by Regina Martinez, originally published in The Fellowship
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In 1978 in Meridian, Mississippi, a small group of believers (including Milford and Carolyn Lyndaker and Daryl and Cindy Byler) began a Thursday night Bible study. In 1980, the group organized and chose the name, Jubilee Mennonite Church, which was then formally recognized by the Gulf States Mennonite Conference. The congregation continued to grow, and Leon Kauffman and Duane Maust were added to the leadership team.
In 1983, five years after the beginning of the Bible study group, Jubilee bought an old two-story house on the corner of Hooper Street and 40th Avenue to use as a worship facility. Renovations were made to the house in 1984 and 1985 as more room was needed for the growing congregation. In 1986 Laurence Horst became interim pastor, serving in that role for two years until Daryl Byler became Jubilee’s pastor on August 10, 1988.
At the invitation of Rev. Don Leo of Highland Methodist Church, on January 7, 1990 the Jubilee church group began meeting for worship in the upstairs fellowship
hall of the Methodist church and continued meeting there for a year and a half. During this time, Jubilee, along with other churches in the Meridian area, participated in Prison Fellowship Community Service Project, which consisted of bringing an inmate into your home to live. The Byler family hosted Jerry Hemphill in their home. When Jerry left to go back to prison, he gave Daryl an index card with the name of Central Presbyterian Church on it, urging Daryl to contact the church as he believed they had something to give Jubilee. At the time, Daryl did not know what to make of the card, so he just laid it aside.
In August of 1991, Jubilee made another move. This time they were having their church services in the parish hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at the invitation of their rector, Father Henry Hudson. Later, Jubilee began meeting on Sunday afternoons, using the main sanctuary of the church. During this pilgrimage of meeting here and there, the congregation started a building fund with the desire of having their own church building.
So it was that in October of 1991, Jubilee purchased the old Highland School property on 20th Street as a building site. The old school was demolished and by the fall of 1992, a blueprint was drafted for their new church building. Plans for construction were underway when Duane Maust (who was then congregational chair) received an anonymous phone call with the message that Central Presbyterian Church was near the point of closing and that maybe our group would be interested in their facility.
After Duane explained that they were about to begin building, the caller persisted, and Duane agreed to look into the possibility. After much prayer and conversation, it became clear to Jubilee that Central Presbyterian really wanted them to have their building. They told Jubilee to make any offer that they could afford, including the kinds of ministry they hoped to use the building for. In late 1993, an offer was made and accepted. December 19, 1993 was the end of Jubilee’s pilgrimage as they entered into their new church building that had become to all of them a gift from God.
In July of 1994, Daryl Byler terminated his pastorate at Jubilee to accept an assignment with MCC in Washington, D.C. Ernie Nuefeld came as interim pastor of Jubilee in January of 1995 and stayed a year. Duane and Elaine Maust, who were installed as co-pastors of Jubilee in November of 1996, continue in that role, and they with the congregation look forward to sharing their building and the good news of the gospel to their friends and the neighborhood, reaching out to help those with spiritual and material needs.