By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – First Baptist Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary this Sunday with special services at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The keynote speaker Sunday morning will be Rev. Joel Haire, who served as pastor from 1964 until 1969. Current pastor Dr. Randy Bain will speak at the afternoon service.
The observance will include a brief history of the church as well as special recognitions, presentations and music, according to Anniversary Chairman Linda White.
Among the highlights will be the recognition of Bill Trusty for the longest years of membership and Paul and Charlotte Parker as the oldest active couple.
The services will be available for viewing on computer by going to Ustream.com, according to Jack Sartain. Search for FBCWVMS and then choose which service you would like to view, he said.
The sesquicentennial ob-servance will be similar to the centennial services held Oct. 2, 1960 during which Dr. Gordon Sansing of Jackson spoke on “our continuing task.”
The North Mississippi Herald printed a history of the local church in the Sept. 29, 1960 edition that covered the beginning through 1937. The story placed the time of organization in 1860 under Rev. E. W. Dupuy. The first church was located on the top of the hill at the end of Church Street.
By 1867 the church reported a membership of 44 and by 1869 the membership had jumped to 68 with a Sunday School enrollment of 113. In 1871 the membership was 167.
In the early 1870s, the women of the church formed a missionary society and the proceeds of their work went toward the building of a new church located at the present site. Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Shaw donated the land. The new building was completed and occupied in 1875.
In 1886, the pastor was Rev. W. T. Hutson who received a salary of $600. By 1894 the membership had topped 200.
In January of 1897 a cornerstone was laid for the third building, described as a massive stone structure valued at $8000. It had 19 Sunday School rooms and an auditorium with a capacity of 500.
Ten years later, in 1907, a Sunday School annex was built which included an assembly hall, pastor’s study, ladies’ parlor and about twenty class rooms. The value of the church building increased to $18,000.
The church bought an organ in 1909 that was still in use during the 1960s, according to the Herald story. The cost was $2000, half of which was borne by the Carnegie Foundation.
The Yalobusha County Baptist Association was organized in October of 1920. The annual report made by First Baptist to the Association in 1921 showed 610 members and that number jumped to 844 by 1924.
Like its members, the church suffered during the Great Depression. In 1928 the pastor’s salary was $3000. But, by 1933 it had been reduced to $1673.
In 1936, Rev. W. C. Howard began his term as pastor of the church. Also that year, the church began the use of envelopes in collecting the tithes and offerings.
In 1937, the first budget was adopted including $150 for the janitor’s salary, $150 for coal, $150 for the bulletin, and $1800 for the pastor’s salary.
Additional history and photographs of the church will be available in a 150th anniversary program produced for the event.
Members of the Anniversary Committee include Dr. Randy Bain, Janice Berry, Teresia Edgar, Larry Hart, Jack Sartain, Mary Sue Stevens and Chairman Linda White.
A tour of the church facilities is scheduled during the noon lunch.