ITALY — Central Baptist Church of Italy celebrated 110 years in existence Sunday as current and former members celebrated the work God has done and is doing in the church.

Pastor Joseph Barrett told the congregation of about 230 people that the church had its first meeting on Aug. 14, 1903, following the close of a revival tent meeting.

At the time, it was called the Missionary Baptist Church of Dripping Springs. Services were held at the Flatrock School on Hamrock Road and began with 16 members. J. M. Dawson was the first pastor.

Barrett said the group ordained two Deacons “to look after the lamps and oil.”

In 1904, the church moved to Italy and was called the Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church. They changed their named again in 1907 to the Second Baptist Church.

In 1913, the group purchased the old city auditorium and renamed it Central Baptist Church. Despite its new name, he said it was often referred to as Fire Bell Baptist Church due to its proximity to the fire station.

He said a new building was constructed in 1965 with an addition completed in 1983. A major renovation was completed in 1993 and the church expanded in 2005 with the purchase of the Corner Stone building located on Main Street.

Barrett said the church has served missions both here and overseas for the past 110 years.

He told the congregation, “You are part of something bigger and greater than yourselves.”

He said people are still being reached for Christ despite the world’s view of the church.

Barrett questioned what the original 16 members might think if they came back to the church today. He said that after reviewing the records and baptisms and realizing that thousands have been introduced to Christ in the past 110 years, he felt the founding members would thank God for this church, as he does today.

A baptism for Adyson Mathers, daughter of Jody and April Mathers, opened the morning’s celebration.

A lunch, catered by Carino’s of Waxahachie, followed the morning worship service.

Reflecting on the day’s events, Barrett said, “I believe God’s kingdom will look something like Sunday looked at Central Baptist, people all coming together from various times and places and celebrating what joins us all together: God. Also, I believe God’s kingdom will look like it did at Central Baptist in that there will be more people than you expected! We had 100 people more than we usually have and the energy of the gathering is an exciting thing to experience. God was truly praised on Sunday.”

Guilherme Almeida, worship minister, said, “Our anniversary celebration was a wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord through our worship and commitment to giving thanks at all times! We saw the beautiful tapestry of peoples and gifts the Lord has used to build and renew Central Baptist Church in Italy, Texas.”

Sandy Westbrook, a longtime Deacon and member for more than 40 years, said, “Overall, I thought that the day was a huge success. We had a former pastor with us and a former minister of music who both enjoyed much visiting during and afterward.”

He continued, “Many former members were in attendance and all expressed to me what a great celebration/reunion they had. The worship experience was right on target and the sermon was so apropos for the day. The participants in the various aspects of the service did an exquisite job. The fellowship meal afterward was a blazing success with our hosting team doing a superb job. The food was excellent and the serving team was cordial and accommodating. I really don’t know how it could have been any better.”

Almeida said, “We lifted our voices to the Lord, and hear from His Word, as well as shared in a meal with plenty of opportunities to fellowship.”

Barrett said, “So many people worked long hours to put our celebration together and for them I am extremely grateful.”