FBC of Atmore rededicates sanctuary

Published 3:08 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Less than a day following Hurricane Rita's landfall in Texas, the congregation of First Baptist Church of Atmore gathered to celebrate its triumph over another hurricane – Ivan.
The church held its sanctuary rededication service Sunday morning as church members and guests worshiped in the state-of-the-art refuge.
"It was what appeared to be a very bad day and a very bad time for the First Baptist Church of Atmore," Pastor Arnold Hendrix said in his opening address to the congregation. "No steeple and no sanctuary fit for worshiping. Look, a new steeple, new windows, new pews, new furniture, new paint and a new attitude. We turn to God for love, mercy and grace; we turn to God when you think the worst. God's people are never immune to the worst; they're never immune to suffering and adversity. But this God that we serve can take that and turn it into something big; something beautiful, he can turn it into something better. What we see today in this sanctuary is just a small evidence of that great Biblical truth."
During Hurricane Ivan, which ravaged Atmore just over a year ago, the church's sanctuary received extensive water damage from the windows being blown out. As a result, the carpet and pews had to be replaced. Church officials had already made plans to have beautiful stained glass windows hung, but by the grace of God, the windows were not in place before the powerful storm struck.
"Where was God," Hendrix continued. "Did God cause it? Did God allow it? We don't know the answer to those questions and we shouldn't be listening to anybody who thinks they know the answers to those questions. We can at least say this, 'God was all around these people. He was caring for, He was strengthening, He was enabling, He was empowering, He was comforting his people'. God asks us to trust Him right in the middle of adversity, and sometimes that's hard. Many times we can look back and it's easier to see where God has blessed and that's what we do today. Today we celebrate, not what we have done, but what God has done through his faithful people here at the First Baptist Church of Atmore."
Hurricane Ivan's powerful winds also plucked the church's steeple off the top of the church and sent it crashing into the parking lot. The steeple became a symbol of Ivan's destruction and pictures of it were printed in newspapers across the country.
Among those on hand during the service included Atmore Mayor Howard Shell and members of the city council, Atmore fire chief Gerry McGhee, several pastors from other Baptist churches throughout the state, interim pastors that served the church over the years and members of The Meadows Assisted Living's Sunday school class. Former First Baptist Church of Atmore pastor Kelly Brown, who served the church from 1992 until 2002, was also in the congregation to celebrate the joyous occasion.
"It's feels great to be home," Brown said. "Having been in Atmore for almost 10 years, those years will be with me and my family forever. In many ways Atmore will always be home."
Brown went on to give a short sermon as he dedicated the church's new stained glass windows.
"We are here because we believe there is one who we trust by faith, who loves us and cares for us and can redeem us, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior," Brown said.
Dr. Rick Lance from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions was the guest speaker during the rededication ceremony. His message made many points regarding God's will and the sacrifices Christians must make throughout life. His 20-minute sermon can be summed up in just a few words he spoke.
"God is speaking in a still small voice form through storms of life," he said.
With the many hurricanes that have hit the U.S. over the years and the many that have struck in the past two years, his message hit home with the congregation.
"We were delighted to have Dr. Rick Lance as our speaker," Hendrix said. "He's not only a good preacher, but an excellent administrator, requiring excellence and quality form his people at our state office. He also spoke on a timely subject for all of us who live on the Gulf Coast. 'Reminders from the Storms of Life'."
Prior to Lance's sermon, Hendrix read a proclamation from Gov. Bob Riley recognizing the congregation and its efforts during such trying times.
Hendrix also recognized church members Ray Hodgen, Roy Burkett and Jack Ward for their "diligent and faithful efforts and sacrifice in serving the Lord through repairing and renovating our building and grounds after Hurricane Ivan. The staff and membership of First Baptist Church of Atmore, Ala. officially declare that this day, Roy, Ray and Jack are officially Hurricane Heroes."
Church secretary Julie Harrison was also recognized as a Hurricane Heroine.
"Many of our people gave up their time and energy, but today we want to especially recognize some who believe went beyond the call of duty and just got it done," Hendrix added. "These are those who consistently and thankfully made personal sacrifices."
Harrison later presented New York native and American Red Cross volunteer Alice Holmes with a certificate of appreciation for her dedicated assistance to the church following Hurricane Ivan.
The congregation gathered for lunch following the service catered by Heavenly Delight. Church members provided the desserts.
Hendrix was pleased with the outcome of the special service.
"There was a lot of planning in this, and the planning paid off," Hendrix said. "We put together a committee, headed by Pat Bonner, gave different assignments to each committee member, and all were faithful to do their part. The greatest weight of responsibility, of course, fell to our hostess and hospitality committees because they took care of lunch after the service."

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