LOCKHART — The images, records, names, and memories made over the course of a century will all be part of Lockhart Free Will Baptist Church’s Centennial Celebration on Sunday.
Church Clerk/Secretary Brenda Cameron said that the guest speaker for Sunday’s celebration will be former church member Bill Vandeford who is now a minister.
“He was raised in this church and he went out into the ministry,” Cameron said. “He’s going to come back and talk about the church when he was growing up.”
Cameron said Vanderford is one of several church members who over the years have entered the ministry.
“We’ve had about five or six to leave here and go into the ministry,” Cameron said. “Our youngest member, Sam Baine, was licensed to preach in the Free Will Baptist Church two or three months ago and is own an ordained minister.”
Vanderford’s return to the church he was raised in to speak about how it was when he was growing up is in keeping with Sunday’s celebration of Lockhart Free Will’s 100th anniversary.
In order to do so, Cameron said the church has been assembling photographs taken by members over the years of the church, its activities, and of its membership stretching back all the way to its beginnings in 1914. Among the photographs assembled for Sunday’s celebration is one taken in 1914 of the church’s Sunday School class. Cameron said the picture is the oldest one of the church’s Sunday School class known to exist.
The picture might be confusing to some because it shows a banner with the words “Ceder Hill Sunday School.” Cameron, however, said this was the church’s original name when it was organized.
Lockhart Free Will Baptist Church was organized on Easter Sunday in 1914 under the leadership of the man who would be its first minister, J.A. Martin.
Cameron said that there were a total of 30-40 charter members of the church, some of whom had been members of the First Baptist Church before joining Free Will.
The church’s first home was in a mill house on Old Union Road that Cameron said the mill company let the congregation have to remodel as their house of worship. Cameron said Free Will remained there until the mid-1920s when it purchased from First Baptist that congregation’s old church building on Canal Road. She said Free Will would eventually renovate the wooden structure, covering it in bricks. The building would remain the church’s home until the mid-1980 when the congregation built its current church on Askew Circle.
One feature of the church grounds is a bell dedicated to the memory of the late Keith Dupree who Cameron said faithfully rang it each Sunday for approximately 20 years. The bell is from the tower of the church building on Canal Road Free Will acquired from First Baptist. She said the bell will be rang 10 times during the celebration, one for each decade of the church’s existence.
A century of history is recorded in the church’s records, some of which Cameron said have not been seen for decades. She said the new owner of a house that was once the home of a church member was cleaning out the building when they found Sunday School ledgers dating from 1918 to the late 1930s. The new homeowner gave the ledgers to the church and they will be on display along with many other documents from the church’s past as part of Sunday’s celebration.
Cameron said church members have been very generous with their donations of photos of the people and events of the church from years past.
“Everybody has been so good about helping,” Cameron said. “Everybody is working good together. We’ve had a great turnout on pictures.”
Cameron said she hoped that there would be an equally big turnout for Sunday’s celebration, with both former and current members taking part.
“We’re trying to include everybody to be part of this celebration,” Cameron said.
Sunday’s celebration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a musical performance by “The Land of the Sky Boys” gospel group. Vanderford will then speak at 11 a.m. and will be followed by another performance by “The Land of the Sky Boys.” The service will then be followed by lunch in the church’s fellowship hall.
Rev. Brian Bishop is pastor of Lockhart Free Will Baptist Church.