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First Baptist to celebrate 150 years

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
First Baptist Church of Brewton will celebrate its anniversary Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004, with special services and events. It has been 150 years since the beginning of this place of worship, and the members are planning a big day.
Special services will start at 10 a.m. followed by dinner on the ground at 12:30 p.m. and a special singing celebration at 2 p.m. A special booklet is being made available for sale for $10 and there will be a vintage car show.
The church got its start on Sept. 17, 1854, in the home of Aaron Lovelace in what became Alco when a group of people met under the direction of missionary Daniel Giddens. The group built a log church near the present site of Pilgrim Rest Cemetery, which bears the original name of the church. It was received into the Baptist Association at the 1854 annual meeting and Giddens was the pastor.
The church continued in that location until sometime after the Civil War when a division occurred in the church causing some members to relocate to land on the Belleville Road belonging to Ezekiel Lovelace. This church would become Point Pleasant Baptist Church and today is known as North Brewton Baptist Church.
The other members continued to worship in Alco until 1881 when the church was moved to downtown Brewton. In 1876 Bro. J.E. Bell became the pastor and today Bell Chapel is named in his honor. He served for 13 years and it was during this time that the church moved. In 1887 the name was changed to Brewton Baptist Church.
The winter of 1899 was a very cold one with temperatures dropping to zero. The church doors were frozen and few people ventured outside. Church services were canceled leaving the visiting trial preacher no place to speak. So, it is said, he walked the streets in his heavy top-coat and tall black silk hat. Some local boys, including Clifford Rankin, snowballed him as he walked around, but he was not deterred. He returned to Brewton, preached his trial sermon and was the pastor for eight years during which time a new church was built.
The Rev. W.M. Murray became the pastor and during his ministry the church burned in 1912, destroying many of the records. It was rebuilt with the main sanctuary being completed in 1920 and Sunday school rooms being added later. This financial burden would last for many years during the Depression. This sanctuary was used for services until 1967. In 1958 the Education Building was erected; a new sanctuary was built in 1967 and in 1972, the Bell Chapel was dedicated.
The Rev. John H. Finklea Jr. was called as pastor in 1975 and served until 1999, during which time the church grew and prospered. The first mission trip to Honduras was made in 1983 and in 1985, new office facilities and the choir suite were opened. During the years 1990-2001 the church saw many cosmetic changes with remodeling taking place.
Associate Pastor Ron Headley stepped in, and with Dr. L. Dale Huff as interim pastor, they served during a search for a new pastor.
That new pastor came in 2001 when the Rev. Jack Fitts, a former associate pastor, returned. The congregation welcomed their old friend back and today, under his leadership, along with the Rev. Ron Headley as associate pastor, the Rev. Randy Winton as youth minister and Rick Gates as choir director, and a large group of dedicated workers, the church moves forward with a great history behind them and a great future before them.
The church family invites everyone to attend the upcoming anniversary and celebrate a milestone in the life of the church.