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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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