CULLMAN, Ala. – Bright and early Sunday morning, the congregation of East Point Cumberland Presbyterian Church gathered for a twofold celebration: the annual recognition of Decoration for the church graveyard, and the 100th anniversary of the church’s founding. Inside the church were displays of the church and congregation’s history and informational table about the Women’s Ministry, lists of founding members and previous pastors, written accounts of history from the older members, photographs of moments of church life and even resolutions of commendation from the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives (courtesy of Rep. Randall Shedd and Sen. Garlan Gudger).
During the service, members got the chance to stand and speak about their memories with the church. One woman shared that she had attended from as young as two weeks old while another recounted fond memories of Halloween parties and “ghost” encounters, and certificates of recognition were handed out to honor church Elders, previous pastors and everyone who had taught Sunday School. Jean Bright Forrester, who was recognized as the oldest attending member of the congregation (95 years old), then took the mic to list her memories of the church’s foundation and the part she played in it at age 13.
“Before we had the rock church, the congregation met in a little wooden school house. My uncle Thomas Bright established the church and served as the first pastor,” she stated. “When it came time to build the rock church, there I was–13 years old and 75 pounds soaking wet–riding in the wagon to gather rocks from the rock quarry over there. We watched the stonemason take those rocks we gathered, chisel and chip them to shape, and put them in place to build a beautiful church building.” She then went on to recount how a representative from the board the church received a construction loan from came to the church and fell in love with her sister “at first sight” and the two became the first couple married in the completed building. After her speech concluded, other descendants of the Bright family shared their memories of growing up in the church. A typed recollection of Forrester’s memories was also posted in the historical displays within the church.
Pastor Phillip Nickles spoke with The Tribune after the service to talk about his experiences at the church since becoming pastor five years ago, saying, “It’s a great group of people! They love serving and helping people in our community, and that’s what really impressed me about this church. They’re very loving and very open to people, even people who come in off the streets; they’re very welcoming to those people, as I think they should be.” He continued by describing how the congregation came together to help with preparations for Decoration and the anniversary service, helping pressure wash the church exterior and collecting pictures depicting the history of the church and congregation. He finished by repeating a point he made at the start of the service, saying, “The people are the church. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the building is–if the people are beautiful, the church is beautiful.”
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