A church in Rockingham will celebrate 50 years this weekend with special guests in attendance.
Fifty years ago, Rev. James Stancil White founded Temple Baptist Church. The church has had a few different locations in the past half-century, and today it is located at 165 Airport Road and Rev. Joey Byrd is the present pastor.
White and his wife Johnsie Maness White now live in Clovis, New Mexico, where he served as pastor for 32 years. Both grew up in Rockingham and were married at East Rockingham Baptist Church in 1956.
“My parents worked in the Safie Hill Mill and I was one of eight kids,” said White, who recalls growing up in a Rockingham different from the Rockingham of today. “Things have changed since then. It’s another world.”
When White was a young boy, he delivered the Daily Journal. He grew up and joined the Air Force, was saved in Roswell, New Mexico, and attended Baptist Bible College of Missouri in 1959. He founded Temple Baptist Church in 1962. The first Temple Baptist Church was located in the old Freewill Baptist Church, the second was located by the Rohanen school and the third and final location on Airport Road was purchased in an estate sale with five acres for $25,000.
“Gas was 31 cents and an average new car cost $2,900,” said White.
White and his wife will make their way from New Mexico by car, which White said takes stopping for two nights.
“It’s 1,600 miles. We’ve done it many times,” said White. “We always feel at home in Rockingham and we’ve still got friends there. I’ve preached there several times since we’ve been gone. I know Pastor Byrd; he asked me to come preach. I think the same pianist is there that was there when I founded the church.”
Church members who recall White preaching at the church in the late ’60s may look forward to his sermon on Sunday at 11 a.m., which will be from Isaiah. White said his sermon will include “snapshots of America.”
“Judgements save people,” said White. “People don’t look at what is happening as judgements. We are not as safe as we once were. We say we are a Christian nation. There is a diabolical fight against God. They took prayer out of schools, and now schools are war zones.”
While the church celebrates 50 years of being established, the church community will also celebrate 40 years of the Temple Christian School and 30 years of service to the church by Joey Byrd, current pastor.
According to Joey Byrd’s wife Linda, Joey Byrd first came to the school as a teacher. He became principal of the school in the mid-’80s but felt called to preach. He continued his work in education but began taking classes for his masters in seminary during the summer. Once he was ordained, he left to preach at another church. Temple Baptist Church called him back for a temporary stint, but he stayed on.
“He’s got the heart for the school and the knowledge to run it and a desire to preach,” said Linda Byrd. “Under his leadership we’ve stepped up the academics. We had a lot of kids doing well academically so in the early ’90s he made the decision that our program would be a college prep program. Classes would be geared towards that. The school has really changed direction. From that time on we had traditional classes and degreed teachers. We encourage the students to love the Lord. We really focus on family values and Christian character. Almost all of our kids go on to college. Last year they gave out only two Teaching Fellows scholarships in Richmond County, one of those was given to a Temple student.”
Linda Byrd said she has been teaching at the school for 25 years and is beginning to teach the children of former students. She was proud to share that Emily Tucker, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, is a former Temple Christian School student.
Former pastor Keith Miller will attend the milestone Sunday and will be speaking during Sunday School.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.