BELFRY, Ky. (KT) - The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Belfry commemorated the church’s 80th anniversary Sunday morning.
Church members honored Rev. Bob Norman — who pastored the church from 1971 to 1983 and who in later years came back and served as an interim pastor for six months — by recognizing him with Pastor Emeritus status for his many years of devotion and service.
The membership will took time out to fondly remember the church’s founding, to recall the pastor and handful of people who made up the original congregation, and to reflectively take note of all the many transformations the Belfry-area ministry has undergone in the eight decades since.
As one of the oldest churches in the Pond Creek area, the FBC of Belfry was formed to the day on Sept. 28, 1939 following a tent revival meeting in Belfry. As it turned out this introductory revival meeting was held along U.S. 119 just south of Belfry High School, which was at or very near the site on which the church building would ultimately go under construction in July, 1942.
T. Pelphrey, who was the church’s first pastor, in the meantime held services for the original members at Redman Hall until the church building itself could be planned, financed, and built.
“Redman Hall, which was also in Belfry, seated about 120 people so there was ample room there for the early members as well as any new ones who might be added in the next three years,” said church member Vivian “Bo” Booth.
After the church building was finally completed later in 1942, the first service was held on Christmas Day for the 72 members, with the first baptism being effectuated just a short time later in January of 1943.
Another major milestone for the church was noted five years later when its Sunday school attendance swelled from 105 people in 1947 to a record 230 by January of 1948.
January 1948 also marked another significant occasion for the church: The date when its first bell was purchased, installed, and from that time forward consistently used to issue the call to Sunday morning worship service.
Today that original bell is displayed at the church’s current location at Black Gem.
Later, in Aug. of 1949, the church purchased a frame house next door to its Belfry location for a parsonage.
“Unfortunately that parsonage was destroyed by a fire in 1953,” Booth said. “But very much fortunately the church managed to build another parsonage on that site the next year, which was used until the new church was built at Black Gem.”
Another notable bit of church history came a year later in 1954 when the first missionary Vacation Bible School facilitator came to the Belfry area and held VBS events at Belfry, Hardy, Huddy, Stone and Octavia.
Also in 1954, Booth said, Mission Point was established at Huddy in the Coburn Grade School by Bro. Alex Fargo, who also served as its superintendent.
“In February of 1965, the original church at Belfry underwent extensive remodeling and gained 14 Sunday school classrooms, a nursery, and believe it or not, an indoor bathroom facility,” she said.
Booth said the church’s growth from the mid-1960s to 2000 necessitated the new and much larger building at Black Gem to accommodate its many and ever growing membership, which today numbers 756 overall members and 413 resident members.
Rev. Mike McCartney earlier this year left his former church in Chester Gap, Virginia, to assume the pastor’s post at the FBC of Belfry.
McCartney said he wants to perpetuate the history of the church and, as God grants him the opportunity, also build upon it.
“I’m really excited about being here,” he said. “I feel like it’s a perfect fit for me and that God is about to do something amazing that will take us through another 80 years.”