Benson’s book chronicles century of church memories

Pam Benson, wife of Sabinal Baptist Church preacher Monty Benson wrote, “To God Be The Glory–100 Years, First Baptist Church of Sabinal, Texas 1902-2002” to celebrate the church’s 100-year anniversary in 2002.

For her labors, she earned the Church History Award given in 2003 by the Texas Baptist Historical Society for outstanding achievement in the collection, preservation and publication of Texas Baptist History at their annual state meeting held in Lubbock.

When she was almost finished with the publication, she discovered the church was actually started in 1899, making the 2002 celebration more of a 103-year anniversary. She asked a prominent church member, Ray Henry, what she should do about this, and his reply was, “Not a thing.” The celebration already had steam and was coming to fruition.

To remedy the discrepancy, Benson wrote “Addendum to History Marking the 105th-anniversary on July 18, 2004.”

The author explains what happened.

Pam Benson with the Texas Baptist Historical Society Church History Award.

“I discovered a deed showing that the Sabinal Missionary Baptist Church [the original name of FBC] purchased property in 1899. There were a couple of other little tidbits of information that indicated that the church probably was organized before 1902….”

A lover of history and family trees, Benson said that she can get wrapped up in minutia and that one of her greatest challenges in writing this history was deciding what to include in the history and what was not important information to the reader. The other added passion that supported her endeavor is the fact that she has always loved to write.

Monroe Dunlap, in a letter he wrote in 1937, remembered the first year of the church was 1902, so in 1952 the church celebrated 50 years of organization based on his recollection.

The minutes of the church have been archived and were the main source of Benson’s research. Records were hand-written but meticulously kept in binders labeled with the years printed on the spines. She was fortunate that preceding historians kept most records in chronological order.

At the time of Benson’s research, Google existed, but the Internet was not as multi-dimensional nor as widely used, so her timeline that she added to anchor the events in the minutes were as result of her own fruitful effort to give the reader historical context.

Events such as “March 4, 1933—Franklin D. Roosevelt became the 32nd president of the U.S.—beginning of the Depression” help the reader to place the context of a donation of 50 cents that year to the realities of the congregation.

Another that hints of necessary hobbies was “Mrs. Powell put $2.50 in the treasury to be used on the building fund. This was made by ladies quilting.”

Another from May 23, 1934: “Mrs. Clements was appointed chairman of committee to aid voters to go to polls and vote for Prohibition.”

Benson added historical notes on every page, history lessons unto themselves: “December, 1955—Protests and demands for desegregation in the South began” and “1962—America’s involvement in Viet Nam began when U.S. helicopters were authorized by J.F.K to fire at the enemy.”

Wedding pictures, Sunday school pictures, and names of people whose families populate Sabinal today fill the book with interesting trips down memory lane. Benson’s book is well researched, written and edited making it a pleasure to read for anyone interested in a little local church history. If you would like to buy a copy, contact the church at 830-988-2344.

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