Saint Mary's Missionary Baptist Church celebrated the dedication of their new building recently with a praise and worship service that filled almost all of the 300-plus chairs. Their previous home of worship, built in 1885 with a sanctuary that held 125 at best, stands close by as a constant reminder of the solid foundation on which the church was established.
Choir Director Mary Burns began the service with words that set the tone for the remainder of the event.
"Hallelujah! I know we're here for a dedication, but it's all about our God," she said. "We serve an awesome God."
Songs chosen by the Praise and Worship Team and the choir reflected that theme and gave credit to God for the new building as the congregation joined in with the words to "Pulling Me Through" and "Waymaker."
Pastor Timotheus Mincey, bivocational minister of the church who has taught math at Langston Chapel Middle School for 17 years, had a vision many years ago of the growth of the church, shortly after he began preaching there.
"Through the Spirit, I got an inkling that we were gonna need a bigger building," he said.
That was in 2005, when the church had services only on the first and fourth Sundays each month for around 30 or so people.
"The Lord began to send people out there, and the church began to grow," Mincey said.
Mincey trusted the Spirit's leading enough that he actually looked into additional land early on and formed a Building Exploratory Committee that began meeting eight years ago. He said that he told the committee at its formation, "The church is built already. We got to have faith that it's there. We just gotta go through the process."
Membership continued to grow, and soon the sanctuary was bursting at the seams with services every Sunday and Sunday school for all ages. Though it was a good problem to encounter, Saint Mary's had no place for everyone.
"Little ones from age 4 to high school met for Sunday school in the small fellowship hall. We'd have 200 kids for Vacation Bible School, with no place to put them," church member Marcus Kirkland said. "Yet they were happy; they were learning about the Lord. And now the Lord has done glorious things for Saint Mary's that have allowed us to do even more for the kids and young people in our church and the community."
Excited about the expansion, the congregation was on board for the new building when the committee shared its vision.
"The majority of funds for the building came because of the love of the people and the love of the church," Mincey said.
Yet the church members waited for the right time to build.
"God's timing is not our timing," he said. "His ways are not our ways. The bible says, 'Lean not to your own understanding.' We wanted to trust God and be guided by him."
Mincey said that when the church had the funding they considered to be a respectable number to approach a bank with consideration for a loan, they moved forward and were commended for their astute plan and budget.
"Once the process started, it really went quickly," he said. "It was led by God, so it all fell into place. People were amazed, because we're out in the country. That's when you know God is involved. You don't expect to have a church of that magnitude out in the country."
Mincey's father, Bishop Eddie Mincey, brought the message at the dedication service, and many businesses and individuals were thanked for their assistance, including landowners Martha and Gary Nesbit, Sea Island Bank, Statesboro Floor Covering and Saint Andrews Builders, among others.
Choir member Tichina Parker summarized the thoughts of many when she said: "If it wasn't for God, this would not be possible. All of it belongs to him."