University of Mobile Helps Revitalize Nearby Church - Word&Way

University of Mobile Helps Revitalize Nearby Church

University of Mobile freshman Madilyn Donald
University of Mobile freshman Madilyn Donald

University of Mobile freshman Madilyn Donald cleans pews at First Baptist Church Chickasaw, Ala. A few days later, Donald sang with the UM ensemble Sofree as the congregation worshiped in its sanctuary for the first time in over a year. University of Mobile photo

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — Reid Guy, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Chickasaw, Ala., doesn’t want to be a statistic.

“Statistics show that 100 churches across our country close their doors every week,” he said. “And we don’t think God is ready for us to be one of those 100.”

It takes prayer, hard work and many hands to revitalize a 30-member church that once attracted 1,200 worshipers. Some of those hands belong to more than 120 University of Mobile students in the Alabama School of the Arts. The school used its annual Project Serve event Oct. 25 to help FBC Chickasaw accomplish major projects that would have taken the church years to complete on its own.

“This was a megachurch before we really had the term megachurch, and it has the facilities to accommodate all that came with a large church,” Guy said. “First Baptist Chickasaw was a hub for our community.”

The church has seen its share of struggles. Membership has fallen to around 30. They were close to shutting the doors when Guy expressed interest in becoming pastor. Guy is married to Lori Guy, UM assistant professor of music.

“I began interviewing for the role as senior pastor in May and obviously saw the struggle,” Guy said. “But also found that this church was not ready to close its doors.”

Since he began in September, the church is averaging around 50 people on Sundays, has had new members join and has launched a new children’s ministry.

But there is still a lot of work to be done on the church building, and that is where UM students stepped in.

UM president Lonnie Burnett said the university emphasizes student involvement in local churches, and this Project Serve event symbolizes that partnership.

“Local churches are our lifeblood — they send us students, they send us donations, and this is our chance to give back,” Burnett said.

Due to financial troubles and declining numbers, First Baptist Chickasaw has not met in its sanctuary in over a year. UM students helped paint, clean and do carpentry work to help the church get ready to move back into the sanctuary Oct. 27.

Morgan Brasell, a junior worship leadership major, said, “Being able to serve First Baptist Chickasaw has been a pleasure. It’s amazing what we can do in the church when we all come together as a team.”

Abigail Breland, a sophomore nursing major, said, “It’s pretty cool that UM gets to go out and serve. And it means even more, because my grandparents got married in this church. I’m excited to help with the church growing.”

Breland was one of the students that helped clean over 100 pews. Students helped paint rooms in the education building, children’s building, fellowship hall and parts of the sanctuary. Students also helped clean the church’s gym.

“The work they did was invaluable to our church. We are better positioned to reach our community for the Gospel because of the work they did,” Guy said.

“I honestly believe that indirectly, through the work done by these students, people will come to know Christ and/or grow in their relationship with Him. We have several UM students and faculty that attend our church. They are special to us.”

To celebrate moving back into the sanctuary Oct. 27, UM ensembles Sofree performed at during the church’s morning service and RamCorps played in the evening. More than 80 people attended the Sunday service that included the first baptism in over two years.

“This partnership with the University of Mobile is God-honoring and one we are so grateful for,” Guy said.

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Amber Kelley is a marketing and communications specialist at the University of Mobile.