Whitesville—A church that typically may have 25 in attendance on a Sunday morning estimates having around 200 celebrating its 200th anniversary on the weekend of May 15-17.
Old Panther Creek Baptist Church in Whitesville (Daviess County), a town boasting a population of 600, was established in 1815 by Benjamin Kelley, an elder in the church.
“When he was a kid, he actually ran with Daniel Boone and was captured by the Indians and had to escape,” according to Mark Adkins, pastor of Old Panther Creek for the last nine years, who shared the story with Nexstar Broadcasting.
“The first pastor of the church, Ansel Hall, lived 15 miles from the church back in 1815,” Adkins said. “He actually had to walk a two-day circuit to get to church on Sunday, and he did that faithfully for 25 years.
“I think that is an incredible story of him being faithful to the church and faithful to the community,” he added. “I think it set the tone for everything that has happened since then.”
Velva Baker, the church’s oldest member, started attending Old Panther Creek when it just had one room.
Baker told Nexstar, “It’s just been a great church, and I’ve had a great life coming to this church.”
Her daughter, Deloris Kindred who also spoke with Nexstar, claimed the reason for the church’s longevity is “no secret.”
“No matter what went on in your life, they (members) were there to love and support you,” she said.
Pastor Adkins added, “I remember the very first Sunday that I came to the church back in 2005, I was doing pulpit supply. One of the elders of the church said, ‘When you come to Old Panther, you’re not a visitor, you’re family.’
“That has always been true since I have been at the church,” he continued. “We don’t know a stranger. We believe anybody who comes through those doors is here by the invitation of God. We’re glad to fellowship with them, and we treat them like family.”
The homecoming festivities lasted three days and included a revival preached by Roy Finley and Jeff Draper, both of whom grew up at Old Panther Creek. Several gospel groups provided music throughout the weekend, including the Glory Bound Singers, Strings and Ivory, E2 and John Barry.
Adkins told Wave3 News that although the church has shrunk in numbers over the years, the member’s faith is still going strong.
“Really for me as a pastor, my goal and my vision is just to help the members of the church see that they do have talents and they do have gifts, and though we’re a small church, God can use us in a powerful way,” he concluded. (WR)