This past fall we were invited to participate in a very special celebration: the 200th anniversary of a church where we once served. The church celebrated throughout the year. We went for one weekend.
When we arrived there, more than 50 years ago, the church had had some turmoil in the past, but under the leadership of the senior pastor had known healing. Every board and committee had a written job description. My husband’s job was “to make it work;” mine was to hold down the “home fires,” sing in the choir, occasionally serve as organist, and to teach some classes.
The weekend we attended, the 200th celebration included a Saturday night concert on the church’s new pipe organ performed by a former church organist who was now the organist at the Mormon Tabernacle. There was also a Sunday morning church service at which the General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches, USA, Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, spoke, followed by a celebratory banquet.
In the fifty years we had been gone, many things had changed. The occasional local businesses that had been on the main highway had been transformed into miles and miles of continuous shopping centers jammed one after another. All the residences were gone.
When Eastman Kodak downsized drastically a few years back, the church lost many members, young couples and older executives alike. Yet the church stood strong and massive one block from the main highway, much as we had remembered it. The people were the same except they were much greyer and there were few, if any, children at any of the occasions.
The first person to greet us said, “I remember you. I sold you your first house.” Another person was our first baby sitter. Another was the widow of our physician and now completely blind. The reminiscences of the past flowed and were wonderful and a little sad because of those who had gone on. We noticed other changes. The choir stalls were not used by the choir any more, but had drums and instruments in them. The choir did not process, but the bell choir did, in robes, while the choir sat in the congregation except to sing the anthem. The kids we knew were now middle aged.
But the church was not stuck in the past. The next month a jazz concert was planned. The next week ground would be broken to build housing for seniors on land sold by the church. We anticipate that in time the church will benefit from new members. Thus a 200th anniversary becomes also anticipation.
Changes in the neighborhood, changes in people, changes in worship, but this church endures and flourishes. In times when some are struggling to exist, it is encouraging to experience those who have come a long way and are also looking ahead. They have been faithful, as God has been and will continue to be faithful. May we, too, celebrate such faithfulness.
- Luann Ketcham
Community Baptist Church, Whitefield and their pastor Greg Vigne
Whitingham Community Church and their pastor John Brigham