The Duncan Banner
Like several of the churches in the area, Western Heights Baptist Church in Duncan began as a mission church and although it is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it actually began 64 years ago.
The church’s history was put together by Shirley Turner, WHBC clerk, for preparation of the anniversary celebration this Sunday. Festivities will begin with the morning service during which the church history will be read. Lunch will served after the morning service and a special program will follow the meal.
“We will have posters and photos of older members and locations hung up,” Turner said.
Former pastors L.B. Flannigan, Wes Faulk, church member Frank Barnes, as well as current pastor Chris Percival will speak. There will also be a presentation recognizing the few living resident charter members: Donald and Bonnie Rice and Delva Morris.
From the early days all the way to present day, Turner found several facts about the church beginnings and growth.
“It’s exciting and I enjoyed doing the history,” she said. “I learned a lot and I like seeing the expansion of the church.”
Under the name of Beckett Mission, the church started in 1949 near the Sunray Refinery and lead by H.H. Heffner. Not long after, Shaun Bradley, a Cherokee preacher, became pastor of the church.
When growing the church became a focus, it was moved to 2204 Main St. in 1950. In order to prosper, outside funding was needed and when First Baptist Church accepted Beckett as an extension of its church in 1952, the name was changed to Faith Mission. This began a period of repair and expansion.
“At the Main St. location, they had outhouses at that time,” said Turner.
With the expansions and purchase of additional property, the congregation grew as well. In 1953, there was a membership of 55 and only two years later in 1955, the church had grown to 84 members.
When membership reached 96 in early 1956, FBC began the search for a larger location for Faith Mission. In April 1956, the property where the church currently resides at Beech and Alice Dr. for $5,000 for a total of 2.75 acres.
However, it wasn’t until membership had reached 127 in May 1959 that FBC voted for Faith Mission to begin constructing a building at the new location. The structure was completed on Dec. 3, 1959 and the first service was three days later with a special dedication, where the name was changed to Faith Baptist Chapel.
It was 1963 when the church was commissioned as a member of the Oklahoma Baptist Association and the final name change to Western Heights Baptist Church occurred. Over the next few years, the church went through various pastors and remodels.
Turner’s collective history of the church ends like this:
“Our membership is diverse across many boundaries, ages, occupations, classes and backgrounds. The name and faces of this body of believers have almost all changed over the year, but one thing remains constant — our common bond of Jesus Christ. This church continues to strive to do God’s work. That is to provide a building where His people meet to worship and go out to tell the world about ‘The Great I Am.’”