Cliff Temple celebrates 50 years together

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Pastors have come and gone; charter members have grown older. However, one thing has not changed for members of Cliff Temple Baptist Church &8212; they still are like family to one another.

Today and Sunday, the church will have a 50th anniversary and homecoming celebration, with time to visit, have meals together and worship together.

&8220;The church has grown, but we&8217;re still a small church and like one big family,&8221; said Lola Campbell, one of the charter members.

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Five of the earliest members of the church gathered earlier in the week to talk about the 50 years since the church was organized on March 25, 1956, as a mission church of Calvary Baptist Church.

Mildred White recalled the small band of worshipers gathering in the home of M.A. Goldman and holding Sunday school classes under the oak trees in the front yard.

&8220;We moved here in 1955,&8221; White said, referring to her family&8217;s move to the area. &8220;And we needed the church here.&8221; The church is on property that had belonged to Clifford and Temple families.

In the mid 1950s, more families were beginning to build houses on Spokane Road and on nearby property in the Kingston community where the church stands today.

From the Goldman home, the congregation moved to a small store to worship. By April 1956, the congregation agreed to build a church building; and by the end of May, they had purchased several acres for the new structure.

Doyle Jordan remembers how members met to work on the church. &8220;We got out and started begging and borrowing to get all the materials to build the church,&8221; he said. &8220;Most of the men worked at the paper mill then. We&8217;d come on Saturday to work on the church.&8221;

Myrna French remembers the early days and has good memories of all the years in between. &8220;The church means a lot to me,&8221; she said. &8220;I raised my sons up in it.&8221;

Three of the former pastors will attend the celebration. Each one of the former pastors tells about a distinct time in the life of the church, said Lee Gillespie.

&8220;Every pastor met certain needs,&8221; said Gillespie, who was in college when his parents helped to organize the church 50 years ago. &8220;The Lord used them in special ways.&8221;

By 1962, the congregation was ready to expand and purchased adjoining property to begin an education building. The next year, the new building was dedicated.

Three years later, a remodeling of the sanctuary was completed. Other projects continued through the decades to create the spacious church complex now used by the congregation.

&8220;We&8217;re still working on it,&8221; Campbell said.

A new organ graced the sanctuary in 2003, with a new sound system purchased soon after that.

Still, the people are what make the church, said the Rev. Aaron McGuffee, who has been pastor for the past two and a half years.

He enjoys hearing from the charter members, such as those who gathered to talk about the anniversary.

&8220;Everybody wants young people in the church,&8221; he said. &8220;But without the older members, there would be no leadership, no tithing and no teaching.

&8220;They&8217;re knowledgeable of the Word. They know when something is not right. And they&8217;re the kind of people who call early morning or late evening with words of encouragement.&8221;