Church members at Clement Baptist Church have been planning their 125th Anniversary celebration for over a year now, and they still have more planning to do, according to pastor Dr. James E. Dees, Jr.
“This is our 125th year celebration, it is actually called quasquicentennial,” noted Dees during a recent interview. “We have had members of the fellowship who volunteered to serve on our planning committee have been planning this celebration for well over a year now and we are very excited about it. We can’t wait.”
Dees will have the rare feat of being at the church for its second major celebration. Twenty-five years ago, the pastor was also planning Clement Baptist’s 100th celebration.
“It is an honor to be serving here at this time in the history of this church,” Dees attested,” especially since I was here during the 100th celebration … it was just wonderful. Who would have ever had the idea that 25 years later, I would still be here getting ready for the church’s 125 year celebration. I am just really blessed to be able to be part of these plans, too. It is very important, for the kingdom’s sake, for the history of this church and the people in this community as well … it is really big for us.”
Although still in the planning stages, the official celebration service will be held Sunday, April 21, 2013. Dinner on the grounds will follow.
The church got its start April 21, 1888 at the request of Capt. J.L Autry and others, when they met for the purpose of organizing to form a Baptist church. Autry donated an acre of land, a house with furniture and books to begin that church.
“You are standing where that original building stood,” point out Dees, showing off the shiny wood floor in his office. “This floor is the same floor they stood on all those years ago. It is pretty amazing.”
Dees explained that only a day after the church began, members held their first funeral service.
“I found it kind of interesting and unusual that on the very next day, April 22, after the organization of the church, a funeral service was held here for a Lizzie Matthis,” he explained. “Later that same day, the church, in conference, voted to rename the church Clement. In that same meeting, they asked for admission into the New South River Baptist Association.”
The first pastor of the church was I.T. Newton, however, its first full-time pastor wouldn’t be named until June 10, 1951. His name was Gerald Bridges, and he was named just four years after members constructed the sanctuary. A year after Bridges was hired, the church held its first Vacation Bible School.
Since then the church has been a place where local individuals and families gathered to fellowship and learn the word of God.
“For over 125 years this church has been a lighthouse to this community and surrounding areas,” Dees said, passion rising in his voice. “It has weathered hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, the Depression, recession … and it is still here representing God, preaching and proclaiming His word, being His hands and feet in our community, ministering to the people in this community, surrounding areas and sponsoring more than 10,000 Christian missionaries all across the world, along with many other churches. It is an amazing place.”
For those in the county who haven’t checked out Clement Baptist Church, Dees said that coming out to the 125th celebration would be a great time to visit.
“It is big,” he said. “We have a lot planned already. We are going to be opening our time capsule, a capsule that was put in to the ground on our 100th celebration — we don’t even know what is in it. We are going to open that and put it on display for our folks to see at the celebration.”
Officials will also be giving members an opportunity to put items in the time capsule that will be opened again in another 25 years.
In addition, the celebration will include officials reviewing past events, showing pictures through the church’s history, as well as playing church home movies. “And much more is still being planned,” noted Dees.
Church committee members are also offering, for the first time ever, a commemorative plate to honor the celebration.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, Dees said it is all for the greater good.
“The way I look at it is, I am just helping to facilitate this,” he said. “Yes, it is a lot of work, but I am not doing it all. I can not do it all. It is a committee church, community event. What it is all about is God and His church, it is not about us.”
For more information on the church or to order the commemorative plate call 910-567-6777 or visit the church at 6175 Maxwell Road, Autryville or click on to the church website at www.clementbaptist.org.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.