Yesterday, July 29, our church celebrated the last of “seven sesquicentennial Sunday celebrations.” Try saying that seven times! Anyway, we set aside the last Sunday of each month from January through July to commemorate 150 years of ministry and service. Here are six of the best ideas we used during this celebration:
- Invite former pastors. Rather than only one Sunday for several preachers, we gave each former pastor who could attend (we’ve had 18 pastors in 150 years), a complete Sunday. On each Sunday, we celebrated the milestones in their ministry at Chatham Baptist Church.
- Invite former musicians. Along with each pastor, we invited the music leaders who served during each pastorate — a reunion of sorts for the worship team during that time.
- Use street banners. Our town uses banners on Main Street, changing them seasonally. Our church is located one block off Main Street, and we designed and printed our own street banners. We got permission to mount them on power poles, and for about $1200 we’re still getting good response to these attractive banners.
- Create a memorabilia area. We took a couple of blank walls and turned them into a photo gallery of members who were baptized, married, or who served in the armed forces. In addition, we found old journals, ledgers, minutes, letters, photographs, and artifacts from the past that we displayed on tables and memorabilia cabinets.
- Honor the past by remembering people. We remembered past Sunday School teachers, senior adult leaders, choir directors, pastors, deacons, educators, soldiers who served and those who gave their lives, pastors we ordained, local civic leaders, and connections to institutions and individuals down through the years. A neighbor church, started as a mission by our church in the 1960s, brought their whole congregation and joined us for worship one Sunday.
- Go easy on the commemorative stuff. We ordered commemorative plates, wooden silhouettes of the church, old-time “funeral home” fans, post-it notes, and Christmas ornaments. We still have most of these in boxes, waiting for folks to buy them. People enjoyed the experience, but didn’t necessarily want a “take home” reminder of the event. That was the one area we over-did, but we’ll use some of the items as newcomers gifts, guest speaker baskets, and for local historic displays. While the items weren’t an overwhelming success, we’re making the best of our overly enthusiastic purchases.
The seven Sundays of celebration gave our folks a time to reflect on the past, celebrate our heritage, and think about our future. Hopefully, we will leave a legacy as strong for the next 150 years for those who come after us.