‘The good Lord has blessed me’
LaGRANGE — When Alice Worley celebrates Shoal Creek Baptist Church’s 75th anniversary on Sunday at 1032 Youngs Mill Road, she will hold a distinct honor within the 300 member congregation.
Worley is the only surviving charter member of the church, which was started under an old oak tree on June 6, 1941.
Her father, the Rev. O.C. Reason Sr., was elected as the church’s first pastor that same night.
Shoal Creek Baptist, named after the small tributary less than a mile up the road, was formed from members of the Dunson Mills Church that lived in the Youngs Mill Road area.
There was no building at first, remembered Worley. Members took turns meeting in each other’s homes. Then the family who owned land where the big oak tree stood donated land to the church.
“Church members immediately started getting money together and that building came together fast,” Worley said. “As soon as the walls started to come in, we’d start meeting in there, though you could still see through the rafters.”
Her parents purchased a home on the land next to the church where Worley and her siblings grew up. Eventually, through the years as the church grew, a new sanctuary was constructed and the old building was torn down. Worley believes the current chapel was built where her parents’ house once stood.
She has many fond memories of Shoal Creek Baptist Church, but probably one of her happiest recollections was during a Sunday school class in 1950.
“I met the love of my life in that church,” Worley said with a smile on her face. “They started us a little class and Horace was in there. We got to know each other, and that was it. We’ve had a great life together. We’ve been very blessed.”
The couple was married and raised four children in Shoal Creek Baptist Church. They celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary on May 19.
Worley and her family have a long legacy within the church’s four walls. Her brother, O.C. Reason Jr., was also pastor there from 1977 to 1980.
Worley also has a talent she has shared with the church since she was 14 years old.
“As long as there has been an instrument in the building, this lady has been the instrumentalist,” said Michelle Nation, friend and church member. “She started playing the piano; now she plays the organ.”
Worley said she remembered watching her mother play “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” on an organ when she was a young girl.
Though her family was poor, they did scrape together 50 cents for Worley to take piano lessons.
She became the main pianist. Later, the church purchased an organ. Worley never took any lessons on the instrument, she said.
“I just had to start punching buttons and see what would happen,” she said with a smile.
She has seen a lot of changes throughout her years at Shoal Creek Baptist Church. New music, new faces and new traditions gradually became part of the congregation. Some take longer getting used to than others, Worley said.
“When I was brought up in the church, when you walked through the door you were reverent in prayer, not laughing or talking,” she remembered. “But now I’m the one hugging, kissing and greeting people when they walk in the door. I had to learn it is not all about me … it is working together for the praise of the Lord.”
On Sunday the congregation, led by current pastor Anthony Hovey, will commemorate Shoal Creek Baptist Church’s 75th anniversary with a homecoming celebration. There will be a special service starting at 10:30 a.m., followed by a covered luncheon. It is free and open to the public.
It will be a day to honor God and the forefathers of their church, plus the legacy they left behind, said Worley.
“It’s awesome that I’m still here. The good Lord has blessed me so well,” she said. “I enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t still be there.”