Henry Melton and Jane Blair, both of the Shoals, have been selected to receive the Spirit of the Shoals Award. The award is a nondenominational recognition of local clergy or laity, given periodically as worthy candidates emerge. Recipients are selected by a group of Christians from the Shoals.
Blair and Melton will be honored at an awards and benefit banquet hosted by CSR Ministries on Monday at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum.
The Spirit of the Shoals Award, initiated by CSR Ministries in Florence, is designed to recognize the unsung heroes of faith in the Shoals. Jim and Anne Bevis, founders of CSR Ministries, and their board of directors seek to honor Christian men and women who display the character of Christ.
"There are so many people who have been pioneers of faith for the Shoals area and who have not yet been recognized for their countless contributions to the Christian community," Jim Bevis said. "We want to honor individuals who exemplify the person of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and who affect the lives of others through their daily walk."
Melton, who retired in 2002 as senior pastor of Faith Tabernacle in Florence, had been in that position since November 1959, after being honorable discharged from the Army. Faith Tabernacle began that year with 50 members and grew to 125 members in the mid 1970s, then moved to accommodate 325 in a new building on Thompson Street.
After continued growth with Melton as pastor, by 1983 the church relocated to a building on Florence Boulevard that seats approximately 1,000 people.
Aside from those 40-plus years of ministry at Faith Tabernacle, in the mid-'60s, Melton was a charter member of the East Florence Ministers Fellowship, which consisted of several churches in the East Florence area. He has been involved in the Florence Ministerial Association, March for Jesus events and ministers prayer meetings in addition to his many other responsibilities in the community and at home with his three grandchildren and seven-grandsons.
"Henry Melton is a senior shepherd and Christian statesman in the Shoals and Tennessee Valley," Bevis said. "He is loved by all who know him regardless of religious persuasion. He has done more to bridge the gap between Evangelicals, Charismatics and the main line Protestants in the Shoals that any other man in this-generation."
Jane Blair is a "Shoals prayer warrior and a general of prayer and intercession," according to Bevis. Even at the age of 93, she is still in prayer almost every waking hour of her day. Upon her move to the Shoals in 1944, she was the sole provider for many years for her daughter, mother and grandmother. Blair attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Florence until moving in 1954 to Grace Episcopal Church in Sheffield where she has been a member for 50 years.
Blair eventually became interested in healing ministry and was a charter member of the Shoals chapter of the Order of St. Luke. Members of the Order weekly ran an ad in the newspaper that read: "If you need prayer, call Jane at 383-3195. Strictly Confidential." Blair's telephone ministry became known throughout the Shoals. Her ministry of prayer has been used in helping countless lives of unknown people. Blair and a friend also prayed daily for the patients of a local oncologist, praying discreetly at the office as patients waited to see the doctor. Of Blair, people would often say, "Yes, we know her. She's that little white-haired lady who prays."
"We are delighted to recognize Brother Melton and Jane as our 2004 Spirit of the Shoals award winners," Bevis said.
"Their individual impact on the Shoals area for Christ has been tremendous in ways both seen and unseen by the public eye."
The late Howard Speegle, born Feb. 15, 1910, at 93 years of age became the first recipient of the Spirit of the Shoals Award. It was presented in a surprise ceremony last year, honoring him for more than 70 years in ministry.
The awards banquet Monday will also serve as a benefit for CSR Ministries, which reaches out to assist numerous and various other ministries in the Shoals. One of the main emphases of CSR Ministries continues to be a ministry of encouragement to ministers and leaders.
Tickets for the awards and benefit banquet are $12 each and include dinner catered by Chester Watkins. Tickets may be purchased at area Christian book stores and Christian radio stations. Although tickets will also be available at the door, those who wish to attend are encouraged to reserve early as dinner seating is limited.
Future nominations of Shoals residents for consideration of the Spirit of the Shoals Award, along with letters of support about their ministry, can be forwarded in care of CSR Ministries, P.O. Box 1555, Florence, AL 35631.