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By Jason Chlapek
CORRIGAN — Though widely known for its successful high school football program, there’s been plenty of basketball played in Corrigan recently.
One can find a group of 10-14 people playing at Corrigan’s Faith Temple Church of God in Christ on a regular basis. Last week, there was a purpose for playing basketball.
Church members Joe Walker, Isaac Freeman and Richard Thomas came up with the concept of Hoops For Jesus.
“It was the first time we’ve done something like this,” Walker said. “There are some guys who play basketball, but never come to church. We made this deal where we play against the guys who don’t go to church and if we win, they come to church for one service. We believe that it only takes one encounter with God to make an impact.”
The format for Hoops For Jesus was one-on-one. A player who is a church guest would call out a member to play one-on-one, or vice versa.
Games were half-court and played to seven points. A basket made inside the arc was worth one point, while a basket made outside the arc was worth two.
“We’ve had the gym open to the public for some time, but once the pandemic hit, we had to slow down,” Walker said. “Now we have it to where there’s about 10-14 guys coming in consistently. We have two great athletic directors in our church — Richard Thomas and Isaac Freeman — and they traveled around the world playing basketball. They bring different people in from all walks of life to play basketball.”
Walker said he was “called out” the most out of any church member. There was a friendly wager during the games.
“(The guests) said if they beat me, I buy them dinner,” Walker said. “But if I beat them, they go to church.”
Walker was involved in a key matchup against visitor Dub Hill. Walker prevailed, 7-3, and Hill will attend church this Sunday.
“We’ve had guys who say if they win they want to go to Red Lobster or a steakhouse or Chicken Express,” Walker said. “When you stick to what you said you would do, you develop trust because you stuck to your word. This is our way of being the church. We still have the doors open so when they come in, we have drinks and food. We call them weekly to check on them.”
Walker said the church has other ways of ministering besides basketball. He also said Covid-19 has altered the way they worship.
“We normally have a Sunday morning service and a Sunday evening service,” Walker said. “Since Covid-19 hit, we have a small gathering in our parking lot. We have to stay in our cars and have our facemarks on. The only one out of the car is our pastor. He stands in a tent with a shield and facemark. This works out pretty good because people on the streets can hear us and we’re not just inside a wall. We have a Home for a Mission group that goes out to all of the nursing homes and the hospitals in Lufkin. We get our choirs out and sing, we give out food on Thanksgiving and back to the community.”
Being in Corrigan along the US Highway 59 corridor, Walker believes his church is blessed because of geography. This also makes ministry to other places along US 59 easier to reach.
“Geography and location help us out because we’re located on a highway where many people are constantly passing by,” Walker said. “By us being right there on the highway, it helps us out a lot. We have a guy in Nacogdoches who contracted the coronavirus. Some of the people from our church sent out food and prayers.”
Faith Temple COGIC has two locations in Corrigan — the original location at 814 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and another is on US 59 South. Once human interactions can pick up again, Walker believes the new multipurpose building will be a great addition to the church.
“With the multipurpose building, we can push the goals to the side and bring in chairs that seat up to 600-800 people for a service,” he said. “We’re still working to get the multipurpose building up to standard, but Covid has slowed down construction.”
While Walker and the others who regularly play basketball enjoy it, he knows there’s a bigger purpose.
“This is bigger than basketball, but we want to show them what the church is supposed to exemplify,” he said.