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After Thought: A visit with Gasper River Baptists

 

Gasper River Baptists hold one of the earliest fall associational gatherings in our state. While many annual meetings kickoff in September and October, their 207th annual meeting was hosted by Rochester and Rock Spring Baptist churches on Aug. 9-10.

The association's offices are located in the county seat town of Morgantown, which sits just off the Western Kentucky Parkway about midway between Elizabethtown and Princeton. According to the city's website, the town was named in honor of General Daniel Morgan, who led the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina, which was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. And, a member of the 17th Kentucky Infantry was the first Union soldier to be killed in Western Kentucky during the Civil War—just one mile north of Morgantown, which now has one of only two monuments dedicated to soldiers on both sides.

The first night of Gasper River Association's annual meeting was held in Rochester's beautiful paneled sanctuary.

Rochester, where Andy McDonald of the KBC's evangelism and church planting team and I had an opportunity to speak on the first night, is a serene hamlet of about 150 people ton the banks of the Green River about 20 minutes west of Morgantown. The town offers one of two ferry crossings in the area, connecting locals with Cool Springs and points to its north. The white wooden church building, built in 1900, features striking oak bead board walls and ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows, which have been recently restored.

The congregation dates back to 1857, when a group of 29 Baptists began meeting together on Russellville Street. According to a church attendance and offering board mounted on the front wall, the congregation, which is currently without a pastor, saw about the same number for worship on a recent Sunday. From my experience, though few in number, the people there are some of the friendliest you will find.

The small sanctuary's pews were full on that Thursday night of Gasper River's annual meeting. Nineteen of its 27 churches were represented among the 53 pastors, deacons and other church leaders who attended. But I'm told that by meeting's end, nearly all of the churches usually will have registered.

As the meeting opened, Ann Givens, the association's administrative assistant, was honored for 20 years of service. Givens, who has served under four director of missions including its current one, Ray Gilliland, was surprised with a bouquet and a large cake that was shared with everyone during the evening meal.

During the business session, Treasurer Tommy Wood reported that Gasper River churches had contributed more than $96,000 through the Cooperative Program and nearly $67,500 to associational missions in 2018. They also recorded 77 baptisms, 16 more than the previous year, giving them a total membership of 4,388.

Associational meetings are a good way to learn about the ongoing ministries in which local Baptists are engaged and to hear about what's happening among area churches. In addition to the association's regular ministry reports, several pastors shared recent highlights from their church fields:

The Rochester Baptist congregation dates back 150 years. Its current sanctuary was built at the turn of the last century.

• Morgantown First is celebrating 100 years in its current sanctuary, which was built in 1919 after an earlier building was struck by lightening. Members will bury a time capsule as part of a Sept. 30 celebration.

• Richland Church moved into a new building in May, and the Luz y Vida congregation now meets in its old building.

• Bethel Church's recent revival saw 20 people saved and members are rejoicing in the 17 baptisms that resulted.

Pastor Buster Jordan of Barnetts Lick Church delivered an exceptional stewardship message from Genesis 1 during the opening session, reminding church leaders that "whenever we don't listen to God, we aren't the stewards that we ought to be," and "a life that pleases God is to do the work that He calls us to do."

We are especially grateful for seven churches in the association which were not receiving the Western Recorder previously that have signed up to receive trial bundles and encourage their members to read their state Baptist newspaper.

Gasper River's meetings are perhaps typical of many of our smaller, rural associations across the state, but which very much comprise the backbone of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in fostering fellowship, providing encouragement and building cooperation in missions among churches and ministers. Associations, like Gasper River, are important seedbeds of local ministry, doctrinal teaching, leadership training and unified prayer support. Make plans to attend yours!

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