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Miami church recognized as the oldest in Oklahoma - KOAM TV 7

Miami church recognized as the oldest in Oklahoma

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MIAMI, OKLAHOMA -

It's a cause for celebration in Miami. The Ottawa Indian Baptist Church reaches a major milestone that sets it apart from other churches in the state.

The sound of banjos fills the room at the Ottawa Indian Baptist Church. Members celebrate the 175th anniversary, Pastor Kevin Bass is in awe of the spirit of the church.

“It’s just amazing that 175 years, been burnt down twice, the ambition and the love of Jesus Christ with a church, the people of the church, is just amazing to me,” says Bass.

The church is officially recognized by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as the oldest in the state. The Ottawa tribe started the mission in Kansas in 1840, forced to move to Oklahoma 30 years later. It’s a mission that a historian says is significant to the culture of the tribe.

“Just the influence of the church upon the tribes, every tribe that allowed Baptist churches to come in realized there was a change within the people themselves,” says Eli Sheldon, Historian with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He found a picture of the original building, a gift to the church.

“It’s really an amazing journey just to look back in history and say we were here before the Civil War, you know, we were just here right after the expedition of Lewis and Clark," says Bass.

But for many, the church is more than just a place to share their faith, it's a community.

“Everybody here wants the best for not just everybody here but for everybody on a whole,” says Ray Wilson, a member of the church for 40 years.

“The communion and the fellowship is wonderful,” adds Betty Mabry, the longest living member of the church.

Congregants look forward to sharing their faith for the next 175 years.

“I believe that our church will last for centuries,” says Bass.

Representatives from the Ottawa tribe also took part in the ceremony. The church also has one of the oldest cemeteries in the state.

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