Jimmy Stewart came to First Baptist Church Gulfport to serve as the senior pastor on Valentine's Day in 2010. Since that time, the church has assembled a team of professionals, who focus on making each person's worship experience unique and special for them.
"Our vision for worship is intended to lead people to engage with God in ways that are effective for them," Stewart said.
The church's first organizational meeting was on Sept. 19, 1896. The first building fund, in 1898, asked for 10 cents from each family. Some gave less. Some could give more. However it happened, the first building was completed in 1899 at a cost of $3,000.
The history of the church includes the building in 1915 of a second, larger sanctuary with a domed chapel, the fire that destroyed it in 1968 and destructive visits from hurricanes Camille in 1969 and Katrina in the not-so-distant past.
The church now calls Mississippi 605 home.
The past year has seen some exciting changes for the church. Associate pastor for traditional worship and seniors, Jerry Nance, is one of the latest additions to the leadership.
He joins another newcomer, associate pastor for contemporary worship and students, Nathan Jernigan, and recently promoted worship and media coordinator Lisa Whipps.
The church administrator, Frank Simmons, helps keep everything on track at the church as all the leaders plan for tomorrow.
Jody Dean became the interim senior associate pastor for the church last year, and Anita Dabbs, a longtime member of the church, now serves as the director of preschool ministries. The leadership team hopes to move the church toward a bright future that will glorify God and give each person an opportunity to worship God in a way that is effective for them.
The church offers both contemporary and traditional services to fulfill the worship desires of the congregation, some of whom desire familiar hymns, and others who prefer to offer praise by singing along with lively, more modern-day songs.
"We want to engage everyone in active and effective worship," Stewart said. "This also includes Kidstuff that next happens this Sunday at 4:30 p.m., for all children and their families."
Families bring their kids to the church to experience a fun and exciting evening of worship that includes skits, lots of kid-loving music, food, games and lots of interactive singing and praise.
"This year is going to be a busy one for our students," Jernigan said. "We have camps, trips, mission projects and a lot of fellowship opportunities planned. Anyone who wants to join us is welcome to come as they are and join in all we do."