GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Members of First Missionary Baptist Church Handsboro worshiped Sunday morning in celebration of the church’s 158th anniversary.
“Very excited about celebrating this 158th anniversary for First Missionary, which makes us, if I’m not mistaking the second oldest church in Gulfport. Ever so grateful to be a part of this momentous occasion," said the Rev. S. V. Adolph, Jr., the church pastor.
The history of First Missionary goes as far back as to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The church was founded in the early 1860s when a group began worshiping together near the Bayou Benard. It moved to its current location in Gulfport’s Handsboro community in 1877.
All of that time gives First Missionary quite a story to tell. The church building was destroyed twice by fire and later heavily damaged by Hurricane Camille.
Catherine Miles, who was born and raised in the church, knows most of its story well. She recalls how they helped others during Hurricane Katrina.
“The fire department brought over. The fire department is just west of here, about half a block. And they went and got other people and brought them here to the church because their area had flooded," she said.
Adolph said community outreach is a huge part of the church mission. Health and education ministries, as well as financial classes, are just a few of the ways they aim to serve outside of church walls.
“We actually seek to be a service station and not just a social club, and so we believe that its ours to minister to the entirety of one’s human experience," he said.
Through that, its no surprise that this church has become a pillar of the community.
“I can’t find any place that I’d rather be than here at First Missionary Baptist Church," said member Yolanda Wallace.