Church community celebrates more than 125 years

Fellowship is key to the long-term success of bringing people together and building relationships that last a lifetime.

First Missionary Baptist Church, at Tournament and Chestnut drives in Concord, is celebrating more than125 years of service to the Logan neighborhood.

According to the Rev. Herbert Rhedrick Jr., documentation shows the church was founded before 1882.

In those early years, members met at individual homes for prayer services. In 1901, as the congregation grew, it bought a mission building on Broad Street.

The church was named Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church.

About 1915, the church moved to its current location. More than a year ago, it officially was renamed First Missionary Baptist Church.

"We want to be a beacon of light where people can find help and hope," said Rhedrick, 54, the church's pastor for three years. "We want to be known as that church that is friendly, loving and kind."

The church's biggest ministry is the Harriet B. Stafford Outreach Center, known as the Breadbasket.

Since the late 1980s, Stafford and other members of the congregation have helped neighbors who need food and clothing.

"A lot of her helpers come every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to help the recipients," said Rhedrick. "They come in on their off days - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - to restock the shelves, to put up the clothes and to clean the place up and to do all the things necessary to be open the following day."

The church recently hired a community health provider to help people with medical needs. People can walk in and she will examine them, Rhedrick said.

Last week, mammogram services and blood pressure screenings were available free to the community.

The church also provides a youth enrichment program. The Emerging Global Grateful Scholars ministry serves families that want help sending their children to summer school.

In the program, children learn to play music, act, enhance math and reading skills and go on field trips.

The church provides two meals and snacks throughout the day.

According to Rhedrick, this past summer was the biggest summer program, with more than 50 children.

"We don't charge the recipient. Most of them can't afford it," said Rhedrick.

The church also provides free relationship counseling to the community. The church's Couples Affirming Marriage ministry helps couples talk about how to manage a relationship God's way, Rhedrick said.

Whether the concern is about finances, communication or intimacy, workshops exist to help couples.

"We give of our time. We give of our talent," said Rhedrick. "God loves us, so we love each other. God forgave us, so we have to learn how to forgive each other."

Throughout the year, the church offers workshops on how to start a business, how to improve a résumé, how to find resources online and other life skills.

"We want people to come in and encounter real people, engage in real relationships and experience real change," said Rhedrick.

About 20 years ago, Rhedrick owned a real estate, construction and mortgage company. At the time, he was just a member of the church, sitting in the back every Sunday.

Then he had a life-changing experience. His first marriage had failed. His business was struggling. His life was going in reverse, he said. After his mother died, Rhedrick started reading the Bible.

"I closed my construction company. I closed my mortgage company and, eventually, real estate company," said Rhedrick. "The more I was obedient, the more He blessed me in my life."

For Rhedrick, it's all about living a more God-conscious life.

"We aren't telling people that they aren't going to still have problems," said Rhedrick. "We are teaching that when you do have problems, you've got someone to help you through them."

Rhedrick and his wife, Gail, live in Concord. They have three children and two grandchildren.