The excitement and energy level at the First Baptist Church of Moorestown is at a fever pitch this week as the congregation gets ready to celebrate the church’s 175th anniversary.
“The energy is off the charts for this one,” said pastor Linda Pepe. “Everybody seems to be having 10 things to do. They’re energized and geared up.”
The weekend-long celebration kicks off at 7:30 Friday night with a concert featuring performances from the UrbanPromise children’s gospel choir and step team, as well as a gospel choir from UrbanPromise in Africa and the gospel choir of Eastern University.
Saturday will be highlighted by a pig roast from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., plus games and activities for children, pumpkin painting, tours of the church and grounds, live music from the church band and much more, said organizer John Dinsmore. The event will also showcase artwork from local painter Erin McGee Ferrell (who is having a studio closeout sale this weekend as well) and Puppies on Wheels authors Gabrielle Korkor and Janet Korkor will be on hand to sign autographs and talk about their book.
The pig roast is open to everyone, not just members of the church, Pepe said, explaining that inclusivity is sort of the theme of the event and the theme of the church itself.
“What we’re really hoping to get is the community to know that they’re welcome here,” she said. “It’s 175 years of being able to reach out and be there for the community … We’re a very open congregation. We’re open and inclusive toward the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community as well. We’re ADA-compliant; we have sign language interpretation during worship. No matter where you are on your journey, you’re welcome and included.”
The First Baptist Church—originally an offshoot of the Haddonfield Baptist Church, according to Dinsmore—has been at the same spot on Main Street for all of its 175 years, though it started off in a different building.
Churches traditionally celebrate anniversaries every 25 years, and though 175 years is merely a “breath” in the grand scheme of Christianity worldwide, Pepe said it’s a major milestone for the church.
“It says something about the congregation here that they’ve left something important to subsequent generations that’s worth passing on,” she said. “A lot of churches die out for various reasons … But the ones who last have been able to regroup and adapt … and still be able to have a vital ministry.”
Dinsmore said Trinity Episcopal is also marking its 175th anniversary this year.
First Baptist figures to have several hundred people pass through its doors over the course of the weekend, according to Pepe.
(If you’re worried they’ll run out of food, don’t. Dinsmore said they’ve got two whole pigs, both stuffed with boneless pork shoulder—“We’re planning on feeding 300 people. It’s going to be a lot of pig"—as well as plenty of other food and desserts.)
All the abovementioned events are free, though freewill offerings will be accepted.
The anniversary celebration ends with a special worship service at 10 a.m. Sunday, featuring guest speakers including former pastors and a representative from the American Baptist Church of New Jersey, who will present a special certificate to the church.
“It’s an exciting time in the church’s history,” Pepe said of the milestone. “Not just to have reached it, but to have so much energy to go forward into the future speaks volumes about where we are.”
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