Claps, stomps and the sound of joyful praise spilled out into the streets of downtown Daphne Sunday afternoon as the Little Bethel Baptist Church marked its 150th anniversary …
Claps, stomps and the sound of joyful praise spilled out into the streets of downtown Daphne Sunday afternoon as the Little Bethel Baptist Church marked its 150th anniversary celebration.
Churchgoers from across the county came to the chapel to help mark the occasion, and the church was packed with people waiting to hear the good word.
Little Bethel was founded on April 15, 1867, on two acres of land donated by Major Lewis Starke to four of his former slaves: Nimrod Lovett, Stamford Starlin (now Sterling), Narcis Elwa and Benjamin Franklin.
The land holds the small chapel and a cemetery with graves dating back to those days. Before the church was built, parishioners met and worshipped in the shade of the large oak trees on the property.
Deacon Walter Heard, who has been attending the church for almost four years, said it’s a wonderful legacy that current church members can celebrate a sesquicentennial anniversary like this.
“There aren’t a lot of churches that have made it as long as we have,” Heard said. “It’s a testament to this community and the people who have built this church over the years that it continues to thrive and be as strong as it is. But, we really give thanks to God for his continued blessings on us for many, many generations now.”
Reverend Donald Parker, the pastor at Little Bethel Baptist, asked that God continue to bless and watch over the church for 150 more years.
“We’ve been so blessed over these many years to be a place where people can worship together,” Parker said. “And I hope He continues to bless us for 150 years more.”
The church held a ribbon cutting outside before the celebration ceremony, with Parker and Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood cutting the ribbon before church members marched into the sanctuary singing a praise song.
Haygood said it was telling that the church was one of the oldest structures in the city of Daphne.
“Daphne as a town has only been around for 90 years, and this church has been here for 150 years,” Haygood said. “It’s a wonderful part of our city’s history that has continued to be a beacon for this city, and I hope for many more great things for the church and its congregation.”
Heard said the church has plans in the future to expand to create a fellowship hall that will allow more space for classes and events for young people in the community.
“We want to find a way to reach out and make sure we’re bringing more folks in, reaching out and showing the love of God to all our people,” Heard said.
With the songs of praise and joy that emanated from the chapel Sunday and the amens of those in attendance, Little Bethel Baptist Church looks to be on track to last several more generations, as the congregation lifts up God and helping those who need.