To celebrate 100 years, Immanuel Baptist Church invited a few friends over to its Tates Creek Road location Sunday night.
Those friends came across town from Imani Baptist Church, a congregation that Immanuel has helped and worked with.
The members of Immanuel and Imani, predominantly white and black, respectively, joined in the first of several programs to celebrate Immanuel's centennial. Immanuel's sanctuary seats were nearly filled with the combined congregation.
Music floated through the sanctuary on the snowy evening. The racially mixed choir, as diverse as the congregation they sang for, tackled traditional hymns and modern gospel songs. Two national recording artists — gospel singer Lynda Randle and Grammy award-winner Russ Taff — also performed as part of the celebration.
The spacious facility on Tates Creek Road would engulf the small, rented building on South Upper Street in which the church had its first service Feb. 1, 1909. There were originally 119 members. A century later, 4,100 call Immanuel home, according to church officials.
David Howard, an Immanuel associate pastor, said there has been a sense of excitement at the church leading up to the centennial celebration. The information desk at the church's entrance even displayed 100th birthday cards that younger church members made.
"It's something our entire church will celebrate," Howard said.
The church wanted to bring in its 100th year with Imani, with whom they have been in a partnership for more than a decade. In 2004, Immanuel gave Imani $250,000 to buy more than 22 acres of land for its first campus. Imani's members moved into a 120,000-square-foot facility in August.
"We have watched both of these congregations grow and share in the Lord," Immanuel Senior Pastor Craig Loscalzo said during the program.
During her performance, Randle praised the two churches' efforts to work together.
Building bridges across races "should be an ongoing experience," Randle said.