By David Blanchette
Historic window back home in new Liter Baptist Church
The hand of God has touched Liter Baptist Church at several times during its long history, most recently with the installation of a restored stained glass window that now sits high above the altar in the Literberry sanctuary.
“Three days before Christmas, we installed the completed window at Liter Baptist,” said Ron Weaver of Jacksonville Stained Glass. “It was a gift for all to see.”
When flooding, mold and electrical issues forced the Liter Baptist congregation to move from its old, now demolished church building in 2013, members salvaged a large cross, a rafter and the original 5½ feet by 10 feet stained glass window to be used in the new structure. However, the window needed extensive work, something the congregation could not yet afford, so it was stored for nine years free of charge at Jacksonville Stained Glass.
The congregation finally approached the company last July and asked them to restore the window and install it in the church before Christmas 2022. Church member John Spradlin was among those making the request.
“They said they would try, but then they got a big job in Missouri, and they told me they probably wouldn’t be able to have it in by Christmas,” Spradlin says. “Well, I guess God intervened and the job in Missouri went better than they thought because they got it in for us by Christmas.”
Jacksonville Stained Glass carefully removed and cleaned each piece of the window, re-installed the glass with new lead caming, fabricated a red oak frame and box in which to mount the window, and installed an LED lighting system so light will always come through the glass, day or night.
Workers then installed the completely restored window in Liter Baptist Church in time for congregants to welcome it for Christmas.
The window installation wasn’t the first time that the congregation experienced divine intervention. The current church building was originally planned as a fellowship hall until the issues surfaced with the old sanctuary.
“God knew a lot more about it than we did,” Liter Baptist Church Pastor Bill Edwards says, “because by the time we got this building built, we found we needed it to be a church building rather than a fellowship hall.”
The new building’s construction process also saw the Lord’s mysterious ways at work. Edward Braner is 81 years old, has been a Liter Baptist Church member since the age of five and was part of the congregational team that constructed the new building.
Braner says, “Talk about an act of God, I had the XM radio on one day and I heard an ad for General Steel. So, I called the number to get a price, and the fellow said, ‘How did you get this phone number?’
“When I told him I heard it on the radio he said, ‘That should have been the dealer number, this is the direct line to the corporate office.’ So, we dealt directly with the corporate office on this building.”
Braner is a truck driver and retrieved each load of steel directly from the company, saving the congregation a lot of money in delivery costs. Braner experienced another act during the building process that convinced him that God was at work.
“A lady donated money to help fund the construction with the understanding that it not be used to pay off a loan,” Braner says. “So, this church was built, and we never borrowed a penny on it. The members of the church built this building and when we’d run out of lumber, we’d ask for more money.”
Liter Baptist Church has a long history. It was organized on February 29, 1869, as the Jersey Prairie Baptist church. An 1872 feud divided the church, and one night the church mysteriously burned to the ground, with each group blaming the other for the blaze.
That same year, Jonas Liter donated two lots to construct a new, one-room church building. The church was destroyed in 1883 by the infamous Literberry tornado that also killed several church members. Services were held in the church yard until 1884 when construction was completed on a new church, and the name was changed to Liter Baptist Church on October 3, 1888. That structure was used until 2013 when the congregation moved into their current building, after which the old building was demolished.
Lee Scribner is 84 years old and has been a congregation member since 1948. He began his church life during the service of pastor Bill Boston, known as “Brother Bill,” who led the congregation from 1928 to 1973.
“He was just a living example for anybody, he practiced what he preached. He turned his entire salary back to the church,” Scribner says. “When he came out from town to preach, he would have his car full of kids. In 1953, the church bought him a new car because he brought those kids out here in an old car.”
The public is invited to experience Liter Baptist Church and see their restored stained glass window on Saturday, March 18 from 2 to 5 p.m. for an ice cream and cake social. There is no charge, and a free will offering will be accepted.
Liter Baptist Church members hope that visitors, whether they come March 18 or on any Sunday, will experience what has kept current members coming for generations.
“Everybody makes me feel so welcome. This is the warmest, friendliest church you’ll ever run across,” John Spradlin says. “This is the best church in Morgan County.”
Edward Braner agreed.
“This is just a building,” Braner says. “It’s the people in the building that makes it a church.”