Louisville—On Saturday, July 31, many churches throughout Long Run Association gathered at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville to celebrate its 29 active “daughter churches.”
“I pray our celebration of history today will remind us of our responsibility tomorrow. Because Walnut Street and you, daughter churches … God is not done sending,” said Rusty Ellison, former pastor of Walnut Street.
Churches represented at the event included Middletown First, Ormsby Heights, Green Street, St. Matthews, Living Hope, Kenwood, Meadow Hills, Antioch, Highland, Eastpoint Community, Chinese Walnut Street, Parkland, Hurstbourne, Walnut Ridge, Walnut Grove and Deer Park.
Other churches not represented included Fifth Street, Broadway, Grace Community and a host of others.
Theme of Saturday’s special service, introduced by Director of Missions Wesley Pitts, was “Back to Bethel,” taken from Genesis 35:1-6.
The service started with selections from Albin Whitworth, pianist and organist at Walnut Street for 17 years and now minister of music and worship/organist at Deer Park.
“Nowhere in my church experience had I ever encountered anything like Walnut Street,” Jim Cobban, pastor of Middletown First and former 17-year staff member at Walnut Street, said in an address titled, “An apple lying close to the tree: A love letter from the pastor of a daughter church.”
He joined Walnut Street after moving to Louisville to attend Southern Seminary in 1981 and a year later was hired.
“I had never worshiped in a church in the city’s center. I had never attended a church where governors and bag ladies shared a pew,” he continued. “This was a new experience, and I fell in love.
“I have tried my best to carry some of the priorities from Walnut Street at 3rd and St. Catherine to Main Street in Middletown,” Cobban said.
“First, I learned from Walnut Street the importance of partnerships. Second, I learned that a church’s strength must be shared. Third, Walnut Street embraced the concept I call ‘risky creativity.’ First Baptist has tried to embrace that same ethic,” he shared.
A 100-voice choir was led by Gene Sutherland, retired minister of music at Walnut Street and current interim minister of music at Living Hope Church. Additional special music was provided by the Green Street Mass Choir and Christi Cobban.
“Remembering our history and embracing our destiny,” was the theme of a message by Robert Smith, professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School.
“We are here because someone else has paved the way,” Smith reminded those attending. “Don’t just remember your history and be complacent with it.”
Walnut Street is the product of the merging of Louisville’s First Church, founded in 1815, and Second Church, founded in 1838.
The event was part of Walnut Street’s 200th anniversary celebration, “Living the Legacy.” In addition, the church hosted a block party in April and is having a homecoming celebration on Oct. 18. (WR)