Kept In His Love

(A play about the history of Lexington Avenue Baptist Church written by Marjorie Easterly and performed at the 50th Anniversary Celebration)

In a few brief scenes interlaced with narration we hope to depict some of the highlights in the first fifty years of Lexington Avenue Baptist Church.  If by so doing some members of the audience renew memories of earlier years and pleasant days gone by in this church, and if others catch a glimpse of their church's beginnings and growth, and if all of us feel new spiritual depth, the purpose of this program will have been achieved.

Please remember that we are not attempting to "look like" the original persons portrayed-just to represent them.  So, with minimum staging, and in modern dress, we suggest our history.

The intention is to focus on the importance of each member of this church both past and present.  For only as all have worked harmoniously for the glory of God do we have reason to celebrate this occasion.

Lexington Avenue Baptist Church

Fifty Years - 1927-1977

Music:  How Firm a Foundation (1 stanza)

On a bitter cold Wednesday evening, December 7, 1927, 127 Baptists met at the Boyle County Courthouse.  The group had met before for several weeks in homes throughout the community.  Most of them were from First Baptist Church.  In prayer groups they had sought God's guidance as they formulated their beliefs and sought God's direction for their future.  The time was ripe.  They would organize a new church.

Speakers:  (in unison) We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk

together in Christian love;

1. to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, power,

    and comfort;

2. to promote its prosperity and spirituality;

3. to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines;

4. to contribute to the support of the ministry and the spread of the gospel through all nations;

5. to seek always the salvation of the lost;

6. to watch over one another in brotherly love.

Ten previously ordained deacons were in this group.  Other church officers were elected.  They left the courthouse that night with no pastor, no name, very little money; but a great deal of determination and faith.  They were ready to work.  They went to their homes filled with joy in the assurance that God's will had been done - they had organized a new church!  

The following Sunday, meeting again at the Boyle County Courthouse, the Sunday School was organized with a membership of 127.  Also on this Sunday, December 11, 1927, at the morning worship hour, the first profession of faith was made within the newly organized church.  Ruth Rogers, a young lady later to become Mrs. Breeding, professed Christ as her personal Savior.  This was a heartwarming, encouraging experience for the infant church.

Two months after the original organizational meeting, a unanimous pastoral call was extended to a young graduate of Southern Baptist theological Seminary in Louisville - Casper C. Warren.

Dr Warren:  I was born........... from Louisville it took 4 hours.

Thus a slender young man with strength of purpose in the set of his jaw, and the love of Christ in his face, came to a congregation with no real name - referred to only as the "Courthouse Baptists", and with no house to dwell in.

C.C. Warren worked hard with the new congregation and lost no time in his effort to fire his people with zeal for a new church home.  Within thirty days a building lot was secured at the corner of Third and Lexington Street.  Three months later this lot was sold and the present site at Fourth and Lexington Street was purchased.  Dr. Warren served as general chairman of the building committee and soon it was time for groundbreaking.

A huge tree stump was on the lot where the new building was to be built.  On an appointed afternoon practically every church member gathered to have a part in the removal of the stump.  All who could held onto the rope and with a great tug pulled the stump from its place. 

Fund-raising for the construction was no easy task.  Every member gave deeply of himself and his means to meet the need.  The ladies quilted and baked and served meals - and gave the money to the building fund.

The day arrived when construction had reached the point for the placing of the cornerstone, May 19, 1929.

Despite inclement weather about 600 people were present for the laying of the cornerstone.  It was an impressive service held on the Fourth Street side of the church under construction.  Pastor Warren, the deacons, and ministers from the other churches in the area were on a platform.  All sang...

Choir:  (The Church's One Foundation)

Dr. Warren:  If in the goodness......... history of the church at this time.

(Mrs. Gilbert White to platform)

Mrs. Emma Terhune placed the first item in the cornerstone box.  She was the oldest member of the church and had been a Christian more than 63 years.  For thirteen years she had perfect attendance in Sunday School.  She brought a Bible that had been presented to her mother 80 years before.

Other items included a roll of charter members and of the present membership - now 526 - in addition, Southern Baptist convention minutes of the year were placed in the stone, as well as American and foreign coins indicating the desire that this church shall ever remain worldwide in missionary outlook.

With fitting ceremony the cornerstone was put in place and sealed.

Choir:  (Rock of Ages)

The financial crash of 1929 hit right in the midst of the building program.  Finances were mandatory to complete the structure.  Some were skeptical but all were willing to dig deeper.  The building was completed.

On January 12, 1930, the "Courthouse Baptists" met at the courthouse for the last time.  After prayer and appropriate remarks, the members walked in double file from the courthouse to the new building.

Organ:  (Onward Christian Soldiers)

The "Courthouse Baptists" had a new home and a new name - "Lexington Avenue Baptists".

Even in the beginning and despite trying times, the church was concerned for others.  Lexington Avenue established mission points in five areas near Danville.  Two of them are now full-fledged churches.

Dr. Elwyn N. Wilkinson accepted Lexington Avenue's call and in 1938 became the second pastor.

He was a man of abounding energy.  Under his leadership the Sunday School made great strides.  An average attendance of 500 was reached.  On at least one Sunday 1000 persons were in Sunday School.

During his ministry a beautiful addition was made to the church in the form of a gift from Mr. & Mrs. John A. Chestnut:  chimes.  The chimes were dedicated in special recital and for years were played daily. 

Music: (Chimes)

Dr. Wilkinson:  One of the great joys............ plunged into war.

Ironically the founding date of this church, December 7, 1927, coincided with the date that the United States was involved in World War II, December 7, 1941.  Our church was fourteen years old.

In the decade of the forties Lexington Avenue sent out generously of her sons.  The roster listed over 140.

They crossed the Atlantic, the English Channel, the Rhine.  They walked on European soil.  They flew their powerful aircraft - the P-38, theB-17.  They boarded naval vessels and left San Francisco and San Diego for vast waters of the Pacific and the island stepping-stones to Japan.And the hearts and prayers of this congregation were bulwarks on their behalf.

On October 1, 1944, Dr. Ralph R. Couey assumed the pastorate of Lexington Avenue.  He was a man of deep religious convictions and scholarly sermons.  Prayer meeting was emphasized.

Dr. Couey:  We cannot have a great church without a great prayer meeting.

A nursery was added to the church facilities.  A full graded choir program was organized.  Returning servicemen were honored.  The rotating system for deacons was initiated.  An active Boy Scout troop was sponsored and the entire building was redecorated.

The 25th anniversary of the church was celebrated.

A native of Frankfort, Kentucky became the fourth pastor of Lexington Avenue on February 28, 1954.

Dr. Elroy Lamb was a graduate of Baylor University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He served as senior chaplain in the United States navy during the Korean Conflict and came here from that assignment. 

Youth activities were stressed.  YWA Focus Week was observed, Vacation Bible School was emphasized, both Junior and Intermediate Royal Ambassadors won in the RA Basketball Tournament.

Among others, Dr. Duke McCall, president of Southern Seminary was a guest speaker.

The parsonage on Pleasantwood became the pastor's home.

Richard Lin was minister of music.

On Sunday, February 2, 1964, Lexington Avenue conducted the installation service for her 5th pastor - William Austin Roberts.  He came with degrees from Eastern Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Georgetown College, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The experience of four previous pastorates was his.  At Williamstown, KY, where he met Eloise Bennet one rainy evening when both sought shelter from the weather on the church porch; Midway, Cynthiana, and eleven years in Aiken, South Carolina.

They brought with them three sons - James, William, and John.

The largest single property addition since the original purchase came during his ministry.  In August, 1969, the educational building was dedicated.  Extensive interior improvements were made in the original building.  Parking facilities were greatly extended.  The nation's bicentennial was celebrated.

His speech still touched by his Virginia heritage, he belongs not just to Lexington Avenue, but is a citizen of the entire community.  Like John Wesley, he preaches one sermon on hell and 40,000 on love.  He brings us a message of Christ's love and caring for people.  He is his own sermon, for he lives and moves among us with warmth and love and deep caring.  Our spirits are renewed by his presence, his word, his prayer.

The various organizations of the church have played significant roles in its development.  A brief look at one of these cannot go unnoticed.

The Women's Missionary Union.

(Scene:  women w/globe)

Interestingly enough, the Women's Missionary Society of this church actually predates the church organization.  It was organized October 24, 1927, with 24 ladies meeting at the home of Mrs. Robert L. Arnold, at 324 W. Broadway.  Mrs. Effie Drake was elected president.

Through the years this group has made tremendous contribution, touching many persons at home and on foreign fields.  At on time all the young people's organizations were sponsored by the WMU.  They promoted the missions offering to state, home, and foreign missions.

In 1931 this group gave to the church the pipe organ.

The walls of this building have sheltered all those traditional, yet so personal, things that churches house.

Weekly worship services that stabilize our lives--

The wonderful worships in music at Easter and Christmas--

Family fellowship--

Marie Crain represents one of many families who have had close ties with this church.

Marie Crain:  The following scenes are close to each of us.

The holy ordinance of baptism.

(This do in remembrance of me.)

One of the first gifts to the new church was the communion set.  The Missionary Class of the Sunday School presented it.  This communion service is still used.

Comfort in sorrow.

Organ:  (Safe in the Arms of Jesus)

The holy bonds of matrimony.

This altar, the pastor's study, and the church parlor, have been the scenes of many weddings.  Mr. & Mrs. Roy Bryant, who are still members, were the first to marry in Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, on April 2, 1931, in the pastor's study.

The participants in this scene add interest to our history.  Alice Acton and Linsey Ingram are the couple.  Alice's mother and father, Nevelyn Parks, and Herbert Acton, were married at this altar in 1936, in the first formal wedding in the church.  Alice is wearing her mother's wedding dress.  Alice and Linsey were married here in 1964.  Many homes have started at this altar.

Babies and parents take part in a service placing emphasis on the Christian home.

The history of Lexington Avenue Baptist Church can never be totally told, for much that has made her has never been spoken aloudThousands of personal prayers have undergirded her; there have been fears, perhaps doubtsyet the evidence of faith and hard work have been known, felt and seen.

We have been kept in God's love.

We ask now that all the charter members will come to the front.  These are our beloved ones who have known Lexington Avenue all along the way.  You have nurtured her and loved her.  You have helped make her under God, the respected institution she is.  God bless you, every one.

We request our beloved pastor, William Austin Roberts, to come now to the podium.  Eloise, will you accompany him, please?

Past and present do not make the complete picture, for future is vastly important, too.  As Dr. and Mrs. Roberts represent the link between past and future, we want the children to come to the podium.  (Pause) In the year 2027, when Lexington Avenue celebrates 100 years, these are the ones who will tell of her history to their children.  Keep her great, our children.  Guide her destiny.

We celebrate a proud heritage.  We pray that the firm foundation laid in the leadership of five noble pastors and by each member through the years will secure her future.

Fifty years kept in His loveto God be the glory!

Congregation:  O God, Our Help in Ages Past (1st Stanza)

This concludes our program.