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Our debt to those who came before us
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Have you ever thought how much tradition plays in one’s faith? Sir Isaac Newton once said following a short period of time when he made some amazing discoveries, “If I see further than others it is because I stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before me.” As the Sims Chapel Baptist Church celebrates today its One Hundred and Twenty Ninth Anniversary it adds to the day recognition of the one known at the “Mother of the Church” Mrs. Emma Allen. Truly she is a matriarch of that congregation on whose shoulders that congregation stands.

This year is the 90th anniversary of Mrs. Allen accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior as she was baptized at the age of seven at Sims Chapel. She is lifelong member of that congregation. Her current pastor, the Rev. Cecil Rozier, says she provides the present congregation so much rich history about Sims Chapel. She is still at ninety seven very active in her church. She has been a leader in all the auxiliaries as well serving as an usher, singing the choir, and teaching Sunday school.

One of Pastor Rozier’s favorite stories about Mrs. Allen is the time when at seventeen years of age she refused to drink from a common cup for Holy Communion. As in most Protestant Churches, grape juice is used instead of wine. With wisdom beyond her years she saw the danger and the church was led to buy a set of individual communion glasses. The set with the common cup still sits on the Lord’s Table at Sims Chapel. Her concern was proven true by a study at the University of the South that showed reaction between the metal of a chalice and the alcohol in wine that killed many of the germs, while juice did not. During the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, most denominations that use juice instead of wine shifted to the individual classes. Mrs. Allen would continue to show this concern for health as she became a nurse at the Rockdale County Hospitals. She retired from that work.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion is one that is practiced in almost every denomination of the Church along with Baptism. Holy Communion goes under a variety of names including the Eucharist, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, and the Divine Mystery. The name Communion comes from sharing in common. Even when the “common cup” is not used, it is still very much a community celebration. It is observed every fourth Sunday of the month at Sims Chapel,
Sims Chapel was founded in 1895 following services in a brush arbor. It was first called Series Baptist Church. The name was later changed to Sims Chapel in honor of the family that donated the land on which the church is built as well as the adjacent cemetery. Many of the families in the church have loved ones buried in that cemetery. Sims Chapel is located on Highway 142 north of Interstate 20.

The congregation has about 125 members that come mostly from Newton County but others from both Rockdale and Walton Counties. The Church has a “Homecoming” the fourth Sunday of October to celebrate its heritage and traditions.
Plans for this year call for two worship services. One service has Pastor Rozier preaching at 11:15 a.m. and the other at 3:00 p.m. with the Rev. Nathan Durham from the Monroe area preaching. In between the two services there will be a dinner on the grounds. The spread brought by members of the congregation will feature fried chicken, greens, and other vegetables. A great variety of pies and cakes will be there, some made following the treasured recipes of generations of Sims Chapel.

The one being particularly honored this year, Mrs. Allen, has been a part of the congregation under the leadership of only four different pastors. G.J. Clark was her first pastor and the one who baptized her as well has dealt with the objection to the common cup. He served as pastor of Sims Chapel for forty two years. He was followed by the Rev. J.S. Stanford for the next twenty three years. The next twenty three years the pastor was the Rev. Calvin English, who is the only pastor buried in the church’s cemetery. He was followed in the pulpit by the present pastor, The Rev. Cecil Rozier, twelve years ago. Both English and Rozier were “sons of the church” having grown up in Sims Chapel before entering the ministry. It is a sure sign of a vibrant congregation that has members called into the ministry.

Sims Chapel is honoring the one it knows as the “Mother of the Church” as well as praising God for keeping them strong for 129 years. Rev. Rozier said “As we look back of the years, we must take pause and be thankful to the Lord who blessed with presence us with His presence year in, and year out. We are especially thankful for those who came before us and the ones that are still on the battlefield.”

E. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author, who now resides in Covington