The church started in 1964 when racial integration was a challenge in the South. Vernon Hargrove was their first pastor. Many pastors came and went in the 50 years, but the Church continued on. There were more than 50 in attendance on this special Sabbath. Jim and Gayle Wilkins now pastor a handful compared to the numbers that once were.
Stan Martin started the service by reminiscing about the years he was in New Orleans; he recounted some of his awkward moments when trying to phonetically pronounce the French names for places. In New Orleans, some words have their own tradition. Vernon Hargrove followed with a message about God as a righteous judge, who knows our hearts, and won’t be making any mistakes with His family. There were past references to other ministers such as James Jenkins, whose daughter Juanita and husband were in attendance.
After the service, the meeting hall was turned into a lovely banquet hall. The membership were the caterers with lots of well-presented food and two distinct New Orleans style dishes: jambalaya and pickled okra.
The afternoon was spent reminiscing with laughter and some melancholy. Stories were told about money borrowed to get a car out of impound when a member had illegally parked. One man related his dubious claim to fame as the only spokesman that failed his ice breaker. Holy Day bloopers, such as when word went around that there was bacon in the green beans at a catered meal for 350. Afterward the waiters were overheard comparing notes. One said: “Did you notice the ashtrays are all empty? These people don’t smoke,” and the other replied, “Yes and they don’t eat green beans either.” Also in attendance were two lovely 90-plus-year-old ladies. Both had been a part of the congregation for many years.
As part of the cake-cutting ceremony, Woodie McDuffie presented the following champagne toast.
“This era started with ‘Greetings friends from around the world, this is Herbert Armstrong bringing you the plain truth of the world today and the prophecies of the world tomorrow.’
“Here’s to the blessings we have received in the knowledge and understanding of God’s way of life and the relationships that we have made that will last a lifetime. Lift a glass to 50 years of God’s Church here in New Orleans and the wonderful calling we have received.”
Spirits were high as the members celebrated their golden anniversary. Gold is beautiful, strong and resistant to corrosion. A fitting symbol of years of dedication.