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Church celebrates past while looking to future

Vine Prairie Baptist Church in Mulberry is celebrating its 40th anniversary July 19 and 20 with activities and a special service.

Members of the church have organized a celebration of the church’s 40th anniversary on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20, and are inviting area residents to join in the festivities at 2128 U.S. 64.

“It’s not only to celebrate the church, but to recognize the importance of the growth of the church,” said Elizabeth Bennett, a member of the committee that organized the celebration.

Saturday, July 19, will be full of family activities beginning at noon, such as a dunking booth, softball, horseshoes and volleyball.

Children can ride in an authentic old wagon, play games, sit for face painting and watch a magician, who will also make balloon animals. There will be free hot dogs, sno cones and other refreshments.

In keeping with the theme “Remembering the past and embracing the future,” guests are asked to wear historical-style clothes, such as bonnets, long dresses and aprons for the women and “old-style” attire for the men, Bennett said.

Sunday, July 20, begins with a special service led by Pastor Tom Smith at 11 a.m., which will include the Lord’s Supper, also called communion, a baptism and recognition of former pastors.

Also recognized will be the few remaining original members of the church, which began as a “little, tiny shack on Hamtown Road,” Bennett said.

Lunch will follow the service, with the menu to include brisket, chicken, side dishes and homemade desserts. After lunch, there will be a concert by The Gary Thomas Family gospel bluegrass group.

Smith, also a chaplain for the Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, is “fairly new” to Vine Prairie Baptist Church and “one heck of a singer,” Bennett said. It was Smith’s idea to hold the anniversary celebration, she said.

“I got to looking at it and I told [the church members] that it’s a significant number,” Smith said of the anniversary year. “In the Bible, 40 is always a complete number.”

Vine Prairie Baptist Church has some significant things happening this year, such as completing a new directory of current members with pictures from the last 40 years that Smith also called the church’s “history book and family album.”

New windows have been installed in the sanctuary, and a vine theme is included in some of the church’s artwork. Five members of the church are also set to leave soon on a mission trip, paid in full with donations from church members.

All these things and more combine to give the church a clearer sense of identity, Smith said, and are some of the reasons he felt now would be a good time for the church to celebrate.

“It’s just a time of remembering and rejoicing, but also looking forward,” Smith said.

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