By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
CAMP POINT, Ill. -- The Rev. Tom Robbins does not have to hesitate when asked what has kept him at Faith Baptist Church for more than 20 years.
"The most gratifying, or fulfilling thing, is seeing kids grow up in the church, stay in the church and start families of their own," Robbins said. "I've even had the privilege of marrying some of them."
Robbins and his wife, Sandy, has even raised a family of his own during his 21-year stay at Faith Baptist, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend.
"A lot of people will be coming back for this," Robbins said.
The little church that started out with a handful of people meeting in the Camp Point Community Building now owns its own spacious building and parsonage.
"The first service of the church was held on Dec. 2, 1962, so to be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary on the same date is pretty cool," Robbins said.
What Robbins terms as a "homecoming weekend" begins with a fellowship celebration from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Sunday portion of the anniversary schedule finds Sunday School at 9 a.m., featuring testimonies Dave Callison, Tom Farlow and Dale Stover. The 10:15 a.m. Sunday worship service will have Robbins speaking.
"Following a fellowship dinner at noon, the church will celebrate the past, present and future ministries of Faith Baptist with a special anniversary service at 2 p.m.," Robbins said. "Also speaking will be (former) pastors Mickey Farlow and Jerry Taylor, with an anniversary picture presentation and a variety of special music also scheduled. There will also be an alumni choir."
Throughout its history, Faith Baptist has mirrored the people it serves.
"The rural way of life, the farm lifestyle ... the people," Robbins said is what is important within the Faith Baptist community.
Robbins has served the church since the summer of 1991.
Gary Farlow, a longtime member of the congregation, talked about Robbins a year ago when the church celebrated the pastor's 20 years in Camp Point. Farlow felt Robbins mirrored the ministry of the church, which is entrenched in the people of the region.
"Pastor Robbins has always been very active in the community," he said. "Although building projects have been exciting, his focus in ministry remains the people."
There is a sense of pride at Faith Baptist. In a time when many small country churches are closing due to a declining rural population, Faith Baptist has remained alive and well.
"We average 80 to 90 each Sunday, and that has held steady," Robbins said. "There have been times when the weekly attendance was 110 to 120, but for the most part it's in that 80 to 90 range."
Prior to the church's first official service, there had been a group of people from the Camp point area traveling to attend services at Calvary Baptist Church in Quincy.
"It was their desire to start a similar church in Camp Point," Robbins said. "After prayerful consideration, that first meeting was held."
The church was formally organized in February 1964 with 37 charter members.
Recognizing the need for a building, a three-acre site was bought two miles east of Camp Point and a church building was erected. In May 1965 the church moved from the Camp Point Community Building to the new church facility just north of the junction of highways U.S. 24 and Ill. 94.
"God continued to bless (the project), and in 1972 work began on a parsonage on the church property with the project being completed in March of 1973," Robbins said. "After many years there was a need for updated facilities to expand the ministry of the church and so work began in 1996 on an addition to and major remodeling of the existing church building. With the help of missionary church builders and much labor from the church family, the project was completed and dedicated in October 1997."
In 2000, the church put a major addition to the church parsonage.
Eight pastors have ministered at Faith Baptist Church since 1962.
"Everybody knows everybody," Robbins said. "It's the personal relationships with the people that are so rewarding. The history of Faith Baptist Church is a testimony of God's grace and leading."