EAGLE NEST, NM (BNM) – Eagle Nest Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist Church once again. Ministry in the community continues. The church suffered difficult times a few years ago. But, due to faithful members standing steadfast and praying for their church, God answered their prayers. The church had become very “pastor-owned,” and the attendance had dwindled to just a handful. Most of those attending were the family of the pastor at the time.
The situation came to the attention of Gerald Farley unexpectedly. A lady stopped by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico one day to deliver a check for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. She is an Albuquerque resident who spends the summers in Eagle Nest and attended the church there. In a conversation with Farley, the lady expressed that “they had lost their church in Eagle Nest.” Curious, Farley asked some pertinent questions. In that conversation, he learned that church attendees were only the pastor’s family, and the church was no longer a Southern Baptist church. The rest of the local congregation no longer attended the church.
The BCNM believes in helping any church affiliated with the organization. They will do what it takes to help a church thrive again. This church was no exception. Farley began looking into the situation and found that it was as the lady told him. “It was a long process,” Farley said. The then-current pastor was unwilling to give up his hold on the church, which made the process harder.
In researching the deed of the church, Farley found that the church had a reversionary clause. The reversionary clause meant that possession of the church, if it ceased to be a Southern Baptist church, would go back to the BCNM. Because the pastor refused to leave, the BCNM sought legal help to regain possession of the church and help the church thrive once again.
With the assistance of legal counsel, the BCNM gained back the deed to the property, the buildings and the church van and some land in Angel Fire that the church owned. Once settled, the BCNM sold the Angel Fire property. The money funded necessary repairs to the church building.
Farley said that the church needed much maintenance to repair the church building before it would be useable again. Work on the building meant that soon, the church and its members could worship again as a Southern Baptist church.
Once the church was viable again and the congregation could stand on its own, it filed articles of incorporation to become a non-profit organization. Once completed and once the church was able to stand on its own again, the BCNM deeded the property, buildings and their vehicle back to them. They now own the church and are a legal, non-profit organization.
Several ministers came to Eagle Nest to pastor the church, only to find that they, or their family members, could not handle the high altitude at Eagle Nest - 8,238 feet. In February of 2014, Murrell Howell came to Eagle Nest to pastor the church. He remains the pastor today.
In talking with Howell, the Baptist New Mexican asked about ministry in Eagle Nest. Howell chuckled a little and said, “Well, before the pandemic….” Before the pandemic, the church had a vital prison ministry. But, COVID-19 closed that door of ministry for now. So, the church focuses on ministry within the community. “Music is a primary focus for the church,” Howell told the Baptist New Mexican.
Howell and a praise team of primarily six people frequently minister to the community. “We don’t need a reason why; we just need a place to play,” Howell said of the group. The group is called “Only God Knows.” They sing and play anytime and anywhere they can. The group sings Gospel music, contemporary Christian music and original tunes. The group produced a CD filled with its original songs. Howell offered that anyone interested in a CD or in having the group sing could call him at 575-779-2596. Each Sunday, the team sings for the glory of the Lord with their congregation, and Howell preaches the Gospel.
The church’s worship attendance varies. In the summer, attendance swells to approximately 75 people. People from New Mexico and surrounding states stay in the quaint tourist town to escape the city and the heat and to spend time in the mountains. In the winter, the congregation shrinks to 25-30 attendees from the immediate area.
The number of chairs the church owns determined its seating capacity. With chairs spread out at the required distance, they hold in-person services. The local congregation does not exceed the 25% capacity limit required during these months of “shut down.”
Howell also praised the technology of Facebook for helping the congregation continue ministry during the pandemic. “Because of Facebook Live, we are reaching out all over the world,” Howell said. He said they reach people from Florida to Africa each week on the live stream. He said that they would never have reached those people without the technology used today.
“This church situation is the reason church bylaws and a reversionary clause are essential,” Farley said. “That is what saved this church.” “The church has grown financially, numerically, and is doing a good job ministering to the community,” Farley said.