Selmont Church’s end means new beginning for otherscomment (0)
January 22, 2009
By Martine G. Bates
Even though Selmont Baptist Church, Selma, no longer exists, it will participate in spreading the gospel for many years to come.
The Selma Baptist Association church closed its doors in late 2008, sold its building and this month, donated the proceeds to be used for church starts across Alabama.
The church, which had dwindled to only about 20 members, was able to divide $114,000 between its associational office and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) for church-planting ministries. The remaining $10,000 will go to Selma Association for disaster relief and seminary scholarships.
With the donations, Selmont Baptist can continue to “do what the church had been doing for the last six decades — make a Kingdom difference,” said Bobby DuBois, associate executive director for the SBOM.
Selmont opened in 1946, about six years after Craig Air Force Base opened near Selma to train fighter pilots.
Growing as the base grew through World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War, it was a thriving church for many years.
According to Ed Byrom, a longtime Selmont member and part-time pastor of Marion Junction Baptist Church in Selma Association, the church built an auditorium that would seat 200 to 300 people, with Sunday School facilities and a pavilion with a basketball court.
But it fell on hard times when the Air Force base closed in 1977. Not only were the families who had worshiped at Selmont gone but the neighborhood around the church also began changing dramatically.
DuBois said the congregation tried to take the changes in stride.
“Church members made a noble effort to reach their changing community,” he noted. “In spite of their efforts, it became obvious that the residents of the community were culturally different than the members of the congregation.”
Byrom agreed that the church tried hard for many years to reach the community with little success. And members found it difficult to give up trying.
“It took years to decide to close,” he said. “We discontinued night services because the neighborhood was too dangerous to go there at night. Windows were broken out and cars were broken into. We had prayer meetings on Tuesday mornings.”
Finally, even though Byrom and Bruce Payton took turns preaching for three years without pay, the congregation could no longer afford to keep the church open.
In August 2008, the “hard decision” was made to sell the facility but there was “a dynamic black congregation” waiting in the wings, DuBois said.
The building was sold to that congregation in December 2008, and on its first Sunday in the building, there were 200 in Sunday School, according to Byrom.
“They are going to do a good work that we couldn’t do,” he said.
And DuBois pointed out that both Selma Association and the SBOM will continue the work Selmont started by using its gift to help start churches in similar situations across Alabama and around the world.
Tom Stacey, director of missions for Selma Association, said the Selma area is loosing population and in economic decline, making the money an especially welcome gift at this time.
“I’m grateful that Selmont considered the association in their decision,” he said. “Their gift has been a great blessing to the association and has restored strength to continue vital ministries.”
“Their generosity is uplifting. Their sacrificial spirit is encouraging,” he said. “The church embodies a spirit of cooperation that inspires others. Churches that find themselves in similar situations would do well to follow the Selmont model.”