By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than three dozen members of First Baptist Church Atmore’s Senior Assembly gathered Friday, May 10, to recount the events of the past year and beyond, to enjoy food and fellowship with each other, and to name and honor the individuals they deemed most deserving of special recognition.
Although the group meets on a regular basis, there were plenty of fresh hugs and handshakes as the church’s most senior members began arriving at the FBC fellowship hall, along with numerous conversations that carried from table to table as the program and meal neared.
“This is our senior banquet,” explained Jan Hall Stuart, who was in charge of organizing the lunchtime fete. “We do it to honor all our senior adults, but it’s chiefly to present the two seniors of the year. Nobody knows who they are; the preacher is going to announce them later.”
She pointed out that this year’s honorees were selected by vote of their peers.
“We choose two senior adults to honor every year, and last year our committee selected them,” the retired schoolteacher said. “This year we decided that rather than having the committee select them, we would just throw it out there to all of you to vote on who the senior citizens of the year would be. I took up the votes, then turned them over to an impartial guy to count them and return them to the preacher.”
Stuart said the selectees didn’t campaign for the awards, except through their actions.
“These folks don’t want accolades or a pat on the back,” she said. “They do it for the love of God and furtherance of His church. I’ve been on the recipient end of their compassion several times, and I know how wonderful the people of this assembly are.”
Pastor Kevin Garrett, who became shepherd of the First Baptist flock in November, gave false clues as to the identity of each honoree in order to let the suspense build before finally announcing this year’s winners — Jan Stuart and Audrey Barnes.
“Thank you for giving me the honor of presenting these, although I don’t know everybody’s backstory yet and had to ad-lib a little on the two people who were chosen,” Garrett told the group. “I’ve only been here barely long enough to start ribbing people.”
Ms. Barnes, who managed Atmore Christian Care Ministries for 18 years, also serves or has served as church secretary, treasurer of her Sunday School class and a greeter at the church. She is also a member of FBC’s seniors committee and wedding committee.
Ms. Stuart, who is director of senior adult activities at the Atmore church, also taught Sunday School. She is a chair of the banquet committee and serves on three committees. She is also a part of the FBC group that sings at a local assisted living facility twice a month.
In response to a spate of good-natured ribbing about their director’s selection, Garrett reminded the seniors that they had made the selection, not Stuart or any committee.
“She didn’t arrange this,” the pastor laughed. “Y’all voted for this.”