many other ways.”

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