By Linda Stevens
On June 16, the St. John M.B. Church located in Atoka, on Atoka-Idaville Road, held its Mortgage Burning Ceremony.
Construction of the new church sanctuary was completed in 2006. The church had their first worship service in the building on Dec. 24, 2006, followed by a public Dedication Ceremony a week later.
Members of the community participated in the Dedication Ceremony as members paraded from the old sanctuary located next door, to the new building. The church vowed to work together to pay off the building in 7 years, which is less than half the initial loan period of 15 years. With hard work and dedication from about 100 active members (including children), the church made their final payment to In-South Bank in May and received their official payoff notice before June 1.
The event on Sunday was a glorious celebration, giving honor to all the earthly Fathers, but more importantly the Heavenly Father for allowing them to achieve this hurdle. The worship service included glorious singing by the Male Chorus and a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Linda Stevens, Church Financial Clerk, celebrating the past Fathers who helped make this day possible and photo celebrations from the ground breaking ceremony, the construction and the Dedication Ceremony. The PowerPoint was set to the musical selection, “Never Would Have Made It” by Marvin Sapp.
Members of the congregation marched out of the sanctuary singing “We’ve Come This Far My Faith”, with Pastor Autrell Williams and chairman of the Deacon Board, Bro. Johnathan Lee, leading the crowd.
The eldest members of the church, Brother Nathaniel Taylor and Sister Ophelia Wherry were close behind. (Both of these members are close to 100 years old. The church has been in existence for 134 years). Pastor Williams said a prayer and then set fire to the mortgage paperwork, held by Brother Johnathan Lee. The church Mother’s Board and Deacons were up front so they could clearly view the event. Other members looked on and celebrated while the paper burned in the air. Following the ceremony, group photos were taken of the members and then they gathered together in the Fellowship Hall for a catered Father’s Day Celebration Dinner.