A celebration of tradition

The Rev. Junior Ward, Old Time Gospel Baptist Church pastor, right, talks with Ryan Shown before a December worship service.

Members of Old Time Gospel Baptist Church in Lenoir City will gather Sunday for a day filled with worship, fellowship and memories.

The church will celebrate its 40th homecoming beginning with breakfast at 8 a.m. and wrapping up with an afternoon service.

“It’s a big event for us because God has blessed (the church) for 40 years,” the Rev. Junior Ward, pastor, said. “We’re not just celebrating the 40 years. It’s just for the thankfulness of what he has done for us.”

Church member Christie Anderson believes it’s easy to see the hand God played in what the church has accomplished the last four decades.

Keeping the tradition of homecoming alive offers great encouragement, she said.

“I think if we don’t keep some kind of tradition in our churches then we don’t tend to be united in some ways,” Anderson said. “Our relationships with our fellow members are important. This kind of keeps us in touch and puts in perspective that we came from — when the church was started it was a house. We can look at where once we were having church in somebody’s living room and now we have church in a huge sanctuary where we can service over 200 people.”

Ward has been the church’s pastor for all 40 years and has seen plenty of change, both good and bad.

“From the time we got started, the most important thing that was in the churches then it was the Word and the fellowship and getting people into the church to hear the gospel,” Ward said. “I’ve seen it change over the years that there’s not as much enthusiasm as there used to be.”

That’s why he believes Sunday’s homecoming is important.

“(The) church needs that fellowship together, they need that closeness, that unity,” he said. “… If we didn’t have unity, we wouldn’t have anything. That fellowship we have, it brings them closer together. If you have a need, we have a need. If you’re hurting, we’re hurting. If you’re on a mountain top, we want to be on the mountain top. … The goal is that we care for one another. You’re not just a member. Whether your name is Ward or Anderson or whatever, you’re part of that family.”

Anderson hopes to see former members and preachers return Sunday.

“Just the conversation and being able to sit down with people that maybe I haven’t gotten to sit down with in a while and talk about old times,” she said. “It’s just good food and fellowship and, of course, we’ll have services throughout the day.”

Services include 10 a.m. Sunday School, 11 a.m. worship service with lunch to follow and an afternoon service at 1:30 p.m.

While the day is a celebration of members past and present, Ward welcomes anyone — even if they’re just in need of a meal.