Mission Lab

Full circle: faithfulness and love, 50 years later

August 18th, 2019 / By: Emily Crutcher / comments

HENDERSON It was 1961, the same year in U.S. history that the American Civil Rights Movement launched a series of protests against segregation called Freedom Rides. These protests were led by blacks and whites who rode buses together throughout America.

This is also the same year that Turnertown Baptist Church, under the leadership of Pastor Warren McAllister, reached out to an all-black congregation called Midway Baptist and invited their children to Turnertown’s Vacation Bible School. It was at this event that Frannie Rettig (pictured above) received her first Bible.   

“We thought it was wonderful!” Rettig said about the very first VBS any of the children from Midway had the opportunity to attend. “We had VBS for five days where we were able to learn about the Bible. I was even able to memorize all 66 books! The people of Turnertown were truly Christians who loved people like Jesus taught us to love,” she continued.

Fifty-eight years later Rettig returned to Turnertown, this time in a new capacity. It was July 3, of this year when Rettig walked up to a young lady with a check for $300. Unsure what to do with it, the young lady took it to the man who had been a part of Turnertown Baptist Church for half a century, the music minister. “I was down the hall trying to ‘fix’ the DVD player when the young lady from the church walked up to me with an envelope that had $300 in it,” Albert Richards recalled. “I had to meet this person so I ran out to see Frannie in her car, about to drive off.”

“I’ve been wanting to do this for 50 years but I’ve been working as an instructor in San Antonio,” Rettig said.

This prompted a conversation that sparked one of Richards’ passions—history. He went into the office to find an old photo of that same VBS back in 1961. “Are you in this picture?” Richards asked. Rettig’s eyes scanned the photo to find herself as a young soon-to-be freshman in high school on the first step on the right-hand side of the photo standing among over 20 of the children from Midway.

Astonished, Rettig stated “I remember taking the picture but I never thought I’d see it!”

Richards couldn’t help but get excited. “Although I wasn’t at Turnertown at this time, but was pastoring at Southside Baptist Church in Henderson, we have such a rich history here and I’m just delighted to be a small part of it,” he said.

Now 81 years old Richards attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1950s, but did not graduate. He cited two reasons for not finishing--one, he ran out of money, and two, he was unmarried. Richards, still a bachelor today, has not let his lack of a degree or a wife keep him from serving the Lord at Turnertown as a music minister and historian for 50 consecutive years.

“We need to save our church history for future generations,” Richards said with conviction. In this case the saving of his church history tells a story of the faithful love and compassion of his church during a time of turmoil in this nation. “My church has always had a heart for missions,” Richards said, “and for a church the size of Turnertown we are in the top 5 percent of giving in the SBC.”

When asked about why he thinks Richards has been so faithful in service to Turnertown for the past 50 years, current pastor Joe Wiley said, “He doesn’t see this as a job, he sees it as a family. A man can’t deny his family--which is why he’s been around for so long.”

Richards said, “I’ve seemed to come in the side door instead of the front door because I’ve never graduated from seminary and I’ve never been married, but I love my church.” He continued, “I have to say my encounter with Frannie is one of the best memories I’ve had because it connects our church with the history we have of evangelism.”

Turnertown has found a faithful man in Albert Richards. Richards meeting Rettig brought past and present together as they celebrated Mr. Richards' 50 years of service on August 18, and the love of a congregation for the children of a sister church. Frannie Rettig attended the celebration.