Walking into Tampico Christian Church, people are immediately greeted with a warm smile and a handshake or a hug from Pastor Randy King.
“Good to have you with us today,” he told a couple before Sunday morning’s worship service.
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“Good to see you,” he said to a man while shaking his hand.
“Good to have you, buddy,” he said to a man who was visiting the church.
An hour later, before people started walking out of the church after the service, King was the first one at the door along with his wife, Annette.
“Have a wonderful day. Enjoy your day. Thanks for being here,” he said to people as they left, giving more handshakes and hugs.
Since he started at the church in April 2013, King has had that approach of greeting people. It has worked because attendance went from 33 at his first service to an average of more than 120 nowadays.
“As far as I’m concerned, in the eyes of Jesus Christ, everybody who walks into those doors is important, and everybody who walks out is important,” King said. “Whether you come in saved and lost or you go out of here saved and lost, in the eyes of Christ, you’re important, and that should be the reflection that I have on individuals.”
As long as King is around the church, he said he will continue that approach.
That includes Sunday when the congregation will celebrate 150 years of being in the small Jackson County community.
The regular worship service will be at 10:30 a.m. with special music, followed by a catered meal. Then a celebration service with special music is planned at 2 p.m. with refreshments served afterwards.
King said the faith of the congregation has helped the church sustain for 150 years.
“I think their faith in Christ is what has helped this church to continue because many churches, especially small country churches, they close and their membership (decreases),” he said.
“It just amazes me how God is still working in people’s lives because it’s all his work, it’s all his doings,” King said. “He’s the one that gets all of the glory because it’s all his doings. … It just amazes me the reality of how he is still around, how he is still working in small country churches and how he is still reaching out to people.”
The church opened Jan. 12, 1868, as a 30-by-40-foot frame structure on a half-acre of land donated to Shiveral Rucker, Martin Field and William K. Robertson.
In 1889, a bell to sound out the welcome invitation was installed at the church. Today, it’s at the top of the sign outside and is rung before every service.
There was a remodeling project in 1912 to add a new roof, a new metal ceiling, two new flues on each end of the building and two windows on the west end.
New seats were installed in 1920, and electricity was added in 1938.
On March 6, 1954, a deed was read to the church on the acquisition of additional land. That same year, a basement was installed under the church building and a 16-by-18-foot room was added to the church.
A complete remodeling phase of the building started in 1978, except for the metal ceiling of the sanctuary. Three new classrooms, a church office and two restrooms were added, a septic system was installed and a new well was drilled.
A new steeple, carpeting and upholstery for new pew seats were added in 2000.
The most recent project was in 2017 when an addition was built on the left side of the building to make room for more than 60 new seats. That project also included making a ramp to the basement, where the seating was expanded to nearly 120 and a new kitchen and restrooms were built for the fellowship area.
Over the years, one thing that has kept the church going is families attending together.
That includes sisters Ethel Benson and Ada Shirley.
“Several family members go here,” said Benson, who lives in Little York. “All of my family goes here, just about. It got me started, and I’ve been coming.”
She likes being greeted at the front door by King and listening to his message.
“I love coming here,” Benson said. “I think Randy has really done his part. We’ve got a wonderful preacher. He says, ‘Well, it’s from the Lord,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re doing a really great job here.’ The Lord has blessed this church.”
Shirley, who turned 94 on Wednesday, said she went to a Christian church growing up in Kentucky, and Tampico Christian Church was the first one she came to when she moved to Indiana.
“I just liked it, and it’s close enough for me,” she said. “It is a small church, but it has always been OK for me. It wasn’t very big when I started coming here, but it just keeps growing.”
Shirley said it’s good to see a variety of ages attending the church, and Benson said that will keep the church going for 150 more years.
“I think it’s just the people that work hard and keep it going,” Benson said.
“As long as I’m living, I plan on being here,” she said with a big smile.
Don Sturgeon is 93 and said he started attending the church when he was 5. He regularly attends with his son, David Sturgeon, and they both live in Brownstown.
“He was raised not too far from here,” David said of his father growing up near the church.
“All of us kids came here,” Don said. “My stepmother went to the other church, and she changed and came here. That helped us.”
David said he keeps going to the church to keep a family tradition alive.
“It’s a good church, good community. Just everybody was more or less related, and this is where we came to church,” he said, smiling. “The preacher we’ve got now is fantastic. He has done us a lot of good. It’s just the community that has kept us together and coming.”
King said the faith of the people to stand upon the Scripture that the church was founded on will help it continue.
“We’re sinners living in a fallen world,” he said. “We all need a savior, we all need hope, everybody does, and the only hope you’re going to find is in Jesus Christ. That’s the only place you’re going to find the hope that you truly need in this life.”
And as long as King is pastor, he will be there to greet you.
“People should feel welcomed in God’s house,” he said. “I want people to realize regardless of what they may be dealing with that there is hope beyond measure, that we have victory in him, and regardless of what you face, look to him for the hope that only he can give.”
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What: 150-year celebration
When: Regular worship service at 10:30 a.m. with special music, followed by a catered meal. A celebration service with special music is planned at 2 p.m. with refreshments served afterwards.
Where: Tampico Christian Church, 5343 S. County Road 450E
Who: Everyone is welcome
Information: Search for Tampico Christian Church on Facebook