WINGATE – One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a new church was formed in Runnels County by about a dozen devoted parishioners.

WINGATE – One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a new church was formed in Runnels County by about a dozen devoted parishioners.

The third Sunday in March, 1892, was a special day in the history of the Wingate Baptist Church. It would be formed in a small school house that now serves as the Wingate Masonic Lodge building.

On Sunday, March 19, the congregation will celebrate this milestone anniversary at the church, located in the small community of Wingate, about 13 Miles northwest of Winters on Highway 53.

Pastor Price Mathieson and his wife Mary along with Deacon Suvern O’Dell, will welcome a slate of guests to the celebration including keynote speaker David Hardage, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Hardage describes himself as a “Texas Baptist, raised in a Texas Baptist home by a Texas Baptist pastor.”

Approximately 200 guests are expected to attend the day-long celebration which will begin at 10 a.m. The music will be provided by Bill and Ruth Jones of First Baptist Church in Merkel and a barbecue meal will be provided by Hollis Dean with sides provided by the church.

There will also be testimonials from long-time members of the church and the longest standing members will also be recognized.

On March 20, 1892, the Wingate Missionary Baptist Church was organized by Elder J.W. George and included charter members Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Millerman, William and Eugenia King, A.P. and J.W. Gannaway, M.E. and C.C. Gannaway, Belle Gannaway, J.H. Webb and D.D. Adams, according to “Walking in Christian Love: The History of the Wingate Baptist Church,” by B.J. Fisher.

From there the church and its membership would grow and in August of 1901, the most successful revival up to that point was held. The revival was held under a brush arbor. The first Sunday school was organized in 1903 and J.F. Parker was elected superintendent.

The church home was built in 1909 to be modeled after the Methodist Church in Pumphrey. The Runnels Association held its annual meeting in August followed by a revival.

The church was dedicated in May of 1910 and would later feature a tabernacle, which had no walls and a dirt floor.

The old church building would stand for more than 40 years, with its members enduring two world wars and returning home. Finally in 1960 it was agreed that a new church would be built.

O’Dell, who has been a member of the church since 1953, helped draw up the plans for the new church. Lumber from the old church was used to build the new church, O’Dell explained. However, the bell that had stood in the tower of the old church, would prove to be too heavy to place in the new church, so, it was placed outside, where it sits today. O’Dell, who is 87, rings the bell each Sunday.

“When it rings, church commences,” O’Dell said.

An education building was also built which housed the classrooms for Sunday school. Renovations were made in the1980s.

There have been 43 pastors of the church since its inception. Pastor Charles Myers was with the church the longest from 1957 until 2000. Kenneth Jones took over as pastor from 2000-2011 followed by Mathieson, in 2012. The last three pastors of the church, were all connected to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene. Mathieson, retired from Hendrick in 2012 after serving as chaplain for 30 years.

“The pastoral link to Hendrick totals more than 70 years,” Mathieson said adding Jones and Myers also served as chaplains.

Sadly, none of the former pastors are alive today, and Mathieson will be the only one to represent the dedication of the clergy to the church.

“I wish all of them could come back,” O’Dell said.

Church elders and leaders invite everyone to come enjoy the fellowship and the celebration of 125 years of devoted service by the members and pastors and deacons of the church.