New Bethel Baptist releases 500 red balloons to commemorate 125 years, Christís sacrificecomment (0)
December 18, 2008
Nearly 500 red balloons released by members of New Bethel Baptist Church, Tuscumbia, the weekend of Oct. 18–19 represented both an observance of the church’s 125th anniversary and its ongoing effort to reach people in time of need.
Greg Beasley, pastor of this church in Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association, said 300 balloons were released by children in the church a day prior to the annual homecoming celebration Oct. 19. Almost 200 more balloons were released by church members the day of the event. Attached to each balloon was a laminated card, bearing the church’s name, address and the Great Commission.
“They were red to represent the blood of Jesus,” Beasley said.
He estimated that 1,500 balloons have been sent out since the church began releasing balloons as a ministry in October 2004. Since then, balloons released by the church have reached parts of Georgia and Tennessee. The church has heard from people who received the messages, saying they were struggling when they found the balloons.
“It’s unbelievable the instances in which God has placed those balloons at the feet of people who were hurting or needed an encouraging word from us,” Beasley said.
More than 200 people attended the anniversary, during which the sermon was delivered by George Henley, who was interim pastor prior to Beasley becoming pastor. Henley encouraged the congregation to look forward by using its past as a guide.
Beasley said average weekly attendance is 100–125 for Sunday School and 150–170 for worship.
The service included recognition by the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission. Afterwards were lunch and a tour of a multipurpose building under construction.
Although 2008 is observed as the 125th anniversary, church member Jenna Smith said New Bethel is probably older.
“Although it is not certain the exact date that the church was founded, the earliest marker in the cemetery (across from land where the church was built) is that of W.T. Duncan, who died on May 9, 1829, at the age of 22,” she said.
“Abstract records show that the land where the original church stood was purchased from the U.S. government on July 12, 1836, by William Pride.”
But “services were likely held at the church many years prior to the actual abstract,” Smith added.
She said total membership in 1883 was 26 people. The original church was a log building that measured approximately 30 feet by 40 feet. A sandstone church was completed in 1938, at which time the log building was torn down.
Five Sunday School rooms were added to the back of the sandstone church in 1952. She said an education building adjoining the sandstone church was dedicated in January 1967, and the current sanctuary was completed in March 1979.
Smith said the church has 455 members on roll, and Beasley has baptized 176 people since becoming pastor in 2002. The church also boasts strong children’s and youth programs.
Beasley believes the church has prospered because of its spirit and support of its leadership. “They are some of the sweetest folks I have ever been associated with in my life,” he said. “The support that I get there is just overwhelming.” (TAB)