By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — During the summer of 1932, several members of Franklin Baptist Church visited with a man who preferred making whiskey over attending church. He told the congregation he didn’t have a Sunday shirt to wear, so he never attended services.
Feeling this wasn’t a good enough excuse, then minister Bro. Joseph C. Flynt pulled his own shirt off and gave it to the man. Church history books report that the man started coming to church.
During that same time, members still relied on wagons as their main mode of transportation. One evening while members were enjoying a church revival, their children slept in pallets on the wagons.
As a prank, church lore tells us, the older boys of the congregation switched the children around. In the darkness, the parents didn’t realize they had the wrong children until they reached their homes. It was reported that it was 11 the next morning before all the children were happily reunited with the right set of parents.
It’s obvious that members of Franklin Baptist Church appreciate the history that surrounds their place of worship. Over the years, members have, in great detail, chronicled the church’s history. That’s 115 years of pastors leaving and new pastors filling their place at the pulpit, new hymnals, new carpet and even new bathrooms.
And, on Sunday, the church will have another notch in its history book as the church will host a homecoming celebration to celebrate those 115 years.
The morning will start off with Sunday school at 9 and worship at 10:50. A luncheon will be served at noon.
“We felt like this was an important Sunday because we are getting ready to build a new building in a few months and there are people who have moved off and we want them to have one more shot at worshiping in this building,” Pastor Brent Parsons said.
The church plans to completely demolish its current place of worship and rebuild on the same site. In 2012, the church bought two prefab buildings that had been used by the Oklahoma City Public Schools system that will now be used by the church until the construction project is completed in 2014.
At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, as part of the church’s homecoming celebration, a prayer and praise service will be hosted in the temporary worship buildings.
“That’s part of what will happen Sunday is we’ll start in here and have lunch, and then we will take people to let them see where we are going to be meeting through construction time,” said Parsons, who has been with the church since September 2011.
Church members have raised more than $100,000 in pledges and cash and have secured a loan for the remainder of the project. Total cost of the project is $450,000, Parsons said.
“We’ve had some good growth, but we are sort of maxed out on what we can do here. This sanctuary really only seats about 60 and we’ve had more than that several times and it gets crowded,” he said.
The new church, which will be 6,000 square feet, will double everything the church currently has.
“The sanctuary will seat about 100. We will have a Sunday school room and a fellowship hall (where) we can all meet,” Parsons said.
Parsons expects to break ground on the project in October.
The church, 7327 E. Franklin Road, has been a staple in the community. That’s a tradition Parsons wants to keep alive.
“I believe this church has enormous potential. It’s out here in a rural community but close to all the highways and development all around us. I think with a great foundation of 100 years, its got a super future,” Parsons said. “We’re committed to being Franklin Baptist Church, we just need room to reach the new Franklin.”
Sunday also will allow members to share their memories of the church, and Worship Pastor Ron Newville has plenty of his own memories of Franklin Baptist Church.
“I’ve been here for about 30 years. My boys grew up here. It’s just a good place to come to worship the Lord. Basically, everyone in the church gives everyone a hug or a handshake,” Newville said. “That, to me, is what has made it successful. When you come into the door, probably about 10 people are there to greet you.”
Newville said he enjoys the church because of the love for one another that members give.
“When I first came here, it was because it was a local church. It was one of those things where you start to love it. You just like the people, they’re family. We take care of one another. That’s what keeps me here. And I think the Lord thinks this is where I need to stay,” said Newville, who has been worship minister at the church for 15 years.
For Parsons, ministering at Franklin Baptist Church is a calling for him and his family.
“We feel like God is doing something unique in this community and this congregation, and we want to be a part of it,” Parsons said. “There are a lot of connections out here, but everyone makes a friend. You really do know the people you are worshiping with.
“To me, the size is not the issue, as long as the place is growing. The heart of this group is the same as the heart of any group meeting anywhere. Some people are fearful of a church this old, thinking it’s locked in, but the church has been real receptive to new people and new ideas.
“I think people have an opportunity now to get in on a new beginning of another 100 years. We don’t want to discredit our past; we’re also not locked in to just us.”