The community is gone; the church remains.
It was created 135 years ago Sunday, not at Cadiz but at a few miles south at Lapara.
Its first building proved inadequate; church history says the current building was built by a Mr. Cox, no first name given. He was not listed as a church member.
Forty-three years later, in 1920, Lapara was on the decline. The congregation moved the church — lock, Bibles and building — to the up-and-coming community of Cadiz.
Today, the congregation — half the size of the original — is led by the Rev. Larry Martin, the church’s 11th pastor.
An indication of those attending was measured by numerous copies of “Mature Living” magazine on a table in the church’s entryway.
On Sunday, July 29, the anniversary was the main topic of conversation before the 11 a.m. service.
Being the fifth Sunday of the month, parishioners brought food for lunch after the service.
“We have received 87 RSVPs for the anniversary service,” Martin announced. “We’ll have to add some chairs.”
The church always has been the hub of the community. In a photograph taken in the late 1930s of men in a buckboard carrying new benches for the school, the church is in the background.
Nearly 20 years later, when Kay Past and her sister decided to pose for a snapshot, they climbed on a fence beside the main road through town, Farm-to-Market 799. Behind them, the Cadiz Baptist Church.
Except for a historical marker, nothing indicates that when it was built, Brahms had just composed his second symphony, Thomas Edison had patented his latest invention, the phonograph, and the presidency was in a political turmoil: Rutherford Hayes had just taken office — not elected, but appointed, the result of the Compromise of 1877, an informal agreement that effectively ended Reconstruction in the South but whose specifics still are obscure.
“I don’t have a sermon,” Martin told the 15 members in the pews, “but I have a message. There’s a difference.”
That compromise seemed to echo across the intervening years. When he asked the congregation what, in their opinion, was the greatest problem they were facing, the first choice was political strife.
His voice competing with the steady, rhythmic whir of ceiling fans, Martin said, “We’re in political strife. It’s an election year, but Christ will see us through.”
“Don’t get into arguments over political ideas,” he advised. “You won’t win. I can’t tell you how to vote, but to love those who don’t agree with you.”
Later, with the anniversary firmly in mind, he spoke of change.
“We don’t look like the 1877 congregation. We don’t look like them, so why should be get upset about the younger generation? You must accept them in your heart.”
“I don’t see a hitching post out there for the horses, either,” church member Chris Freund agreed.
“We’ve changed, and we love it,” Martin said.
A history of the church, compiled by Ervin Sparkman for the church’s centennial celebration in 1977, mentioned that the original members “believed in christians (sic) living exemplary lives…and when a brother or sister erred, a committee would visit the sinner and plead with him to repent and ask forgiveness and restoration to fellowship in the church.”
“If this council was unheeded, the erring one would be excluded from fellowship of the church for an act of misconduct ranging from dancing or drunkenness to adultery.
“The church,” the history states, “ceased this practice many years ago.”
The first minister, according to the history, was A.H. Barber. This conflicts with the Texas State Historical Association which says the first minister was Amos Barker.
Whatever the correct name, he stayed only a year.
S. Butler Kimball was the pastor when the church was moved to Cadiz.
Dr. Carroll Jones was pastor in 1949 when, thanks to a gift from the Texas Baptist Rural Church Building Fund, the structure was expanded to add Sunday school rooms, the kitchen and restrooms.
In 1960, the Texas Rural Church Achievement Program named the Cadiz church its Rural Church of the Year.
Neither organization, sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, still exists.
The. Rev. R.C. Jeanes served the longest tenure, from 1966 to 2010, when Martin took over.
After the service, entrees and salads and iced tea and a surprising number of desserts were laid out on tables. Those waiting in line carried on the fellowship, their conversations a la carte.
“Nice to see you! Did you fall on your noggin? Again?”
“Guess what? One of my cousins is 83 and she just got married, the crazy thing.”
“I’ll be 65; I can get on Social Security.”
Martin, who will be 70 in December, smiled.
“This is our strength — the family. It speaks of the relationship of the people and how we ought to act.”
This Sunday, after the service, the church will celebrate its birthday with a catered lunch served under a tent outside. The meal will be accompanied by a three-man band.
“We’ll sit there and talk about our memories,” Martin predicted, and laughing as he watched 6-year-old Faith Leonard, the daughter of Susie Leonard, one of the youngest attending the service, studying the desserts.
“She used to take up the offering. She would just hold the plate and look at you until you gave in. Every Baptist church should have one.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.