Labette Baptist Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Sunday with a noon covered-dish luncheon followed by a reception and celebration. Special music will be performed at the event in Labette City.
To begin Sunday’s celebration, the church will host Bible classes at 9:30 a.m. with morning worship at 10:30 a.m. Marty McCord, Southeast Kansas Baptist director of missions, will be special speaker. Praise and worship will be led by the former Labette Baptist P&W Band. The anniversary reception will start at 1:30 p.m. The celebration will follow at 2 p.m. with the Watchmen Quartet performing.
“We’re all very excited,” said Labette Baptist Pastor Tom Heflin. “This is a great milestone for us, and we’d love if everyone came out to help us celebrate being in the community for 150 years.”
Heflin, who has been pastor there with his wife, Diane, for 30 years, said the church began in 1877 when it was constructed for a cost of $900. Before building the church, members met in homes, schoolhouses and the upstairs of an old store building in Labette.
“Eight dedicated individuals started what they called Labette Baptist Church in a small, unassuming log cabin one mile and a half south of the present location in Labette City,” Heflin said. “It’s interesting that in the early years, whenever someone would confess Christ as savior, the church would immediately ‘retire to the waterside to administer the ordinance of baptism.’ This could happen any time of the year as there were baptisms recorded in January and July.”
At 2 a.m. June 7, 1900, a tornado destroyed the newly decorated church building, Heflin said, adding that at the time it had a new roof.
“They hadn’t finished the roof not too long ago, but the way the tornado damaged the building, it smashed in walls and somehow left the roof intact. What they did was literally raise the roof of what was left, repaired the walls around it, but (they) were able to keep the church at its same site,” he said.
On Feb. 10, 1901, the congregation once again worshipped in the fully restored church.
“The church building remained essentially the same through the years, but with an extensive remodel in 1968 and an addition added on the back as a fellowship room,” Heflin said. “But it was demolished in 2014 to make room for a new fellowship hall adjoining the auditorium that was built in 2007. Both are now currently in use. For 150 years, the church has played an active, vital role in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into the community and county. I’ve seen a lot in my time as pastor, growth and decline, but small congregations are good. Of course, you want numbers, everyone wants that, but people might be overlooking the fellowship that can be found in these smaller congregations.”
Labette Baptist has around 30 or so who attend weekly functions and recently has hosted youth group activities.
“There’s ups and downs with numbers, though. We’re all here for one thing and that’s to bring Christ’s good news. But we also want to maintain having a presence with the community and surrounding area,” Heflin said. “Hope everyone joins us out there on Sunday.”