By Carol Lancaster
Sapa Baptist Church honored Earlean Bowen on May 13 for years of service and dedication to the church.
Butch Jennings presented a plaque to Mrs. Bowen from her church family, and a bronze plaque hangs outside the church doors in her honor.
I talked to Mrs. Bowen, or “Mrs. Earlean” as she’s known to the church, about Sapa Baptist Church, her memories as a child and the need to move the old church when U.S. 82 was four-laned.
Sapa Baptist Church was established in or around 1902 in the community of Sapa. Mrs. Earlean attended church as a child with her mother and father, Cordie and Less Shaffer. I asked her about growing up in the church and although she couldn’t remember specific dates, she did remember the day she joined the church.
As I talked with her, she said, “I remember 21 of us joined the church at one time.” As I paused to ask if I heard correctly, she began stating their names. I then asked her how many members Sapa Church had in those days. She replied, “Close to 100.”
I then asked how many people came to church on a regular basis. She replied that it was full every Sunday. Her response was, “In those days, there wasn’t anything to keep people out of church.” She stated that church was where you met to worship the Lord but also the place where people gathered to fellowship with one another on a regular basis.
I asked Mrs. Earlean if she had ever been to any other church regularly, not just to visit. She quickly replied, “No, Sapa is the only church I’ve ever known.” Mrs. Earlean has attended Sapa Church from a child to the present, doing whatever she can to help when needed and making sure the doors were always open.
In or around 1993, preconstruction of the four-lane through Webster County began, causing the old church to be torn down and a new church to be built across Sapa Road at its current location.
Mrs. Earlean was there through every step, making sure the old church was removed with dignity as if the church was a member of her family. The stained-glass windows from the old church hang in the new church today. The pews from the old church were restored and brought to the new church.
When the new church was completed, Mrs. Earlean made sure part of the old church came with it; not just the windows and pews, but the feeling of belonging, warmth and the freedom to worship the Lord in God’s house.