Central Baptist celebrating 50th anniversary

February 22, 2002|STAFF REPORT

Central Baptist Church of El Centro will celebrate its 50th anniversary Sunday and all present and former members and friends are encouraged to attend.

Several former pastors will be present including Pastor Jimmy Kennedy, who will preach in the morning service, and Pastor Ben Lokteff, who will preach in the evening service.

A buffet lunch will be served after the morning service. There will also be music, a time of sharing memories and historical displays.

A pie fellowship will follow the evening service.

Central Baptist was organized Feb. 24, 1952, as the First Southern Baptist Church of El Centro., It was founded under the leadership of missionary D.L. Goodman. The 27 charter members held their services in the Labor Temple at Seventh Street and Broadway in El Centro.


Later that year the Rev. Gray Evans was called as the first pastor and that September the church purchased property at1801 W. Main, where it built its first sanctuary.

In August 1955, under the leadership of the Rev. Lee Sherrard, the church purchased property at its present location, Ross and Imperial avenues. In 1956 the first building was completed on that site and the name of the church was changed to Imperial Avenue Baptist Church. The original building is in use today as educational space.

Sherrard left in 1957 and C.W. Christian became the next pastor. Later that year the church was renamed First Southern Baptist, and in early 1958 it began sponsoring a mission in Holtville, which became First Southern Baptist Church of Holtville.

The Rev. Norman Ford became interim pastor in 1962 and over the next year and a half led the church in a building program that included a new sanctuary and fellowship hall, both still in use today.

The Rev. W.C. Meacham served the church from 1963-1968 and was followed by Pastor E.Y. Soileau, who served until 1972.

Kennedy accepted a call to be pastor in 1972 and during his tenure the church called its first full-time education director and operated a successful bus ministry.

In 1979 Lokteff became pastor, serving until 1997 — the longest tenured pastor in the church's history. During his ministry a full-time youth minister was added to the staff, a radio ministry was started on KGBA FM 100.1, both the church's Spanish and Filipino ministries got under way and the family life center was built.

Lokteff retired in 1997 and the Rev. Dale Rose served as interim until the Rev. John Shirey became pastor. Shirey served until late 1998 and Rose returned again as interim pastor.

The Rev. Jim Mersereau, the church's senior pastor, arrived in February 2000. That May Paul Creiglow became youth pastor and in 2001 Dusty Ward became the children's pastor, the church's first.

To date 920 people have been baptized by the church and thousands discipled.

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