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St. Frederick Baptist Church Celebrates 125 Years

Bessie Jackson, a 38-year member of St. Frederick Baptist Church, holds a history book in her hands and stands near the paper tree in the sanctuary featuring photos of past and present church members to commemorate the 125th anniversary of St. Frederick's. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Years ago, St. Frederick Baptist Church of Marble Falls invited the community for a meal, and organizers were worried about the amount of food needed.

One of those in charge, former resident Beaver Furley, looked at the number of hungry people in line and the quantity of food remaining, which wasn’t going to last. He found St. Frederick member Jenella Pimpleton to ask if there was more food tucked away somewhere. Pimpleton told him there wasn’t any in reserve but kept reassuring him that “the Lord will provide.”

Furley decided to address the need himself. He drove to the old Lakeline Mall to purchase chickens and brought them back to the church.

As he was unloading and volunteers began dishing out the meal, Pimpleton reminded him of what she said.

“Told you the Lord would provide,” she said. “I just didn’t think He would provide you.”

Bessie Jackson, a 38-year member of the congregation, joyfully laughed as she recalled that story, which symbolizes how St. Frederick’s has approached its ministry in the Highland Lakes for the past 125 years: seeing the needs and setting out to address them with faith that God will provide the rest.

To help celebrate its 125-year anniversary, the Rev. George Perry, who said he considers it an honor to pastor this church, asked several longtime members who also are friends of the founding members to deliver sermons and messages each Sunday through November.

On Nov. 18, the Rev. David Dukes will speak at the 11 a.m. service followed by Papa John Johnson at 3:30 p.m.

On Nov. 25, the Rev. James Washington will take the pulpit followed by the Rev. Winfred Taylor at 3 p.m.

The church has also posted its history on its walls. In the sanctuary, church members created a paper tree and placed photos of church members, both past and present, as its leaves.

“Look at the integration on this wall,” Jackson said. “People here come to join the church because of the fellowship. They say they’re not accepted at other churches. When the Lord said, ‘Let them come in,’ He meant all of them.”

As people walk from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall, they see articles, obituaries, marriage certificates, and programs marking milestones in church members’ lives.

The reason is to educate, especially younger church members, on St. Frederick’s history and the people who are part of that history.

The church has had 14 pastors in 125 years. The longest-serving was a "Mr. Williams" from 1949-69, when the congregation met on the first and third Sundays of the month.

Church members started meeting for services near what is now J.M. Huber Corp. on Avenue N. From there, they gathered for two years at the Methodist church on U.S. 281 where First United Bank now stands before settling into their current location at 301 Avenue N.

Jackson summarized being a member of St. Frederick’s in one word: freedom.

“You go to different churches, you feel out of place,” she said. “Black people are notoriously excitable (during services). You raise your hand and praise the Lord. You dialect with the pastor. It’s spiritual freedom.”

St. Frederick offers more than worship services. It provides meals for people who are hungry, no questions asked, and prepares the Saturday lunches for Meals on Wheels. It has a food pantry that’s open to anyone who can’t afford groceries. It celebrates Juneteenth on June 19, the day the announcement of the abolition of slavery in this country reached Texas, with a giant gathering complete with a meal. It opens its doors for a free community Thanksgiving feast every year. This year’s holiday meal is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 22.

Both Jackson and Perry said the biggest challenge to their “let them come in” mission is recent tragic events: Gunmen going into churches with the intention of killing their members. That happened at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and, most recently, a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Jackson said when she sees someone attend a church service she doesn’t know, her mind starts going to places it shouldn’t. And she realizes what’s happening.

“The devil is trying to get me to dissect that person,” she said.

Instead, she recalls a group of motorcyclists who didn’t dress like St. Frederick members but only wanted a place to worship. Those motorcyclists found kindred spirits with church members. Soon, they became family, Jackson added.

“I love the congregation we have,” Perry said.

Jackson said the mission of St. Frederick is to help those in need spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

“When we cease to do that, we’ll cease to exist,” she said. “We are a caring church. God has called and anointed for this church to be here to do what it does.”

If community members have articles or stories related to the church that they’d like to share with St. Frederick, contact the church office at stfrederick@yahoo.com or (830) 693-4499.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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