In the summer of 1992, First Assembly of God church in Paris was in search of a pastor.
Until that decision could be made, the church asked the Rev. Kenny Maness and his wife Denise to fill in. Now, after 25 years, they’re still here.
The church will celebrate their 25 years with two events — one Saturday and another of Sunday, Sept. 24. Saturday, the celebration takes place from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the church, which is located at 1111 South Elm Street in Paris. That event will include barbecue, live blue grass gospel music and inflatables for the kids. On Sunday, Sept. 24, there will be a special church service and reception. The church service begins at 10:40 a.m. The guest speaker will be the Rev. Larry Moore. A reception with a meal will follow the church service. The public is invited to attend both events.
Last week, Kenny Maness sat down and was asked to reflect on the last 25 years in Paris.
“We were youth pastors in Searcy and had been there for three years,” Maness said. “I just thought it was time to pastor a church. This church was open and they asked us to fill in and we never left. We filled in and the next thing you know, they were interested in talking about the pastorate.”
The appointment of Maness marked a turning point for the church and ushered in a period of growth.
“My philosophy was constant growth,” Maness said, “and we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.
“This church is just full of really good people,” Maness said. “They were really ready to grow. That’s the key. They were ready to grow.”
When Kenny and Denise Maness arrived at First Assembly of God, the worship services drew about 125 people. Now, 25 years later, worship services average 400 in a new sanctuary which was built several years ago. First Assembly of God is the largest church in the community.
Meanwhile, Kenny and Denise Maness have raised two daughters and a son in the community and appear very happy to have become fixtures in the place they were asked to fill in.
“We love Paris,” Maness said. “It’s been an excellent place to raise children. “There have been opportunities to leave over the last 25 years but it never was something we wanted to do. I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving these people. I love them too much. Some of the best people in Paris are in our churches.”
And the last 25 years have passed in a hurry, Maness said.
“Oh, Lord,” he said, “it went by so fast. It only seems like it’s been a couple of years.”