By Danielle Waddell
Intern, The Alabama Baptist
In 1818, a year before the establishment of the state of Alabama, Nathan Roberts led the first Sunday service of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.
Now in a new location under a different name, First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, celebrated its bicentennial Jan. 24. The church commenced its anniversary recognition on Jan. 21 with a service honoring previous church staff, choir alumni and local government officials in attendance.
County Commissioner and First, Tuscaloosa, member Mark Nelson presented a resolution acknowledging the church’s impact on the community throughout its 200 years, as well as its impact on him personally. Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, also presented a resolution honoring the church’s faithful service to proclaiming the gospel and congratulated the church on its two centuries of history.
Others who spoke emphasized the church’s focus on God’s glory through past, present and future congregations, including Pastor Gil McKee and Rick Lance, former pastor and now executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
Kris Sullivan, executive pastor of First, Tuscaloosa, said the church will draw from Paul’s words in Acts 28:31 about preaching the gospel unhindered, which McKee introduced to the congregation at the conclusion of the anniversary celebration week.
“It’s not really about the church,” Sullivan said. “We’re not trying to self-aggrandize, ‘Look what we’ve done in 200 years.’ We want to build on what the saints before us have done and use that to encourage us to go forward unhindered.”
The focus of the church and its bicentennial celebration derive from the first line of Psalm 96:3, “Declaring His glory among the nations.” This verse drove the anniversary planning and the year’s special offering goal of $200,000.
McKee added, “Our main goal is to proclaim God’s glory today, just like we’ve been doing for the past 200 years, and just like we will continue to do as long as Jesus tarries.”
The anniversary celebration included recognizing missionaries who have been commissioned from First, Tuscaloosa. Also, various church members contributed devotions written specifically for a Monday – Friday devotional for the bicentennial and a display of artifacts were displayed in the fellowship hall during the anniversary week.
Sullivan said other events are planned throughout the year, particularly missions trips focused on the church’s unhindered future and declaring God’s glory among the nations, both at home and abroad.
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