What keeps a particular congregation going for 100 years? Attendees at the Centennial Celebration for First United Methodist Church, Picayune, Miss. on Oct. 27 learned that the memories of earlier members indicate a joy in the faith relationship, a family connection among members and programs to involve all age groups play a big role in the durability of a congregation. The church has endured fire, storm and wartime to serve the community since its founding in 1913.
The Centennial Committee, chaired by long time member and founding family descendent Suzan Wilson, has filled the year with special events leading up to the October 27 Homecoming. Wilson gave the welcome message and recognized the hard work done by the committee as she enumerated many of the programs that contributed to the celebration. A centennial cookbook, note cards with the church on them and birthday calendars were among the fundraisers that helped to provide the events.
Organist Betty Breland recognized the former pastors in attendance as well as the past musicians. Breland has worked with many pianists and music directors during her tenure as organist and acknowledged their importance to the worship experience.
Current pastor, Rev. James Biedenharn, led the Call to Worship as a responsive reading praising God for the gift of ministry enjoyed by the church and praying for continued success in the years to come.
An exuberant Children’s Choir presented the Introit, Semsen’s The Body of Christ, before retiring from the sanctuary for their own worship service. Thus, they were not present to hear some of the stories told by later service participants about the mischief that previous generations committed in their youth.
Speakers such as past member and current Director of Children’s Ministry at First United Methodist Church (Starkville, Miss.) Jane Griffith Windham and current member Amy Daly shared shenanigans that elicited guffaws from the congregation as they led their portion of the program. Windham delivered the opening prayer. Daly described the significance of three history rooms being dedicated to members who had a great impact of the history of the church.
Historian Juanita Gex led a moment of recognition for Adelia Bell Megehee, a charter family in the church and dedicated mother who raised her eight children in the church. She and husband Samuel Wood Megehee started a legacy in the congregation that continues for multiple generations.
Another multi-generational moment came when the Chancel Choir and the Youth Praise Choir joined for the anthem, led by music director Linda Hancock.
Former pastor Rev. Tom Pace delivered a wry sermon that joked about his early days in ministry before acknowledging that he only knows two kinds of sermons: those that are meant to provide comfort to people in times of affliction, and those intended to afflict those who have gotten too comfortable and need a prod to get back into service. He then spoke on “Church is a Dangerous Place,” saying that if someone shows up in church, God might deal with that person as he did Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
Following Rev. Biedenharn’s dismissal and blessing, the congregation and guests adjoined to the Pittman Family Life Center across the street from the church for a traditional potluck dinner, capped with the cutting of the anniversary cake.
The day symbolized a milestone for the congregation, but the year isn’t over yet. Even when the last event is completed, the centennial has opened the door to the next generation of service and fellowship as First United Methodist Church of Picayune reaches out to members and community.
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