By Preston Knight -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- All of the hubbub at First Baptist Church this year is about it turning 50, but you would not realize it after talking to a few people involved.
While acknowledging that 50 years is a great accomplishment for a church, some members and their pastor, the Rev. Michael Moore, would rather talk about visible successes and strides the congregation has made -- including Monday night meals for those in need, mission trips to Jamaica to serve the deaf and growing its praise and worship service Sunday mornings.
"It's so warm, so welcoming," said Angela Lilley, a three-year member. "You're not too young, you're not too old."
At 2 p.m. on Sept. 27, the church will hold a 50th anniversary celebration service. Past and present pastors and employees have been invited and will be recognized, and a visual presentation of the church's past and present will be shown.
In the insert for that service, the church's history is well documented. Established as Woodstock Baptist Church in 1959, it had 32 members at the start. The name changed to First Baptist Church in the early 1990s.
The congregation met in various locations -- the fire department, movie theater and a house on Ox Road among them, Moore said -- until 1974, when a sanctuary was built at the current property on Lakeview Drive, thanks to a land gift from Fleda Hepner.
In 1980, a classroom wing, fellowship hall and kitchen were added. Eight years later, a $520,000 sanctuary and administration wing were completed.
Linda Evans, whose family has attended the church for nearly 30 years, said this was a "cool time of growing" for First Baptist.
And the church has only grown since. Although plans for another expansion -- more classrooms and a larger fellowship hall -- have been on hold for economic reasons since additional land was purchased in 1995, an increase in community outreach has more than made up for it.
Most notably, it's the recent addition of Monday night meals for the community that has been a hit, members said. At 5:30 p.m. each Monday, the church serves dinner to anyone in need, from those who have lost their jobs to those on fixed incomes. Many dinners are delivered, too.
Evans said about two-thirds of the church's members are involved in this ministry.
"It's pretty exciting," she said.
Lilley said she is on two of the five teams of people responsible for a meal on a rotating basis. It's the type of fellowship that she and her husband, John, were hoping to find in a place of worship when they went "church hopping" a few years ago.
"I just think it's a really cool church," Lilley said. "I was looking for a pastor to greet us at the door and speak to us, and other people to greet us. I'm a homeschooler, and I wanted [my kids] to be involved with others. Within five to 10 minutes, I had people coming up to me asking: 'Oh, what's your name? Where do you live?' It seems to be friendly and it has always been that way."
Of course, times change in 50 years. Today's generation of worshippers wants a different church experience, and First Baptist has catered to that with a well-established Sunday morning praise and worship service preceding the traditional one. Moore, who is the church's 15th pastor, is the third-string drummer for the band that plays during the service. Evans plays the flute.
"I've always been excited about it," she said. "You see new people come, different people come. The dress is more casual, which I think is a good thing. ... I like the newer styles."
That's why the 50th anniversary service is titled, "Jesus: Yesterday, Today and Forever" -- to recognize the importance of not just the church's past but also the need to focus on its future.
"Fifty years for anything gets to be exciting anymore," Evans said.