Historical Highlights of the Cairo Church
The first meeting of the Cairo Church of Christ took place on February 17, 1957. M. J. F. Steen, an elder in the Timberlane church of Christ in Tallahassee, was responsible for starting the congregation and could have been the first preacher. Only a few people met on that first day on 3rd Avenue, NW, in a rented metal warehouse building that later became Miller Electronics before it burned. It had a glass front and one rest room. It was owned by Mike Thomas, and the rent was $25/ month. Members while on 3rd Avenue included Percy and Mary Maddox (2 children); T. J. Avery, whose wife was not a member (4 children); the Thompson family, who later went to worship in Thomasville; the Hursts, who later went to worship in Camilla; Eva Porter; and Pearl Hancock. Brother Steen started a building fund, so the congregation could have a facility in which to expand.
After the Steens departure, a preacher named J. Walker Whittle came from Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee and stayed for a time. Another minister named McElroy came from Tennessee, where he had sold his grocery store and dedicated his life to helping churches of Christ get started. He preached in Cairo for about a year. After that, Dave Howell came from Freed-Hardeman University and stayed for about a year. Men from Tallahassee congregations came and filled in between preachers. A preacher named Jacobson came to fill in and stayed for two or three years.
Larry Mitchell came in 1964, and the Cairo pulpit was his first. He arranged for the congregation to move from the 3rd Avenue building to hold services in the Masonic Lodge on 1st Street, NE. While the congregation met there, some classes for children were held in the Cairo Womans Club building. The building fund was starting to grow at this point, and the congregation placed ads requesting assistance in publications such as The Gospel Advocate and The Firm Foundation. People began to send money to assist with the effort.
Brother Mitchell used some of the money to buy a lot in his name, got the house built that became the preachers residence, and then transferred the title to the church. The house was on the property immediately adjoining where the church building would be located on the 200 block of 12th Avenue, NE, near the Farmers Market. The church then began to sell bonds to help with the construction and began to build. While the building was partially completed the congregation met in the basement, which is now used for classrooms. Johnny Hurst, son of one of the original families, and his wife Sue helped with the construction work. The first meeting in the basement took place in 1966, and a dedication of the completed building was held in July of 1967. The main auditorium upstairs had a hardwood floor, and Marjorie and Robert Nelson sent money for carpet to be laid down the center aisle, across the front, and on the stage where the pulpit stood.
Haskell Burton became the preacher after Larry Mitchell departed. The church of Christ in Niceville, Florida, had been helping the Cairo church for a while at this point. Someone came from Niceville and preached for a gospel meeting. Not long afterward, Doug Cook became the new preacher. He was followed by Richard Gibbs, who in turn was followed by Garry Pollard. In the spring of 1975 the church held a three-week gospel meeting in the spring. Ped and Lucille Croley moved from Havana to a farm north of Whigham and remained faithful members for many years.
After Joe Sims preached for the congregation for a while, Harris McCaleb became the preacher. He was later followed by John Neff, then Robert Argersinger. After that John Cowart from the Timberlane church came from Tallahassee each week to preach and teach until a new preacher could be hired. Harold King started on January 1, 1992 and would retire in 2005 rather than leaving. The Kings had come from a long tenure in Bainbridge and had three grown children.
Russell Register served as Treasurer during these years. The church was guided through business meetings of the men in the congregation, with most of the men taking turns as president. Occasionally the congregation would have a guest speaker come for a gospel meeting.
After heart trouble and a stroke, Brother King had a long period of recuperation. During that time, men from the Timberlane church of Christ in Tallahassee came and preached on a rotation basis, coordinated by John Cowart, who was by this time an elder at Timberlane. Brother King decided to retire and allow the congregation to look for a new pulpit minister. The congregation raised enough for Harold and Judy King to put a down payment on a home, and the couple remained in Cairo.
Stefano Mugnaini, a Freed-Hardeman graduate from Jacksonville, Florida, took the pulpit in June of 2005, also his first. His wife, Shelli, an RN went to work in local hospitals. During this time the church was strengthened in its organization and energy for outreach. After much study the congregation identified three elders in May of 2006: Johnny Hurst, Harold King, and Alan Kaye. The first elders meeting was at breakfast on May 29 (Memorial Day) at Burger King, because most restaurants were closed. In July of 2006 the congregation held its first VBS in nearly 20 years, assisted greatly by the teenage youth group from Cordova, Tennessee, with a total attendance of 82 children and adults on the last night. Stefano and Shelli stayed until April of 2007, when they moved to Charleston, South Carolina.
At age 22, Art Ray Wilson came to Cairo in 2008 from Mountain View, Arkansas. His brother Keith, who was still in high school at the time, came with him, and they brought their grandmother, Willa Mae Brooks. A graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching, Art came well prepared and has done some excellent work in building up the church since the time of his arrival.
In 2009 Keith left for college, and on March 20, 2010, Art married Amy Stewart of Moultrie. Things are going well, and Art is doing a lot to help the congregation's outreach effort.
In May of 2014, William Hester of Pinson, AL, will begin preaching for the congregation.
While the congregation has never been very large, it is still very much alive and well, with the potential for a bright future ahead. The members are reaching out to others who would like to worship with the church.