Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative
Petrolia’s First Baptist Church celebrated 149 years of existence this past weekend. While the pandemic subdued celebrations, the church is already looking ahead to their 150th anniversary next year.
A planning committee has been hard at work since last fall organizing events and festivities leading up to the May 1, 2022 date.
Members Wanda Pratt and Jean Bradshaw are working on a history book focusing on the stories and people of the past century and a half. The church made similar books for their 100 and 135th anniversaries, but this one is much more ambitious.
“We’re hoping by September to be able to launch our book,” says Pratt. “I got notes, lots of notes. And some of it written.
“Not just the numbers and the facts, but I like the stories of the people, too,” One of the sections will highlight veteran members of the church.
“That’s the important part to me,” says Pratt on the human stories.
To gather information volunteers have been pouring over old record books and albums as well as talking to family members of past church members.
Bradshaw says this can be a time consuming task. “The minute you open one of those albums you just have to look at every picture and talk about everyone and discuss it and think about it,” she says. “You go, oh my goodness an hour has passed and I’ve only looked at one album! It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s questioning.”
On May 1, 2022 the 150th Anniversary Celebration will take place. The Sunday Service will host Rev. Brian Horrobin from the First Baptist Church in Wallaceburg as guest speaker and feature music from the Lambton Youth Choir. A catered meal at the Petrolia Legion will take place after.
Bradshaw says everyone is “hoping and praying that it (COVID) certainly settles down,” and that they may be able to add more events if so. “It makes you aware of what you’ve missed. You take so much for granted until it’s taken away from you and then you go, okay that was important to me,” she says.
The church itself continues to run virtually meanwhile, save for the organist who plays in-person each week. While Pastor Alex Craig has worked hard to keep in touch with the congregation since the pandemic shutdown, a return to traditional church-going can’t happen soon enough.
“You miss it,” says Bradshaw. “You miss the camaraderie, you miss just sitting down and talking, and the coffee breaks.”
“We’re looking forward to when we can get together physically,” says Pratt.
Leading up to the 150th celebration there is also a Jews for Jesus presentation of the “Fall Feasts of Israel” scheduled for Sept. 19 and in April 2022, First Baptist plans a 10 day reading of the entire Bible by church and community members where anyone can sign up to read a portion of the bible from 8 am to 8 pm.