Lakewood Baptist to mark 150 years

Four people from three distinct periods of Lakewood Baptist Church’s history will be keynoters Sunday as the church marks its 150 years.

A fifth, former member the Rev. Brian Squires of East Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service.

All activities will be outdoors, including a covered-dish lunch.

Lakewood was first named Mount Olive Baptist, on what is now 21st Street. It was later named West Side Baptist, to reflect its location to 16th Street in the old mill house district. It relocated to Lakewood Drive in 1974, in a land swap with the city, and changed its name again.

The four speakers after lunch: Carol Breault, whose relatives were charter members; the Rev. Ralph Henderson, representing the West Side era, now serving Oswichee Baptist Church; the Rev. Wayne Williams, who led Lakewood from 1974-2005; and Chris Bankston, a member representing the recent years.

In 1992, a Montie Miller — by then a member of the church for 72 years — told the Ledger-Enquirer the church was more central to the community when he grew up there.

“In those days we didn’t have picture shows or television,” Miller said. “People went to church for entertainment. We all gathered there and we had good times.”

He recalled the days when the pastor was paid $25 a week, and when church deacons had to call on members for money to pay for church utilities.

The church had a $1.1 million expansion in 1986, to include a new education center and parking. The expansion plans kicked off around the church’s 100th anniversary in 1985, when Wayne Williams said, “we have to make room for growth.”

Outside the walls of the church, its leaders through the years fought liquor licenses in Phenix City businesses; and in 1954 it sent a formal thanks to Gov. Gordon Persons for his efforts in the Phenix City vice cleanup.

Looking forward, the church is set to build a family life center, with full-court gymnasium and classrooms.

Construction may start by year’s end, with completion by summer, said the Rev. Billy Dickerson, the current pastor.

“They’ve been talking about it for 30 years,” said Dickerson, who came to Lakewood in 2007.

In 2001, the church started Veritas Christian Academy, which offers grades K-8. Lakewood also has a child development center. In recent years, Lakewood has added a second Sunday morning service, called Elevation. It meets at 9:30. The slightly more traditional service is at 10:50 a.m.

Church attendance runs about 300 per week, but Dickerson expects at least 100 more this Sunday. The address is 4011 Lakewood Drive, Phenix City.