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Pastors give testimony to rural Mt. Moriah’s nurture

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Five pastors with ties to Campbellsville University share deep bonds with Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Shelby County, Ky., a church founded in 1792 where, collectively, they have served as pastor nearly 30 years.

The five men met at a local restaurant one day earlier this year in Mt. Eden, a farming community of about 300 where there is a 50-50 split of those who farm and those who work away from their homes. Joining current pastor Tom Conway, four of the former pastors – Alan Medders, Walter Jackson, Jim McKinley and Eugene Milby — encountered people they knew, or at least the families of those they knew, in what became an occasion of flowing memories and reconnected friendships with each other and several longtime members of the church.

Conway noted that Mt. Moriah reports an average attendance of 114 in Sunday School and 130 in worship each Sunday, highlighted by a vibrant youth ministry with 78 children and youth members.

Mt. Moriah Baptist Church has had preachers connected with Campbellsville University since about 1955 when McKinley, who is a 1952 graduate of Campbellsville College, became pastor. He served until 1958.

In 1960, Jackson, who completed five years as dean of Campbellsville’s school of theology in June, served for a year as Mt. Moriah’s pastor after nearly four years as pastor of Payneville Baptist Church in Meade County, Ky.

Milby, also a Campbellsville graduate, served as Mt. Moriah’s pastor in 1962 and 1963 prior to his foreign missionary service. Milby, and his wife, Reva (Re’), both graduated from Campbellsville College in 1951. After completion of their work in Mt. Eden, they served as missionaries to Zimbabwe, Brazil and East Africa.

Today, the Milbys’ connection to Shelby County continues as Re’ teaches at Southside School in Shelbyville. Milby also lives nearby to lend assistance to Mt. Moriah for interim ministry of various kinds.

Medders, vice president for development at Campbellsville University, served nearly four years as pastor of Mt. Moriah, from 1987-90. Medders served as president of the Woman’s Missionary Union Foundation in Birmingham, Ala., before coming to Campbellsville.

“In our memories, we can still see the faces of so many faithful members who worshiped here,” Medders said. “I learned more from the people at Mt. Moriah than they learned from me.”

Medders and his wife, Denise, had one of their two daughters, Allison, while serving at Mt. Moriah.

Conway graduated from Campbellsville College in 1989. When he was first out of seminary, he came to Mt. Moriah at age 40, preached a trial sermon and easily got along with the people. His wife, Karen, who also graduated from Campbellsville in 1989, and his two sons, Sean and Thomas, both “loved it” at the church.

He and his wife have observed their 25th wedding anniversary while at the church and are expecting their first grandchild in November.

“Folks here become family,” Conway said.

Conway said there many people in the community who come to Mt. Eden at a young age and remain as members until they die. However, the community is growing with people who come from Louisville to find a less stressful lifestyle.

The ministers feel that Mt. Moriah, like many churches over the years, has been a great ministry training ground for young Campbellsville ministry students.

“Mt. Moriah’s members are the ‘salt of the earth,'” Jackson said, “[They’re] Christians who live close to the land and have a strong tradition of faith, Christian witness and compassionate care.”

Jackson and his wife, Jackie, also are proud that their son, Jeff, was born during their ministry at Mt. Eden.

“We had many happy days here,” Jackson said. “People here love God, their families and our wonderful country.”

McKinley, a former president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and who lives in Louisville with his wife, Betty, graduated from Campbellsville in 1952. “We absolutely loved it here” at Mt. Moriah, said McKinley, who also served as pastor of Central Grove Baptist Church and two terms as a Campbellsville trustee.

As the four visitors concluded their visit to the community, Conway gave thanks that the Lord had convinced him to attend Campbellsville even though he was 31 years old before enrolling.

“The Lord needed me at Mt. Moriah, and I am proud to say much of my preparation for that ministry was received at Campbellsville University.”

Conway said he and his wife, Karen, who works for the Kentucky State Department of Education, “love CU.”

Campbellsville University, founded in 1906 and affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has an enrollment of 1,994 students who represent 94 Kentucky counties, 26 states and 22 foreign nations. It is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville.

    About the Author

  • Joan C. McKinney