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Neck church marks 200th anniversary
About 150 people help Popes Creek Baptist Church in Westmoreland celebrate its 200th anniversary

 The Rev. Richard Headley jokingly invited folks to join his congregation for 'seagull' that tastes like fried chicken.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 7/30/2012

BY CATHY DYSON

The congregation at Popes Creek Baptist Church had a good time celebrating the church's 200th anniversary on Sunday--and not just because they had enough food for several armies.

Past and present preachers, deacons and other officials at the Westmoreland County church served up doses of good humor along with plates of cherry crisp, zucchini casserole and fried chicken.

Or "seagull," as the Rev. Richard Headley joked.

Before people even entered the church, he stood in the parking lot, waving as cars pulled off State Route 3. He invited visitors to stay for lunch, saying the church had plenty, including "seagull that tastes just like chicken."

Headley is the current pastor, and he and several others dressed in outfits similar to what their forefathers might have worn in 1812, when the congregation formed.

At least that's what Headley hoped.

"I'm not sure if this was for a preacher or a funeral director," he said of his long, black coat and top hat.

Then he took off the hat, turned it upside down, walked over to those nearing the church and said: "Collecting money for the old-age chaplain's fund."

There was just as much merriment throughout the homecoming service, which drew about 150 people, about three times the normal attendance.

Members of the Popes Creek choir did their best not to break into a jig as they performed a "Smokey Mountain Gospel Medley."

As the cords of banjos rang out, someone in the audience shouted, "Ah, hah" in a high-pitched voice.

When the choir sang about a land that is fairer than day, there were more than a few feet tapping.

When former pastor Gleaton Rickenbaker approached the pulpit to deliver the sermon, he raised his hand.

"I have my red Solo cup," he said, holding a container presumably filled with water, but alluding to the catchy Toby Keith ode to the popular party cup. "I lift you up."

There were serious moments, too, aside from the one when Headley said some of the deacons looked old enough to have been original members.

Former pastors were introduced, including the Rev. Stephen Turner, who has lung cancer, and the Rev. Philip Motley, who earlier, had visited the graves of beloved members who passed since he was at the church in the mid-1980s.


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