First Baptist welcomes pastor, celebrates history

Embracing the future while remembering the past is an important balance to maintain. That's just what members of First Baptist Church of Mount Pleasant are doing. They have some big changes to appreciate, and as they do, they're celebrating their past.

The biggest change is a new pastor, after almost two years without one. The Rev. Tom Fleming arrived last month from McAllen, Texas, a city of about 125,000 in the Rio Grande Valley, about 20 minutes from the Mexican border.

He said being so close to Mexico meant the culture in McAllen had more of a Hispanic rather than a Texas-cowboy feel. So the Indiana native learned to love tortillas and fajitas.

Now he's learning about Southern foods; he recently ate his first fried pickle. He said he's been promised a trip to a fish camp, but was surprised to learn he would not need a sleeping bag.

The rest of Fleming's family will join him soon. His wife, Melodie, and their children, Matthew and Hannah, are still in Texas, awaiting the sale of their home. They are excited to come to a place that has the best of both worlds: Mount Pleasant has a small-town feel, Fleming said, but it's not a far drive to Bass Pro Shops.

Fleming said he loves Mount Pleasant's friendliness and family atmosphere. He has been impressed by residents' patriotism and appreciation for the past.

The first day he was here, he said, he went to breakfast with about a dozen folks from the church. The conversation soon turned to local history. Fleming said he's never really known that kind of spirit of community before, and he has enjoyed learning about his new town and church.

First Baptist has been celebrating its history recently. While the sanctuary is undergoing renovation - new pews, lighting and carpet - the congregation has been meeting in the old sanctuary at the end of Lee Street. That was the site of the original church building when it was founded almost 100 years ago. The building was destroyed by a tornado and replaced by the current one in 1937.

Though there is air-conditioning in the old facility, which usually serves as a fellowship building, church members are using hand fans for a nostalgic touch. They are also doing without their usual PowerPoint display and singing old hymns with just a piano for accompaniment.

There's contagious excitement at First Baptist. People not only are making the best of the inconvenience of renovation but are enjoying it by reliving and appreciating their past. They are excited about a new pastor who appreciates their history and is looking forward to leading them into the future. It's the best of all worlds.