Community church marks 150 years of worship


Tammie Swinney, of Carbondale, participates in a worship service Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, at Olivet Free Will Baptist Church in Carbondale. “It’s like a family [at Olivet],” she said. Swinney has been attending Olivet for five and a half years. This year the church celebrates 150 years in the Carbondale community. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Jacob Wiegand

If you’re walking through the northeast side of Carbondale on a Sunday morning, you may get a chance to hear the sounds of worship coming from inside Olivet Free Will Baptist Church.

Many with their hands raised high in the air, the congregation of a few dozen members can be found belting songs of praise as the church celebrates 150 years in the community.

Parishioner Carolyn Jackson said people feel connected to Olivet because it’s not a “fly-by-night” church.


“It’s a sense of home,” Jackson said. “It’s a sense of security, because it’s still here.”

The place of worship — which got its start in a blacksmith shop in 1866 on what is now Illinois Avenue — calls North Marion Street home after having at least three official locations over its century-and-a-half existence.

Bishop Albert L. Ingram, who has been the pastor at Olivet for nearly 17 years, said the congregation began construction of its newest edifice in 2012.

“A lot of churches move out of the community when they get a chance to reconstruct or rebuild,” Ingram said. “I wanted the church to be, you might say, the light that would be here until time come. I wanted it to be the glue that kind of holds things together.”

It was with the help of Builders for Christ, a group that helps churches with construction projects, that the congregation completed its current facility. Lined with stained glass windows and church pews covered in the red fabric, services in the new structure began in 2013.

But for some at Olivet, church is about family.


Sixty-two-year-old Linda Gibbs, of Carbondale, said she was baptized at the church when she was 8 years old.

“Olivet is special because they’re really friendly people,” Gibbs said. “Just being part of a church family — it keeps you coming.”

Church deacon Kent Mason, who has worked at Arnette’s barber shop for 51 years, started attending the church with his mother in the 1940s.

“I do believe that Olivet, we all love each other,” Mason said. “I can go talk to any brother, any sister and they say they’ll help me. They’ll do things for me. 
I mean, that’s what you want. You want to be a family. And we are a family.”

Managing editor Jacob Wiegand can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jawiegandphoto.

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