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Franklin Association church marks 100th year of ‘working for God’comment (0)

June 15, 2006

By Alicia Morris Atcheson

I think it says a lot about a church for one to last 100 years. For this congregation to be in service for 100 years tells you that the people really wanted this church there and that they were committed to working for God,” said Michael Knight, music minister of Bethel Baptist Church, Phil Campbell, in Franklin Baptist Association.

Two hundred current and former church members, pastors and deacons, as well as community members, crowded into Bethel Baptist May 7 to celebrate the church’s centennial.

The congregation began planning the celebration in June 2005. While gathering old photos and documents, the letter of origination dated June 6, 1906, was found.

But the church chose to celebrate the anniversary in May rather than the official June date to capitalize on its Decoration Day, held the first Sunday in May.

“Decoration Day is a time at our church that is allotted each year for families and former members to come back and pay respect to those who are buried in the church cemetery. We thought that we would have an even greater celebration if we combined the two events and we did,” Pastor Michael Stancil said.

A large portion of the service was dedicated to remembering how the church started and recognizing the pastors, deacons, teachers, musicians and Sunday School directors who led it during the past 100 years.

Former deacon chairman Everett Phillips shared some of the church’s history with the crowd. Former pastors Ronnie Marvutt, who was initially ordained by the church, and Ray Cantrell also spoke during the ceremony. Bill Pike, the oldest living former pastor, was unable to attend due to illness.

Stancil read the first recorded church minutes out of the original record book and recognized four families that are direct descendants of the original church members.

Mable Spears, 91, was recognized as the oldest living church member.

At the conclusion of the morning worship service, the congregation dedicated a player organ, donated by recently deceased member Faye McInnish.

Local and state officials were also on hand during the festivities.

Franklin Association Director of Missions Larry Dover congratulated the congregation, and three Franklin County commissioners and the probate judge presented a proclamation acknowledging its 100 years of service. State Sen. Roger Bedford was unable to attend but sent a resolution adopted by the Legislature in honor of the church’s longevity.

The church was also presented a letter from the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission.

Following the service, the congregation enjoyed a fellowship meal and browsed through photos from the late 1920s to the present.

The original church register, along with Sunday School records and church minutes, was also on display. The register listed approximately 30 members, with J.R. Coalson serving as pastor.

Today the congregation has 95 members and still worships in a building constructed by the original members.

“The original wooden-frame church apparently burned down in the late 1910s, best we can determine,” Knight said.

“The church records don’t give an exact date, but it shows that they talked about building a new sanctuary and probably rebuilt it in the late 1920s.”

Stancil said that although the area where the church is located is not heavily populated, the congregation continues to grow by reaching out.

“This church is filled with people who love the Lord. They are very missions-minded and fun-loving people. That is what makes a church successful. We have seen steady growth in the past two years I’ve been here. It’s a family-oriented and growing church.”

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