Friday, November 10, 2017

TOP STORY >> First Assembly turning 75

Jacksonville First Assembly of God, 221 N. Elm St., will hold a special service to celebrate its 75th anniversary at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, to be followed by a fellowship dinner at noon in the church dining hall.

Pastor Royce L. Lowe will speak at the celebration. He is the church’s 10th pastor. He and his family came to Jacksonville from Helena in June 1972. He grew up in Sebastian County.

The church was established Nov. 19, 1942, less than a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.

Volunteers built the first church building on four tree-covered lots, using lumber from the Thompson Sawmill that once stood on the site of The Leader’s office on Graham Road, then a dirt road called Saw Mill Road.

The church is still at the original location, although with a new building, auditorium and education buildings. It now hosts a Spanish-speaking congregation every Sunday.

“This church welcomes everyone to worship, fellowship, evangelize our community. We want to be a beacon of light to our city. The Lord’s return is soon. Come and worship,” Lowe said.

“When the church started, it was close to the only school, downtown stores, the train depot and bus depot,” he said.

“Little Rock city buses came to Jacksonville several times a day. Military contractors, Ford, Bacon and Davis, was the new employer in this small town of 300. The ordnance plant worked 24 hours a day. The railroad brought in supplies for the plant and carried away finished detonators. Thousands of people worked here. Sugar, gas, lumber, cars and other things were rationed because of the war effort,” Lowe said.

In those days, a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp was on Main Street, and the men who worked there were drafted soon after World War II began. A women’s prison was on Centennial Road north of town.

“Because of a housing shortage, hundreds of prefabricated houses came by rail, and 30 houses a day went up in the new Sunnyside Addition. It quickly filled with families who had never lived in a house with running water,” Lowe said.

With the end of the Second World War in August 1945, the ordnance plant closed and Baby Boomers filled the church, many of whom walked to church.

In 1966, the Jubilee Choir was founded and still sings on Saturday night once a month.