HANNIBAL – Immanuel Baptist Church's longtime pastor will be recognized during a special celebration and farewell event Sunday, Nov. 10, as he looks back on years filled with memories and looks toward the start of a new ministry in Bowling Green.
Pastor Mark Albee remembered the characteristics of Immanuel Baptist Church's family that drew him and his wife, Dr. Julie Albee, to Hannibal in 2003. He previously was pastor at First Baptist Church in Maryville for nine years, and his wife was teaching at Northwest Missouri State University. They both enjoyed being in Maryville, but some students who attended the university from Immanuel Baptist Church showed them God had plans for them in Hannibal.
Albee said he “made a connection” with the church through those students, noting that Immanuel Baptist Church had been without a pastor for two years.
“Out of that, the Lord opened the door for me to come over here and serve as their pastor,” Albee said.
He was impressed from the start with the planning for the future and the dedication shown by the family of church members and staff like Youth and Outreach Pastor Gary Taylor. A few years before Albee arrived, a new gymnasium was constructed. Just before he started as pastor, the church purchased the Jehovah's Witnesses former building.
“This church has always had a vision for the future and for ministry and for reaching out to the community,” Albee said. “That was a real motivator to me in coming over here was their heart and commitment to the community and having a vision for the future.”
Albee worked with fellow church members to fully utilize the facilities and reach out to all age groups throughout Hannibal with their ministry efforts. The Upward Basketball and Cheerleading programs instill fundamental athletic skills for about 120 youth each season while strengthening character and teamwork skills and providing a strong faith base. Albee said he loves getting the chance to coach first graders each year — and helping everyone meet the goal of scoring at least one basket each. Teammates and other athletes use strategy to help a player who might be struggling to make that first basket.
“They get that shot, and usually everybody erupts in applause — to see that child glow from having success,” Albee said.
During the past 15 years, the annual Apple-Fest Community Block Party has been a way for everyone in the church to lend a hand and extend a gift to the community — between 700 and 900 people attend the free event that combines live entertainment, family photos, bouncy houses, treats, crafts and other activities. Albee said as volunteers put door hangers up throughout the community, they are prayer walking for each neighborhood and household they pass by. When the big event comes together, Albee said it is a way to share a gift like God's love.
“It's a gift of grace that we can give back to our community,” he said.
Albee said he will miss everyone at Immanuel Baptist Church and he has especially fond memories serving as a grandfather figure for the children in the Carpenter's Kids Daycare program. Over the years, he's seen those kids grow up, and he has shared in milestones and memories with countless families in the church.
“We've shared life,” Albee said. “We've cried, we've laughed, we've sat through crises and we've rejoiced through blessings. We've lived a lot of life together.”
Albee said he is confident that Immanuel Baptist Church will have a bright future, and he said he is at “a season in his life” where it's time to lead the smaller congregation at Edgewood Baptist Church in Bowling Green. He said his wife will continue to teach in the education department at Hannibal-LaGrange University. The impact they both made at Immanuel Baptist Church will be fondly remembered by many whose lives they touched.
Taylor and secretary Judith Gibson both enjoyed the chance to share memories with Albee throughout the years.
“It's been a pleasure to work with him,” Taylor said.
“Watching him lead Immanuel and serving the Lord for the last 16 1/2 years has been a pleasure and a privilege,” Gibson said.
Sunday's farewell will begin with a combined worship service at 10:40 a.m. at Immanuel Baptist Church, 3600 McMasters Ave. in Hannibal.