The old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” rings true when speaking with Milton First Assembly's Senior Pastor Fred Rogers.
Milton First Assembly is celebrating it's one hundredth anniversary Sunday, October 28th. Pastor Rogers recently celebrated his own personal 43rd anniversary as senior pastor of the pentecostal congregation and says he will continue to be committed with moving forward with MFA and welcomes the opportunity in doing so.
“When I began pastoring in 1969, some things were the same as they are now but some things are different. Back then we did some planning before the service but we were mostly led by the Holy Spirit. Today the younger generation needs more leadership. They want to know where we're going,” says Rogers.
James Earl Barnes, lifetime member of MFA remembers singing some choruses in church as a child but says the hymns were what was preferred.
“I was born in 1925. My parents attended what was called the holiness church back then. It was before it became the First Assembly.
During my childhood I remember sitting in church close to a window. The window was open because it was before air conditioning and it was hot and someone came up to the window to get me because lightening struck our house,” says Barnes, “it is one of my earliest memories of the church. I was about six years old.”
Barnes says he remembers “close line preachers” who would preach modest appearance: long sleeves for both men and women, long hair for women, long skirts. “The Bible does preach modesty in appearance, and I believe that but I wouldn't argue this with anyone.”
The first assembling of the church was a summer tent revival on Berryhill Road across from Milton Cemetery in 1912 and eventually became MFA. A few of those in attendance were Reverend Sherman McGraw, Isaac Jordan and Mrs. Minnie Cobb. Pastor Tom McGraw led the small group for short time after the revival, which continued meeting in homes for spiritual growth and a small wooden building was constructed on North Alabama Street. In 1927 the building was moved to the corner of North Avenue and Alabama Street.
A newly constructed two story facility was built in 1978 to house the growing congregation on Dogwood Drive.
Barnes says when he and his bride married in 1948, after God let him live through World War II, both he and his wife got saved and joined MFA. “I'll never forget the old neon sign at the old church. All it said was 'Jesus Saves,” says Barnes.
Marie Henderson, a longtime member of Milton First Assembly, recalls attending church at the Alabama Street church and followed Pastor Rogers to the current Dogwood Drive location.
“It is such a special church,” says Henderson. “My children attended there, as were our parent's home going services. We have spent the majority of our lives at Milton First Assembly. It is truly a light on a hill.”
Rogers believes change must be welcome in the church today to minister to a younger generation and keep them interested in church.
However, the only difference within worship today and in 1912's service is technology and perhaps worship.
“We use more chorus songs than hymns these days and we sing with an overhead projector and not out of a hymnal as often,” says Rogers, “but the object of our worship has not changed. It will always be Jesus Christ.”
Rogers says the biggest challenge the church faces today is to continue getting the Gospel out to those who do not know him.
“When I first started my ministry, most people knew it was right to go to church. Whether or not they only attended at Christmas and
Easter, it was what people did back then. Now, this basic conviction is no longer there,” says Rogers.
He says even though those needing Christ don't feel the need to meet Him at church, the church must accept this and minister in unique ways to meet those needs.
Homecoming Service begins at 10 a. m. with a fellowship meal following the service. For more information, contact the church office at (850)623-2854.