Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 21, 2002
Today is a big day for the church that has been home for me and my wife for the past 13 years. This date is within a couple of days of being exactly 100 years since this congregation was organized.
Its name has been Trinity United Methodist Church since 1968. For many years before that its name was Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church South. In the very beginning it was “the West End Mission,” having been organized by a small group of people who were members of the First Methodist Church.
Since the first day I walked into the sanctuary at Trinity in 1989, I have been amazed that less than a hundred people in 1906 had dared to imagine and build such a beautiful place of worship. Its lasting splendor is truly remarkable. Records indicate that the sanctuary was built at a cost of about $75,000, an amazing figure when you realize that it would probably cost more than 25 times that amount to replace it today.
Most people agree also that it would be well nigh impossible to replace the magnificent stained glass windows. It is not exaggerating to say that these windows are irreplaceable. The intrinsic effect of the windows, and that of the extraordinary woodwork, combines to cause most worshipers to sense that they are in a holy place where the Living God is present. That alone is a remarkable accomplishment by the architect and builders whose skill earned them the undying gratitude of every subsequent generation.
To mark this centennial celebration, one morning worship service is planned today instead of the customary three. That service will begin at 10:40 in the hope that our members, friends, and former members may fill the sanctuary to overflowing. Music that reflects the best in all three current services will be offered. Norm Brunelle and Mike Stough will lead a variety of our musicians to help the people offer praise and gratitude to God.
The sermon will be offered by the Rev. Jerry Dooling, a beloved former pastor who is now superintendent of the Dothan District. Dooling and his wife, Karla, will be special guests of the church today. Lunch will be available at noon in the fellowship hall.
There are a number of descendants of charter members of the church who will be recognized Sunday. Several families have connections to the families who organized the church.
We are especially honored that our own Mayor Barbara Patton will be with us to present a proclamation in recognition of the church’s one hundred years of ministry in our community. Leon Cooksey, a lifelong member of the church and now chair of the Church Council, will receive the proclamation from the mayor. Cooksey’s wife, Earnestine, our church historian, will present to the church four large scrapbooks of pictures and history which will be put on display.
After lunch Mike Spain, a key leader at Trinity, will offer a “journey through our history.” Mike is a gifted storyteller so his talk will be a delight.
The steady growth of Trinity in recent years can be traced to the fine leadership that Dooling provided for eight years from 1978 to 1986. Many so-called “experts” believe that most churches benefit from long-term pastorates. If that is true, then Dooling’s ministry at Trinity is a prime example of that belief.
A contributing factor to Trinity’s expansion during the past two decades is surely the solid ministry of Senior Associate Pastor Earl Ballard who has served the church for almost 22 years. Earl’s gifts in Christian education and counseling are deeply appreciated by the Trinity family. Under Earl’s guidance the Sunday School has become a great strength of the church.
The primary reason for the strength of the church is, of course, the gifted lay people God has provided. No pastor is good enough or wise enough to “grow a church” without dedicated people who feel called to serve God within that fellowship. Trinity is blessed with a wonderful variety of people of all ages from many different backgrounds. Year after year God calls forth gifted men and women who give creative leadership to fulfill the mission of the church. That mission is to make disciples and equip disciples to share the good news of salvation in our community and around the world.
After 13 years I can testify without fear of contradiction that Trinity is not an “elitist” church, nor is it a “rich man’s church.” Somehow, by the grace of God, there has emerged at Trinity a loving fellowship where people from all walks of life, and all races, are equally welcome. While it is not perfect, it is, in the midst of a culture often marred by elitism and racism, a fellowship that closely resembles what may be called “the kingdom of God in miniature.”
Should its people lose that vision, I have no doubt that its strength will diminish, for God will surely remove His hand from it. He will not honor a church that does not offer to one and all the acceptance and love that were demonstrated to the world in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
So today a congregation of grateful people will assemble to give thanks to God for the past 100 years, and to ask for grace to begin another century of faithful service to the living God who revealed himself primarily in His Son, Jesus Christ.
If you are not too busy today to pause for a moment, please offer a prayer for our church. Join with me in asking God to make this day the beginning of the best years Trinity has ever known.