FORT VALLEY -- Trinity (Missionary) Baptist Church celebrated 101 years Sunday.
The church, organized in 1912, met first with 35 members at the Mutual Aid Benefit Hall on Pine Street with the Rev. C.S. Wilkins as pastor. The years brought a move to the groups current home on State University Drive with new buildings, remodeling and expansions that continue today.
The last almost 50 years of our history was marked with the leadership of Rev. Julius Simmons, who served as pastor for 42 years, said the Rev. Gregory Moore.
Moore became pastor in 2001 shortly after Simmons sudden death.
Rev. Simmons pastored and also served as dean of men at Fort Valley State University, Moore said. He was instrumental in getting a lot of college faculty and students to join the church, and it became known somewhat as the church tied to the university. Even today, there are a lot of retired faculty and administrators who attend as well as a new influx of students.
Moore said Simmons impact is still felt through the churchs emphasis on education and range of both old and young members. He said pastoring so many young people who value education, receive a degree but then move away seems a problem, but its one he and the church are glad to face.
Moore said the church has also been known as politically active. He said in the 1960s, when Martin Luther King Jr. was considered controversial by some, Trinity Baptist welcomed him for meetings in Fort Valley. He said that piece of history has had a long and lingering impact on the congregation.
Pictures of King shaking hands with young people still adorn church walls.
Ive been here for 11 wonderful years now, Moore said. The church has grown, and weve seen a significant number of new students and community members join. Ive also seen a new trend of retirees coming to Fort Valley and to the church.
Moore said the church was quite traditional when he became pastor yet reflected a variety of tastes. Because of its long connection with Fort Valley State University, many of the churchs musicians were trained there, and worship centered on a chancel choir. In recent years, a gospel choir has been formed.
Im more of the gospel generation, and it was time for the church to move ahead to that as well, he said. That meant transition, but the church handled it well. We have a lot of contemporary music here now but maintain links to the past.
Moore said he is from Coffee County. He attended Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus to gain prerequisites for medical college before moving on to Augusta and the Medical College of Georgia. There he got a lab sciences degree but also received a call to ministry.
It was also there he met his wife, Dr. Helen-Louise Moore, who now practices in Warner Robins at Pediatric Associates. He continued on to seminary, getting a master of divinity degree from Columbia Biblical Seminary. He is now working on a doctorate through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Louisville, Ky.
The couple has been married 17 years. They live in Warner Robins and have one son and two daughters.
Moores doctoral writings reflect a personal passion.
I believe scripture teaches the perpetuation of the Gospel message through discipleship, he said. Of course, theres strong biblical support for that. Jesus used discipleship, the early apostles used discipleship and the baton has been passed on most effectively through the years using discipleship. Im doing my paper on discipling men because theres such a need in our community to reach out to men and disciple them, but it applies to everybody.
Moore said true discipleship plants Christianity so deeply within that people are willing to live and to die for Christ if called to, just as the early church martyrs did. He said discipleship involves more than hearing but depends on time spent with mentors, internalizing scripture and developing a close relationship with Christ.
Jesus literally could go back to heaven knowing his disciples could carry on his mission because he had discipled them and they would disciple others, Moore said. It goes on and on, but you have to attend to it. Our theme this year involves evangelism and discipleship but shows how it is a very simple thing.
The theme for 2013 is, Reaching People by Meeting People.
Just Sunday, I was teaching on this, Moore said. Jesus went out and was in contact with people. He talked to them -- to outcasts, adulterers, tax collectors and regular members of society. He spoke to them as he went about his business and many became disciples. His apostles did the same, and, of course, they were given the Holy Spirit, who gave them power and extraordinary boldness to overcome resistance to the Gospel.
I tell members to talk to people; to ask questions and be interested in people like Jesus was. Thats simple. Just be obedient to talk to people ,and tell them the story of Jesus. Its never our job to convert people. We love people and speak to them, and its the Holy Spirits work to bring them to the truth. We stay in our lane doing our job and then stand back to be surprised at the amazing things God does. Thats New Testament Christianity. My joy as a pastor is to see people telling people about Jesus and seeing lives and families transformed.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.