Church celebrates 177th anniversary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

One of the most unusual houses of worship in the area is celebrating its 177th anniversary this fall.

Historic Mt. Moriah Fellowship Baptist Church will honor its 1828 founding at 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 9.

The church is located directly on the county line of Butler and Wilcox Counties, and is situated on Mt. Moriah Rd., just off Butler Springs Road between the communities of Forest Home and Pine Apple.

"The church congregation will sit in Butler County while the speaker for the day, Dr. Thomas N. Rains, will preach from Wilcox County," Mary Alice Beatty Carmichael, one of the anniversary organizers, said.

Rains, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, currently serves as chaplain of the Birmingham YMCA.

Rains' sermon text for the service will be Matthew 22:1-14, and his planned sermon is entitled "When God Gives a Dinner Party."

During the homecoming service, special music will be provided by Steve Townes of Greenville, a member of Southside Baptist Church. Mary Ann Ezell of Pine Apple will play the century-old pump organ. Nell Luckie of the Mt. Moriah Community will be congregational song leader. Ushers will be Slaton Stanford Jemison, son of Susan Stanford and Mays. R. Jemison and Benjamin Stanford Jackson, son of Charlotte Stanford and Walker Jackson.

A brief memorial service during the worship service will honor those connected to Mt. Moriah Fellowship Baptist Church who has died since last year's homecoming. A traditional "dinner on the grounds" will follow after the morning service.

'The church that would not die'

Known as the "little church that would not die, " Mt. Moriah's last pastor ended his service there in 1941. The last living member, Rose Fitzgerald Luckie, passed away in 1971.

However, this country church with a long history has been the sight of a well-attended annual homecoming service every year for the past 50 years.

"The church was rebuilt in 1954-55 by those with former connections to the little church who loved it," Carmichael said.

600 people were present for the dedication service, and with a sanctuary designed to see only 100, "most simply stood outside and listened as the sounds of the service drifted through open windows," Carmichael said.

Parts of the former church were used in the interior of the new brick building, included the old church's 36-foot sills, a 14-foot hand-hewn corner post, and the original 1828 handmade heart pine pews. The pump organ provided by the youth of the church in 1895 was also placed in the new sanctuary.

"The pulpit set from which Dr. Rains will speak also came from the old church, a donation from the late Dr. Erskine Grier Donald in 1895," Carmichael said.

For the past 50 years, two hymns, "Blest Be The Tie That Binds" and "The Church in the Wildwood" have been sung at each annual service, as the Christian spirit lives on in the "little church that would not die."

"We want to invite everyone who has a connection to the church or an interest in Mt. Moriah Fellowship Baptist to come and join us for the service on Oct. 9 and stay for dinner on the grounds," Carmichael said.