For 114 years those attending Rock Hill Missionary Baptist Church have taken the road less traveled. The tiny church, founded in 1908, is on a dusty road in the northern most part of Okaloosa County, and for those many years it has made all the difference for Christ.
In those founding years early in the 20th century, people would walk to church or come by horse or a horse-drawn wagon or buggy of some sort. Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States the year the church was founded. And the ugly head of segregation was the norm just 43 years after the Civil War when the then black church first met.
The church now only meets on third Sunday of each month. It is pastored by 64-year-old Joseph L Durm Jr., who has led the congregation for 11 years.
Rock Hill doesn’t have a big building or several mission programs. The building is a small sanctuary similar to what one would find in many rural areas.
But that takes nothing away from the ministry of those who attend and serve there.
“Coming up here is like coming up here when my grandmother was coming to church,” Durm said. “We have a worship service up here. That’s what I like about it.
“Despite what’s going on (in the world) we have a worship service. We worship God and then we go home.”
The church was organized was in 1908. The first pastor was Rev. J.T McDuffie. The first deacons were C.T. Baggett and J.L. Baggett.
The church meets in a building built in 1978. The original building, which still sits on the church property, was also the community school.
The church draws people from South Alabama as well as Okaloosa County. And racial barriers are set aside in the body of Christ.
“We have about 30-35 in attendance,” Durm said. “They come from Crestview and Wing (Ala.). We have black and white visitors come. The only challenge I have is when it’s raining, sometimes the road get bad (slick and muddy) and people can’t get here.”
The church lost its two oldest members last year, sisters who were both in their eighties. Durm said that makes him the old person at the church.
“I’m 64,” he said. “My deacon just turned 60. Everybody else is fairly young—in their fifties and we’ve got a few kids that come. We have young lady that has a chance to play college basketball. We have several kids that have come out of here that are talented kids. The thing about it is all of them love the Lord.”
Durm said one of his biggest challenges is dealing with the aspects of a family church and knowing when to stay out of someone’s business and when to be there to offer counseling as needed.
Durm said there’s nothing typical about a typical service at Rock Hill. He’s always prepared with a sermon, but some Sundays after two or three songs the Lord might impress on his heart they should have a song service. Other weeks, God might have him change sermons from the one he had prepared.
His main purpose is to see that the people have experienced a service where they worshipped God.
“I have something that I always think I need to preach, and then on Sunday morning it will be whole different thing,” Durm said. “I go as God leads me.”
The church tries to help members with needs whenever possible. Durm said if someone needs to have their light bill paid the church will do It’s best to meet those need.
“We take care of our own members because we know them and we know their needs,” he said. ”We just believe God is going to take care of us. God has taken care of us.”