By Jackie Hampton,
The celebration of a church anniversary, no matter how many years it has existed, is very significant. It first signifies appreciation to God for its’ existence, and then it conveys gratitude to members for their involvement, hard work and commitment to the future growth of the church through their services and giving. This year, the significance is even greater for the College Hill Baptist Church family.
The 114th year church anniversary, normally celebrated on the first Sunday in April, fell on Easter Sunday.
Frank Yates, who serves as president of the deacon’s ministry and chairman of the anniversary committee said, “When the anniversary committee first started meeting to plan the anniversary service, no one focused on the first Sunday in April as Easter Sunday as well.” Once they realized the two fell on the same Sunday, Yates remembered that there was no anniversary celebration held in 2020 due to COVID-19, and perhaps they could do both on the first Sunday in April. The deacons and the planning committee agreed and plans were made for both.
The church has not yet opened its doors for in-person worship service due to the pandemic but the resurrection service and the 114th year anniversary service took place live, with only a few members present in the sanctuary. The service was viewed via Facebook and YouTube.
A limited number of children and youth participated in the annual Easter program. Mattie Franklin gave a welcome and Ethan Franklin and Justin Collins kicked it off with a debate on “Who is the Real Hero of Easter.” The Easter Bunny was not able to compete. The traditional recitation of speeches regarding the Resurrection were given.
Worship service started right after Sunday school and College Hill member Leon Williams gave the opening prayer. Youth members Carter and Tobias Barnes presided over the anniversary and Easter service.
The occasion was given by the college ministry in a virtual presentation written by Deaconess Daphne Higgins, director of the ministry. The setting of the presentation was on the outside in the beauty of nature. It was entitled “A Glorious Morning.” The participants were Sean Taylor, Cory Shaw, John Higgins II and Andre Dyson II. The young men combined a biblical message of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago, and the organization of College Hill which was organized under an oak tree in the year 1907. Concluding the presentation was Leonzo Nelson singing “Oh How I Love Jesus.
Three members received surprise awards from the Public Relations Ministry. Terrence Hill president of the ministry presented Deacon John Morris the ‘XTRAM’ award which describes a member of the PR ministry who has gone the extra mile to insure that every aspect of a Christian project is completed to the best of one’s ability. Hill, in his presentation, said whether it is ideas for a proposed project, picking up trash on the streets, or preparing a meal for the hungry, Deacon Morris willingly demonstrates the humility required of “God’s servants in charge.
Morris, who was caught off guard, told The Mississippi Link, “I was truly shocked to get this award.” He said, “I was listening for them to call the name of another deacon and had no idea it was me.” Morris said even though he was taken by surprise, he was very thankful.
The “Most Valuable Player” award was given to Minister Andrew Lewis. This award is given to an individual who gives his gifts, talents and abilities in the furtherance of kingdom building. Hill stated in his presentation that Minister Lewis over the past year has been on call 24/7 and sometimes working 18 hour days in order to provide services needed since the global pandemic. He made certain the church was able to continue worshipping via Facebook and YouTube, serving as musician, mentor/teacher, director, producer and cameraman.
Lewis said, “I was genuinely surprised and humbled to receive this honor. I was listening to Brother Hill’s description while making an adjustment on the camera – not realizing I was the subject. I said, “Wait a minute. I couldn’t believe that the team was able to pull a fast one on me. Nevertheless, to God be the Glory!”
Hill presented the “Member of the Year Award” to Deacon Gregory Anderson. He said this award embodies the phrase, “We are our brother’s keeper.”
Anderson, who was in the sound box assisting with the virtual service said he was taken off guard when his name was called. He said, “I am proud to be a part of the team that provides worship services for all our members through video, and am honored to be seen as College Hill’s member of the year.”
According to several members, one of the most touching parts of the service was a video presentation by Lewis titled, “Special Recognitions and Historical Reflections.” This presentation included photos of members that have succumbed in the last 12 months and photos of members that have transitioned over the many years.
Historical reflections were given by long- time members regarding their journey as members of College Hill. Robert Dow and Malena Dow as well as Jessie Mae Willis, wife of the late Pastor R. E. Willis each expressed some of their most precious memories and experiences at College Hill. Previous reflections leading up to the anniversary service were given by Lenora Reed, a long time member of College Hill.
The message was given by Rev. Calvin Peoples, a minister of the house, that has brought messages to the College Hill family every other Sunday since Dr. Michael T. Williams retired in October of 2020. Peoples acknowledged and thanked Rev. William Wheeler for bringing the message on alternate Sundays during the pandemic. Wheeler, who led the responsive reading, is also a minister of the house at College Hill.
Peoples preached a resurrection message from Mark 16: 1-8 titled “Who Will Roll Away the Stone.”
Peoples said God will continue to provide for College Hill as he has blessed us over these 114 years.
Members of the Anniversary Committee were Mary Abron, Bobbie Anderson, Larry Bridges, Gail Gettis, Kelvin Hayes, Sharon Robinson, Rufus Tate, Deacon Vernon Jasper and Deacon Frank Yates. Guest soloist was Calandra Daniels.