LOCKHART — One church in Lockhart has a lot to celebrate this Sunday.
Lockhart Church of God will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Sunday with an anniversary/homecoming service beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The theme of Sunday’s service will be “A New Season for Such a Time as This.”
The service will include guest speakers such as professor/historian/librarian/author Dr. Louis Morgan, who will share the history of the church through research he has completed. Morgan is a professor at Lee University in Cleveland, TN, and is the author of “Streams of Living Water: 100 Years of the Church of God in Mississippi.”
Another guest speaker — Eddie Allen — will address the theme of the day and lead in a dedication of work accomplished. Allen is the State Church Ministries Director for the Church of God in South Carolina.
The Rev. Allen McKee — the current pastor of Lockhart Church of God — will lead a slide show during Sunday’s service, discussing how far he has seen the church come in the two years he has been pastor.
“We’re celebrating the things the Lord has blessed us with,” McKee said.
McKee became the church’s pastor in April 2010, and he described the changes he has seen take place since then.
First, the average attendance at the church has quadrupled since April 2010, going from an average of eight to 15 and now, around 30.
McKee and his wife, Vickie, live 65 miles away in Mauldin, as they are bi-vocational, with the Rev. McKee working at Coca Cola and Vickie working at Nason Way Accounting. McKee addressed having two vocations.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge in that sense, but because of that, they don’t have to pay me a full salary at the moment,” he said, pointing out that the church cannot afford to pay someone on a full-time basis right now. “It has allowed us to put monies back in the church. It’s my vision — my prayer — to eventually become full time.”
McKee has numerous goals for the church, many of which are in progress or have already been accomplished through ongoing renovations. Those renovations are many and major.
- Steps were fixed and a walkway between the two church buildings was installed to protect church members from dangerous, rough terrain.
- A problem in the church building foundation was fixed, costing the church $9,000.
- The heating and air in the main auditorium was fixed, along with return vents and duct work underneath the building.
- New columns and shrubbery were added in front of the church.
- Church bathrooms, foyer and nursery were all refurbished — including installation of ceramic tile — in January.
- The sanctuary was painted, and the pews were covered.
- A video screen to be used during worship was installed, along with two crosses on either side of it and a sound table.
- The ceiling in the fellowship hall was replaced and the outside of the building was painted.
- A window was removed in the front of the church to make way for the installation of a handicap-accessible door.
- Signs by the road giving directions to the church were refurbished.
- Two window unit air conditioners were installed and new tables and chairs were purchased.
- Gutters were installed on the back of the building.
- The front porch, caps and steps were covered in epoxy stone.
In addition, two lights were added to the outside of the church and put on a timer, running from 8 p.m.-midnight.
“I want us to be a lighthouse in the community of Lockhart,” McKee said. “We feel that it’s the Lord’s house, and the Lord’s house needs to be presentable.”
McKee said future renovations may include paving the parking lot and repairs to some of the windows.
One reason McKee said these changes have been phenomenal is that they were paid for without the small church going into debt.
“It’s a miracle,” he said. “It’s phenomenal for us not to be in debt.”
McKee said the money for these projects came without solicitation.
Church members have broken four tithing records in the past two years. Donations have also come from outside the church. Shortly after the McKees’ arrival in 2010, someone from another community came and donated $1,200. McKee said one gentleman donated a kit car for the church to sell, which brought $3,000 to put toward the renovations. He also said several people made sizeable donations in the $2,000-$3,000 range.
McKee also had a friend who passed away, and after the estate was settled, the church was able to hold a yard sale with items that were left.
“The Lord has sent us money from everywhere and anywhere, really,” McKee said, adding that he has never asked for finances. “Our congregation is faithful to give, and the Lord has blessed their faithfulness. It’s phenomenal. It really is.”
McKee said the renovations have brought a real excitement back into the church after there had been talks of possibly closing the church only a few years ago.
“There is a real interest in the church — and in the community,” McKee said. “People have come by the church to look, saying, ‘Preacher, we’ve noticed things going on here.’ It’s exciting. We’ve had a really good response from people coming by and observing. People are excited about what we’re doing.”
“It has taken us all working together, and we have,” he added. “We are tilling the ground and sowing the seed so to speak. One of the things I preach on is that we’re preparing for the rain. I feel like the Lord is telling us to prepare for his blessing to rain down on the church.”
McKee said he has also been blessed with the opportunity to purchase a parsonage. The parsonage was purchased for $28,000 last July, and close to $18,000 has already been paid — on top of what has been paid for church renovations. McKee said the parsonage was purchased from a family who allowed the church to keep all the furniture in the house, as well as appliances and wall hangings.
“It’s right here at the church, and we will have it paid off in three years or less,” McKee said, pointing out that the balance is now about $9,900.
McKee hopes the newly renovated sanctuary will be full during this Sunday’s celebration/homecoming service. One church member — Frances Adams — has been a member since the church was founded by the founding pastor, Brother Edgars. Adams’ late husband was a clerk of the church at one time, and until the McKees arrived in 2010, Frances taught the sanctuary Sunday School class. When the McKees arrived, Adams asked Vickie to take over the class and she obliged.
Adams’ niece — Libby Bishop — has attended the church her whole life and is a clerk of the church.
Church member Jackie Gaston has been a part of the church since 1964. His wife, Elaine, is the church pianist. Jackie’s parents — Jack and Martha “Mott” Gaston — have been there for most of the church’s existence.
McKee joked that everyone in the church has a nickname, and so far, his is just “Preacher.”
He also said he wants to work hand-in-hand with the other churches in the community as brothers and sisters in Christ. He said that so far, the fellowship with other churches has been positive at community events such as Easter and Christmas parades and celebrations and he looks forward to strengthening those relationships.
For more information about Lockhart Church of God, call (864) 441-9099 or “like” it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lockhartchurchofgod.