New Building Will Be Dedicated In June 5 Service
By David Howell
COFFEEVILLE – Just over a year after Mt. Moriah Union District Missionary and Educational Association’s building was gutted in a fire, association members will dedicate a new, bigger building in a June 5 service scheduled at 7 p.m.
This latest chapter in Mt. Moriah’s history unfolded in the early morning hours of May 16, 2008, after more than a dozen firefighters battled a blaze for almost four hours. The building was a complete loss and a routine investigation identified an electrical fire in the bathroom as a likely culprit of the fire’s origin.
“It was unbelievable, we had just made the last payment and were getting ready to start our addition,” the association’s Moderator, Amos Sims, said about the loss. Sims is serving a third, two-year term as the association’s moderator, a leadership position he describes as being a motivator among other responsibilities.
Sims still remembers that fateful call that came in the early morning hours from Ella Mae Jones, relaying the message that flames were destroying the building.
“We just rolled out sleeves up and went to work,” Sims said. Fortunately, the building was adequately insured, although Sims said the association will incur some debt in the rebuilding project after more square feet was added to accommodate a 60×60 fellowship hall and several new offices.
Now, just over 12 months later, the association has one nagging detail, the shipment of new pews. If that shipment arrives on schedule, fifth Saturday and Sunday School Congress are scheduled this weekend.
During the past 12 months the fire did not curtail the association’s activities, as events were moved to Mt. Grove M.B. Church, south of Coffeeville.
“Brother J. C. Hentz and his congregation were grateful enough to host us as we were rebuilding,” Sims said. The only missing ingredient was the annual Vacation Bible School, an event that was cancelled this year and last.
About Mt. Moriah
Mt. Moriah is part of The National Baptist Convention, USA, the nation’s oldest and largest African American religious convention with an estimated membership of 7.5 million.
Mt. Moriah was founded in Yalobusha County in 1908, with C.P. Bohannon serving as the first moderator, a position he held for almost 20 years. The district is composed of almost 30 churches in Yalobusha, Grenada and Calhoun counties.
During the early years, the association met in different churches. The building that burned last year was constructed in 1999, and prior to that the association met in the old Davidson School in Water Valley.
Activities in the association include quarterly Sunday School Congress, an annual week-long Vacation Bible School, and, perhaps most anticipated, is the annual session week that occurs the last of July. Another important event, one that comes around only once every three years, is the District Banquet.
The building is also available for weddings, funerals, prayer breakfasts and other activities.
About the Moderator
Sims juggles many responsibilities, serving as President of the Board of Supervisors; as pastor at Bayson Chapel M.B. Church, a post he has served for two decades; and three terms as Moderator.
“It is a wonderful experience, serving here,” Sims says about his duties as Moderator, although he admits it is a position that requires time and dedication. His responsibilities include presiding over business and spiritual affairs, and offering support or counseling when churches in the district encounter problems.
Sims’ roots run deep in the association, as he participated in events as a kid.
“I often served as a messenger or delegate from my church as a kid,” Sims explains. “It was exciting, back then we didn’t get to go a lot,” the 55-year old explains.
“We got to met other people and hopefully, we might meet a young girl,” the pastor joked.
Now, almost 40 years after those childhood memories of the association, Sims’ focus as Moderator is on the church’s young people.
“One of my continuing visions is to address issues that affect our younger children, youth and young adults,” Sims said.
This vision is implemented partially through classes, especially during the week-long session in July. These classes are designed to teach kids how to worship, how to make responsible choices, and even lessons in life, such as money management.
Sims is also optimistic about the future, and excited about dedicating the new facility which will help realize their goals.
“We will be prayerful as we dedicate the building back for the purpose for which it was constructed,” Sims said, referring to the June 5 dedication that will begin a new chapter for the association.