BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a time for celebration at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church as it commemorated its 100th anniversary Sunday.
"I'm thankful just to think about what God has done and is doing for us as a church," Pastor Kenneth Hollins said.
For 100 years, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church has stood as a pillar of strength in East Biloxi. It's the third oldest historically black church in that community.
"We have family members that are about five or six generations, and we have been a beacon in the city of Biloxi," church member Ethel Rayne Clay said.
Clay has been a member of New Bethel for 67 years. She was born while the church's second and longest serving pastor, E.H. Potter, was pastoring the church. He served for more than 50 years.
"He always used to tell me, 'I knew you before you knew yourself,'" Clay remembered.
Even during the more turbulent times of the past century, the church remained a solid rock upon which the community stood.
"During the civil rights struggle, this church was used to hold meetings so our citizens could gather ideas and talk about what they should do to take care of the problems that were present," Hollins said.
Like other churches, Hurricane Katrina dealt New Bethel a devastating blow. But, the church has made it through the hardships of Katrina and has continued to thrive.
Pastor Kenneth Hollins said the church is already on track with a plan and purpose for the next 100 years.
"The main focus of our church should be to serve God by serving one another. I don't think any of us will make it to the next 100, but as we move in that direction, that will certainly be our focus to reach the world for Christ."
The church is located at 255 Main Street in Biloxi.