Lakey brings message to St. Paul's celebration

by W. Winston Skinner

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Bishop Othal Lakey, far left, reflects while sitting on the pulpit platform.

St. Paul CME Church recently celebrated its 145th anniversary - in a service with music, tributes to leaders past and present, and an inspiring message from Bishop Othal Hawthorne Lakey.

The sanctuary was filled with members, former members and friends who also enjoyed a feast after the service. Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church cancelled its services for the day, and a contingent from the church - out of which St. Paul emerged in 1868 - attended the celebratory service. Minister James C. Clements was worship leader for the day. He said the church has been through good times - and times of difficulty. 'It's been a blessing. Today, we look around, and we see how God has united us,' Clements said. 'God has brought us and united us today - and it's beautiful.' Laticia Mitchem, who led a litany during the service, spoke of 'the years of Christia n fellowship we have shared as a congregation' and 'the glorious victories that have been won in Jesus' name.'

Marvene Goolsby shared a slightly altered version of a poem written by her grandmother, Beodessa Rosser, when St. Paul's building burned in 1957.

Betty Bedgood gave the tribute to past ministers, while Clements gave a tribute to the current pastor, Jesse Averett Jr. Englysha Clements delivered a tribute to Averett's wife, Corene. Minister Roderick Freeman gave a fourth tribute - to the 'roses,' former members of the church.

Bedgood thanked the church's pastors for helping the members have God's word 'woven into the very fabric of our being' and 'for keeping our focus on growth in God.'

Lakey preached on 'the broken pieces of the church' and talked about what the church offers today. He used the imagery of the church as a ship - perhaps battered and imperfect but still able to accomplish its purpose.

The anniversary offered a chance 'to recall the collective memory of what the experiences of the ship have been,' he observed, 'the many dangers, toils and snares' through which the church has traveled.

'God's church encounters all kinds of storms,' Lakey said. 'Some storms assail the church from without. The most destructive storms are the storms from within.'

He said conflicts between pastor and parishioner, between innovator and traditionalist, 'between the old timers and the newcomers' can create havoc.

Small storms are easy to overcome, but others can cause the church to disintegrate.

'This church has brought all of us through the storm. It might not be all we think it ought to be. It might not be all we would like for it to be,' he said. 'The church has made us who we are.'

James Clements welcomed Chad Hill, pastor at Allen-Lee, who read a Bible passage during the service. Clements said the tie between the two congregations 'goes all the way back to our beginnings.'

'Isn't it good to be together in God's house - one family,' Hill remarked, drawing applause.

Other ministers present were also recognized. Special recognition also was made of Brian Ferrell, Lone Oak's mayor, and his wife, Lisa. 'That was an awesome experience - very uplifting,' the mayor said after the service.



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