Speegleville Baptist Church is a historic McLennan County congregation that is having a positive impact on its community. Founded in 1850, the church has served as the spiritual home to generations of believers and has weathered the various difficulties that have confronted the region in the past 170 years. This historic fortitude was a source of encouragement to current Pastor, Dr. Joe Bailey, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joe was confident that the same congregation that endured the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic would also endure the current health crisis. He jokes that his main concern was for the younger churches in the area that don’t have Speegleville Baptist’s history behind them!
A congregation that has always prized service to the community, Speegleville’s commitment to community ministry was reinvigorated a few years ago at a conference led by Baylor professor and Waco local Dr. Gaynor Yancey. Dr. Yancey’s topic was “The Externally Focused Church,” and her message served as a call to Speegleville congregants to strengthen ministry to Speegleville Elementary School and begin a food pantry. These ministry efforts have only intensified over past months as COVID-19 has affected the wider Speegleville community. The food pantry, which is the only service of its kind that specifically serves Speegleville’s largely rural populace, served thirty-two families last November and December. A highlight of this ministry included special meal baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas that came complete with appropriately themed paper plates and napkins. Regarding school ministry, Speegleville Baptist took advantage of the opportunity to provide Christmas presents for area children. In doing so, the congregation went the extra mile to learn what the children wanted for Christmas and then match specific gifts to specific kids. This “extra mile” mentality often accompanies the church’s ministry, and the community has taken notice. One example of the wider community’s appreciation for Speegleville Baptist’s ministry is a $250 grant from the Jackson Family Charitable Fund at East Texas Communities Foundation. The letter awarding the funds notes, “Thanks to your kindness, many children awoke Christmas morning with smiles and excitement over the many gifts and a wonderful meal Speegleville Baptist provided.” As Debi Barnett, who leads the food pantry ministry says, “We’re a small country church, but we love big. And, the community knows that.”
Beyond its love for the surrounding community, Speegleville Baptist is also a congregation that deeply loves its own. Debi Barnett (mentioned above) and Joni Welty both joined the church in the early 2000’s. Though proximity was key to the first visit in both cases, it was the community that drew them in. Joni remembers a palpable loving atmosphere and an encouraging congregation that made her want to return again and again and again. Along with this loving atmosphere, Speegleville Baptist is also a community that gladly welcomes newcomers into positions of service. Joni remembers being volunteered to join the choir, and Debi served as Sunday School director after just a few years of membership. Welcoming newcomers and plugging them in to service is a valuable skill for any church, and Speegleville Baptist has benefited greatly from its welcoming character. As it has brought newcomers into the fold, the congregation has been able to continue existing ministries while also investing in children and youth.
Supporting all of this activity and community care are Dr. Joe Bailey and his wife, Angela. Joe began his tenure as Pastor at Speegleville Baptist in 2002 and has led the congregation to “worship God, share Christ, and build believers.” As noted above, recent years have seen a recommitment to loving the community, and Joe’s sermons and leadership have facilitated this movement of God among Speegleville congregants. Indeed, it is through Joe’s preaching ministry that many people have discovered areas of service. Angela, a force in her own right, is obviously an integral part of the community’s direction as she champions “serving Christ through serving the community.” Through their long tenure in service to Speegleville Baptist, the Baileys have proven a good fit for the community.
Looking ahead, Speegleville is poised to benefit from Waco’s expansion, which will mean more opportunities for love and ministry. In the meantime, the congregation, like everyone else, is weathering COVID-19. To pray for Speegleville Baptist, ask that God will continue to bless their community ministries, and lift up the ministerial staff, which consists of Dr. Joe Bailey (Pastor), David Denning (Music Minister), Jordan Humler (Youth Minister), and Shauna Suggs (Children Minister).