“Faith Matters” column for Aug. 24, 2013

Little Rock Baptist Church in Slaughter will be celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sunday. From left, are deacon John Coates, CL Thornton; the Rev. Marvin Moore, deacon Arthur Coates and Bruce Thornton.
Little Rock Baptist Church in Slaughter will be celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sunday. From left, are deacon John Coates, CL Thornton; the Rev. Marvin Moore, deacon Arthur Coates and Bruce Thornton.

BY Terry Robinson

Advocate staff writer

Founders and early members of Little Rock Baptist Church in Slaughter had a “spirit of perseverance” and a love for God and his word.

And many of their descendants are grateful those characteristics have endured at one of East Feliciana Parish’s oldest churches, which will be celebrating its 150th anniversary at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m so appreciative of what they left us,” said Doris Alexander, whose great-great-grandfather was one of the founders of the church. “The best thing they left was the Bible. They were so smart. They took the Bible and they used it as their talking point. They were patient. They persevered.”

Guest speaker for the event will be the Rev. Errol Domingue, pastor of the New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Zachary and Elm Grove Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. The theme for the event is “Building For Tomorrow Upon Yesterday’s Heritage.”

The service at the church, 401 East Ave., will be a culmination of weeks of activity celebrating the milestone anniversary. Other events included a balloon launch and a “throwback” service.

“The people have a sense of cooperation, a sense of love that Jesus taught, and that has brought unity, especially to the older people,” said the Rev. Marvin Moore, the church’s pastor for three years.

Moore, 68, has been associated with the church for more than 25 years, having served as a deacon and an assistant minister under longtime pastor and his predecessor, Bishop Harris Hayes.

Moore could very well be considered a short-timer compared to the likes of Alexander, Charleatha Johnson and deacon John Coates — each with more than 60 years of membership.

Johnson, 79, said she was baptized and confessed Christ at age 13 while attending revival at another church in 1949 but Little Rock has always been home.

“That’s the only church I’ve ever belonged to . ... After I was baptized, I was reared at Little Rock,” she said.

Coates, 76, said he was baptized at Little Rock in 1953 at age 16.

“It really has been a blessing to me to be a member of Little Rock ... Nothing in that church but love,” he said. “Everybody at the church cares about everybody.”

“Little Rock has taught me to live as an example,” said Alexander, a member of the Baker School Board. “I have grown, and I’m still growing.”

The church has had strong pastoral leadership, Coates said.

“Not only that, they had a strong deacon board with people who believed in Christ,” he said. “The lady deacons were strong. They took care of the girls with whatever they needed. The men took care of the young men; they would always tell them about God.”

According to church history, Little Rock was organized in 1863 under the leadership of the Rev. Henry Carter. An acre was purchased for $124.30 for a small frame building. The church was destroyed by fire in 1929 and rebuilt a year later under the leadership of the Rev. Dan Williams.

In 1959, the current building was constructed under the direction of the Rev. S.P. Nelson and the Board of Directors.

‘Not Too Easy’

Nothing came easy to a lot of people after Hurricane Katrina.

Inspired by some of the testimonies he heard following the 2005 storm, New Orleans native and Baton Rouge minister Lenard Tillery recently released “Not Too Easy,” a self-published novel.

“The true inspiration came from a desire to help young black males overcome their past and have some kind of hope for a better future,” Tillery said. “I knew I wanted to write a book, and I had ideas for the beginning and end, but not for the middle. Hearing the testimonies of people who experienced the devastation and seeing their lives changed due to the good and bad that came out of it all provided the missing puzzle piece to a complete book.”

The book centers around a young man named Marcus McMain. He grew up in the most dangerous housing projects in New Orleans and seemed destined to become another statistic until Hurricane Katrina left him and thousands hopeless and homeless.

“It not only provides hope and inspiration, it is full of life lessons that will help young people and adults,” Tillery said. “It’s a book that doesn’t just deal with problems in life; it also provides solutions and answers to deep-rooted questions.”

Tillery, an Army veteran, attended LSU. He has also written a Bible study book, “What is Man?” in 2003 and two CDs: “For Better or Worse” and “Holy Spirit Praise Songs.”

He and his wife, Lisa, have six children: Lauren, LaKaley, Lenard III, Lindsey, Lexie and LeNae.

For information on the book, go to lenardtillery.com.

Keep on running

Each of the “champions” of the faith found in Hebrews 11 gained wisdom through their experience with God, the Rev. Gregory Coates said during a recent revival in Baton Rouge.

Coates, the pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Dorseyville and Of the Way Bible Church in Baton Rouge, said those men and women of faith can offer lessons today to believers trying to run their own race.

“I present to us a group of people who have already run the race but not just folk who have run but those who have completed, have done well and are considered champions,” said Coates at First Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Coates’ main text was actually taken from Hebrews 12:1-2, which says in part, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Coates asked listeners to imagine themselves running in a race before a crowd in a large stadium.

“There sitting in the stands are all of those champions who have run the race before us,” he said.

Among them: Noah. His nugget of wisdom: One man can make a difference.

“Noah would tell you, ‘My life was going fine but the world was in a mess ... Man was doing whatever they wanted to do and all had forgotten about the God who made them,” Coates said.

God asked Noah to build an ark because it was going to rain.

“I had no idea what an ark even was,” Coates said in his role of Noah. “There I was one man building this big ship in the middle of dry land. ... Everyone thought I was crazy.”

“Crazy enough to elicit laughs.

“They quit laughing when that first drop hit their skin ... and it kept raining. And it kept on raining. And it kept on raining,” Coates (Noah) said. “And there I was, one man who God took to do a task that seemed impossible. ... They were laughing and were up on top of the world having fun at my expense. God was working with me and when the water came up and the floods hit the earth, the same ark that they were laughing at raised me up while the waters took them down.”

Noah, his family and many of the animals were saved.

“Noah shows us one person, one individual can make a difference,” Coates said.

Coates called a few other characters out of the stands to make his point about running the race. “I came to tell somebody in the church today, all of us are called upon to run the race that is set before you,” he said. “Quit being bothered with looking in your neighbors’ lanes. When you run your race, keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.