By Neisha Roberts, The Alabama Baptist
In recent days Keith Gambill, pastor of McGehee Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, has heard the phrase, “I’m sorry your church is closing,” many times. But he knows there’s no reason to be sorry. As the church closes its doors at the end of December, “the kingdom of God is being advanced more so than we could do on our own.”
Organized in 1979, McGehee Road Baptist has “always been missions-minded and Kingdom-focused,” said Gambill, who’s served as pastor for just under four years.
For two decades the church thrived in its community, Gambill explained, but about 10 years ago its members began to grow older and the community began to change.
‘Not physically able’
“We have the heart to (reach the community) but we’re not physically able to do it,” Gambill said, noting that the median age of the church’s members is 80.
About two years ago Gambill began to speak with Ken May, who was director of missions of Montgomery Baptist Association at the time. With the help of May, Gambill and church members began to process and pray to “discern the Lord’s will, be that in relocation, merging or dissolving,” Gambill said.
For the Kingdom
“After a lot of prayer we decided to disperse and give our assets to Kingdom work.”
On Sept. 28 church members voted to give the building and campus to Montgomery Association, who in turn is going to carry the mortgage for the church building as it sells it to an African-American church plant in the association, Engaged Christian Church.
Gambill said members and leaders of Engaged Christian Church are excited and “will be able to reach the community where we could not.”
McGehee Road Baptist’s records and files will be handed over to the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission (ABHC), where Pat Musselwhite, administrative assistant, and Lonette Berg, executive director, will place the materials in the Alabama Baptist Historical Collection, housed in the Special Collection Department of Samford University’s library in Birmingham.
“We take care of church materials seriously,” Musselwhite said.
This service of cataloging and archiving the material — something that’s important to McGehee Road Baptist’s charter members as it is with many Baptists as their church closes — is “totally free,” Musselwhite said.
Recognizing the importance
She appreciates when church members and leaders recognize the importance of contacting ABHC when they decide to close.
“It is sad when a church closes and their records are either trashed or wind up in someone’s basement,” she said. “Although the church doors are closing the story of God’s work in that place lives on and should be remembered and accessible to future generations.”
To further assist local ministries and leave even more of a legacy, McGehee Road Baptist is dispersing its $950,000 in assets in several ways through the expertise of The Baptist Foundation of Alabama, Gambill said.
The two houses on the church property will be donated for use in the association’s Samaritan Inn Ministry and other outlets. About $250,000 will be given through the Cooperative Program and to church planting ministries at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, according to Gambill, and other money will be donated to a scholarship fund.
“In the end what I see is God’s will in that the Kingdom is being advanced,” Gambill said. “Even though the church is not here all the assets have gone to expand the Kingdom and that’s really who we are as a church anyway.”
For more information about how to preserve church records, contact ABHC at 205-726-2363.