More than 80 people — members of First Baptist Church of McCullough and their guests — gathered in the church’s new sanctuary on Sunday, April 15. They didn’t come to mourn the loss of the former house of worship to fire, but to celebrate the dedication of the new building that has risen from the destructive blaze’s ashes.
The new building, the third major structure in the church’s 113-year history, replaced the one gutted by flames in December 2016. The event’s keynote speaker praised the FBC congregation’s effort to overcome that tragedy.
“I want to commend you for your zeal for God,” Rev. Dr. Alfonzia Williams said prior to delivering his message. “Some years back, you retired the old wooden building which served this family, this community, for many years. Then you built a new one that also served for a number of years, but for some reason, it burned down. But you didn’t let that stop you. You built a new one, bigger and more beautiful than the other one.”
While the visiting minister’s sermon, which was based upon the book of Nehemiah focused on “rebuilding the walls of brotherhood, the walls of love, the walls of decency and the walls of respect,” there were plenty of prayers for the walls that replaced those left charred 16 months ago.
Rev. Dr. Ywell Cunningham, who delivered the official prayer of consecration, asked that every inch of the new worship facility be blessed. He was one of two visiting ministers (Rev. John Richardson was the other) to remind the assemblage to whom the building really belonged.
“You have blessed these children to build a house in your name,” Cunningham prayed. “Please bless it front to back, from the kitchen to the bathrooms, to the deacons’ offices and pastor’s office, to the prayer room and every room. But let your people be reminded that this is still your house and belongs to you.”
The congregation and several guests took part in a read-and-respond dedication litany that left no doubt they knew whose house it was.
As Rev. Dr. Charles L. Jones read the appropriate words, he received a response of, “We dedicate this house” from the audience. After the pastor’s final reading, the response changed.
“We, the people of this congregation, consecrating ourselves anew, dedicate this house as a temple, for the worship of almighty God, in the spirit and name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”
The entire assembly then recited the Lord’s Prayer before the service progressed.
As if the group of visiting ministers wasn’t enough to show First Baptist-McCullough’s value and significance to the area’s worship community, the announcement after the collection was taken of generous monetary gifts from two other churches cemented that fact.
The FBC choir helped fuel outpourings of spiritual responses throughout the service. Many attendees stood with their hands raised, clapped, shouted praise or sang along as the group, accompanied by guitar, bass and drums, belted out numerous spirituals.
After the service, most of those in attendance stayed for a special meal and another round of socializing with friends and with out-of-town guests who had come to be a part of the new church’s dedication.