By Randy Garrison
For the Enquirer
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed
For I am Thy God, and will still give you aid
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand
“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
These words from a hymn bring to mind the words the Lord Jesus Christ shared with the apostle Peter just before ascending into heaven in Matthew 16:18: “And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The verses I can quote are all from the King James Version. I like the strength in the words of Jesus as He makes this proclamation.
Jesus shared these words after asking Peter, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Some scholars think Jesus was referring to Peter, the “rock” who would, along with the other disciples, build His church, serving as the foundation as they shared the gospel and brought others into the faith.
Others believe that since Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus was giving Peter praise for his accurate statement of who Jesus was. The church would be built on Christ Himself, who was the Messiah.
You might be wondering where I am going with this hymn and these words of scripture. Well, here it is.
Most of us would think of a foundation as something strong and long lasting – something of permanence. The word “rock” conjures up the same connotations.
I always share that Hartselle has a firm and strong foundation. This firm foundation has, from the very beginning, had the church as a cornerstone.
According to Hartselle history, a revival led to the organization of the Methodist Church in 1872, with the Baptist Church and Presbyterian Church organizing in 1877. The Christian Church organized in 1881.
All of these churches came into existence in the city only a few years after Hartselle was founded.
The churches in Hartselle have continued to be the foundation of the town, through its change from an agricultural and rural area to the bedroom community that it is today.
While conducting an informal survey last fall, I asked a random and varying number of folks to share words or nouns with me when that represented Hartselle. This was for a project I was working on; I needed the opinions of others to illustrate a broad spectrum of ideas.
I was not surprised at all when the words church and faith were at the very top of the list of words that were shared with me.
I am sure many of you, like me, feel blessed to call Hartselle home. Hartselle continues to prosper, grow and succeed. One reason for this is because of the faith of Hartselle folks. Southern hospitality is surely based on loving your neighbor.
Our churches, over the past 150 years, have been there through good times and bad, through victory and defeat, through happy times and times of sorrow – providing the foundation for our city to not only exist but to grow and prosper.
All of our churches are appreciated for the role they have played in the success and life of our city.
The role our churches fill in our city will continue; after all, Jesus proclaimed it, and I believe it.