The pews inside Concord Baptist Church, at the corner of Floyd and Concord Roads, were packed with parishioners singing hymns as one large choir.
The congregation was rejoicing in being the oldest church body in Cobb, according to event organizer and organist Joyce Whisenant.
While meeting in a dirt-floored log cabin, 17 members constituted The Concord Baptist Church on June 8, 1833. The sanctuary off Floyd Road is the fifth house of worship for the congregation, dedicated on July 19, 1970.
Over 182 years, Whisenant said the church started by ministering to Native Americans and survived the Civil War.
“And you know, the Lord is still working,” Whisenant said.
Whisenant said she grew up in the church and remembers a young boy at the time who was an avid reader and a history scholar.
“He even told one of his teachers he was going to be governor someday,” Whisenant said before introducing Barnes, who was baptized as a child at The Concord Baptist Church. “He defected to the Methodist, but that is okay, we still claim him.”
Barnes began his address by sharing stories as a young boy ringing the church bell and being mischievous during Sunday school in the same sanctuary where the celebration was held Sunday morning.
Cora Lee Porter, 88, has been the longest active member of The Concord Baptist Church after joining in November 1956. On Sunday morning, she was recognized by the congregation and presented with a pot of orchids.
Porter said she has come every Sunday dating back to when Floyd Road was just a dirt lane.
“I’ve had to keep up with the changes,” said Porter, who is driven to church by her son, Tommy Porter, also a member.
Although The Concord Baptist Church seldom has a full house like the packed sanctuary on Sunday, Porter said, “It is a friendly church and we have some mighty good preachers that have preached the Gospel.”
Standing in front of the pulpit Sunday morning, Barnes referenced many stories found in the Bible, while holding his own worn copy marked with bright slips of paper.
“A place like this is not a place for saints to come to be saved, but for sinners to come and be healed,” Barnes said.
Barnes reminded his former church family that Jesus washed the feet of sinners and rode a donkey, so his return from heaven to earth will most likely not be as a triumphant leader, but instead as a humble stranger needing care and love.
This is why Barnes said when he passes homeless people on the street, he gives them money.
“I don’t know which one is Jesus,” Barnes said, who added that being a good Christian is not about the words a follower says but the actions that no one sees. “Service and sacrifice is the essence of being a Christian.”