For many who grew up in the southern portion of Hardin County, First Baptist Church of Sonora was where they were baptized, exchanged wedding vows and worshiped every Sunday.
This Sunday, the church is celebrating its sesquicentennial, honoring the spiritual needs met by the church in the last 150 years.
To commemorate the anniversary, previous church pastors and staff members have been invited and several musicians and vocalists from the church will perform. Some elderly members of the congregation will bring recordings of them performing when they were younger to the service as well.
The event also includes a lunch at the church’s Missions Resource Center, where gospel group The Revelators will perform. The service begins at 10:30 a.m. in the church’s sanctuary and the event is free and open to the public.
J.R. Cardin, 67, has been attending the church his entire life. He recalls sitting in the church pews before the facility acquired air conditioning, the congregation fanning their faces while a breeze blew in from the open windows.
Cardin said there has been a strong generational lineage in First Baptist Church of Sonora attendance for many families in the congregation, including his own.
“We were married in this church, we saw our children accept Christ in this church and now you see the grandchildren coming along,” he said. “You see that over and over again with the families that have been members of this church for a long time.”
First Baptist Church of Sonora formed in 1869 with 10 charter members. The first church building was completed in 1871. Although the church had less than 50 members by 1871, the building had a seating capacity of 275.
“They had a vision,” Cardin said.
The original building burned down in 1934, losing many records of its early history. The current sanctuary was built in 1935 and dedicated in 1938. An education center was added in 1955.
The church acquired the former Sonora School in the mid-2000s. Referring to the facility as the Missions Resource Center, the church makes use of the facility’s gymnasium and cafeteria. Weekday services and several youth activities take place in the building.
The church’s current pastor is Tony Carson, who has been with the congregation for close to a decade. Pastor tenure has greatly varied at the church with some ministers staying for decades and others staying for only two or three years, Cardin said.
Although there are a great deal of traditional ties to the church’s membership, Cardin said the church has seen a recent influx of members. He said younger individuals and families have joined the congregation in recent years.
“We have as young of a church membership as we have had in quite some time,” he said.
Cardin said some recent changes to the church have been the integration of praise music as opposed to strictly traditional hymns and the use of social media as an outreach and to keep church members informed.
Despite these changes, Cardin said the church continually has focused on the Sonora community and has remained faithful to Bible teachings. Cardin said its core principles have helped it remain strong throughout the last 150 years.
“We think about the Civil War as ancient history but four years after that, this church was established and it’s still going today,” he said. “You can’t imagine how many lives this church has touched over the years.”