Can you imagine a construction team trying to erect a building when the foundation had not been dug sufficiently or in straight lines with right angle corners? Either someone would have to go back and start over to correct the errors or build on a foundation which might not hold up the structure.
Such is the issue which comes to mind when I think of my predecessor over sixty years ago who served as the first Pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church. To those of us Pastors who have had the privilege of serving this wonderful congregation, he is not simply another Pastor who happened to serve in this office many years ago, but rather, a key figure in setting the course over which we have journeyed in our time.
Dr. Bill Dodson was called to a fledgling congregation trying to get organized on top of a clay hill in what was then the outskirts of east Montgomery. The new church was a mission from the Capital Heights Baptist Church. It was his job not only to preach the Gospel, but to provide leadership in charting a path the church would follow through the decades. Unless someone has been in those shoes, it’s hard to appreciate the magnitude of the task.
You will recall the well-known event after he had been here about three months when the hurricane from the gulf blew through Montgomery taking the famous tent with it leaving only a few remnants behind which were recovered hanging in trees. While the tent destruction was an interesting anecdote from his tenure, the real job was preparing for a permanent future. The first buildings were constructed in his tenure and the church purchased a pastorium which served for many years. Missions organizations, a kindergarten, music ministry and church library also came in those early years. However, the real work was bringing people together with a sense of purpose, reaching a new community and forming a solid Southern Baptist Congregation. Within two years the church had almost four hundred members and continued to grow.
The work of Bill Dodson as Pastor has lasted through generations in spite of the vast changes in Montgomery and people who have come and gone in the church membership. That commitment to evangelism and missions, a strong Sunday School organization, vitality in worship and warmth of church family, which certainly has been built upon by other ministers through the years, goes back to our first Pastor’s leadership.
Although I am the one who is here many years later, I am sure the other Pastors between then and now join me in appreciating the legacy of Dr. Bill Dodson, Jr. Even though he served just three years here, those were the years that good foundations were laid which continue to be the distinguishing hallmarks of our church. As he went home to be with the Lord last week, I am confident he heard those beautiful and blessed words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”