Talladega Springs Baptist Church reopens
by MARK LEDBETTER
After being closed for two months, the First Baptist Church in Talladega Springs invited Dr. Tom Wesson to be their pastor. The invitation was a call home to Wesson.

Wesson’s association with the church goes back to his childhood. Wesson said he grew up in Talladega Springs until he joined the Marines. After his time with the Marines, Wesson returned to Sylacauga, and then later moved back to Fayetteville.

Wesson said there was another sentimental reason for wanting to reopen the church. It was at Talladega Springs that he baptized his first baptism, which was his then 10-year old daughter, Jamey.

Wesson surrendered to preach Jan. 5, 1971, but not until after resisting the call for several years. Wesson choked up when he recalled the night he “surrendered” to the call to preach.

“I knew that God had called me years before I surrendered,” Wesson said, “and kept saying I couldn’t talk in front of people, you know the basic excuses people come up with.”

While attending a revival in the last week of December in 1970, Wesson and several people “surrendered” to the “call” either to serve as a bus captain, or bus driver, a teacher, or preacher. He said when he made it to Sunday night without responding to the call, “I said, ‘Whew, I made it.’”

The following Wednesday, Wesson said his pastor preached a message from Ezekiel on “Who will stand in the gap and I don’t know a whole lot of what he said after that.

“I kept thinking he never would shut up, but he did and I hit the altar. I felt one of the deacons at my side and then felt a hand on my shoulder and it was my brother-in-law, and he pastored Estelle Baptist Church at that time. They all said they knew it was coming but they just didn’t know when.

“You can’t forget it just like I can’t forget the day; it’s just like the day I got saved,” Wesson said. “I remember it just as clear as if it was yesterday.”

Wesson said even though he made mistakes and had a lot of short-comings, he has never regretted responding to “the call.” In Wesson’s estimation the call to preach is the highest calling an individual can receive.

Rather than letting his failures defeat him, Wesson said he learned two important lessons – trust God and patience.

“In a lot of situations I tried to do things on my own and tried to straighten people out before they got saved,” Wesson said. “And I had trouble with that, but now I realize that if a guy comes in here, with piercings comes here and someone says, ‘I wouldn’t let anyone with piercings come in here, I’d say, ‘Why, they have a soul just like anybody else.’”

Less than a year after answering the call he attempted to start a church without success, and after a successful start of another church he accepted the position as pastor at the Mountain View Baptist in Sylacauga. He started Beulah Baptist in Fayetteville and served there for 34 years.

During the years he served as a pastor, Wesson said he drove a truck for 21 or 22 years.

“Well I’ve made the statement if my steering wheel could talk there ain’t no telling how many times it got saved,” Wesson said. “Most of my sermons I preached to my steering wheel before I’d get home on the weekends.”

Wesson was also able to complete his education while working with the Baptist Health Systems. He asked to get off early on Thursdays to attend classes and when the CEO talked to him about attending classes, not only did he give him time off the organization paid for his classes. Wesson received a doctorate in Theology in 2003.

For two years after retiring from Beulah, Wesson said he evangelized, but when he heard Talladega Springs was being closed, he contacted the leadership and they voted him in to serve as pastor.

“It’s going to take sometime for it to build back but hopefully the word will get out that it is open and people that aren’t attending will come,” Wesson said.

Now that he is retired, Wesson said he can devote his time the church and to visitation. He said the church is over 100 years old and that is another reason he wanted to see the church reopen.

“I didn’t want to see it closed,” he said. “It has a lot of sentimental value to me”

Yet, even though he said he is devoting time to rebuilding the church’s attendance, Wesson said he still “enjoys getting grease under his fingernails” and “piddling with old cars.”

During racing season Wesson serves as the announcer and as a chaplain at Shelby County Speedway which has given him several unique opportunities.

“I’ve performed weddings on the track, led people to the Lord on the track,” Wesson said. “One guy had a heart attack and they were loading him in the ambulance and asked to talk to him but was denied from talking to him. The man said, ‘I want him to pray for me before you take me.”

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2013