Rev. Al H. Bankert served Coker Community Church faithfully and sometimes without payment. He was reared a Quaker but joined the Baptist Church. Later his Methodist mother took him to a revival meeting in a Methodist church which began a life journey for him, leading eventually to the pulpit of Coker Community Church.
In 1931, a gentleman named Brother Price approached Al to say, “We want you to go preaching.” Al said, “No”, but the Lord had something else in mind. First, he had to pass an examination which he did with the help of Dr. Jesse Mason, pastor of McKinley Avenue Methodist Church where Al was a layman, tenor soloist, steward, and Sunday School teacher.
Al preached his initial sermon on the first Sunday in June 1932 at Coker Community Church in the original frame building. He preached for four years without pay. There were moments of doubt in his ministry but the Lord led him along the way and he realized that this was meant to be his life’s work. When still unsure of the future, he sat outside and prayed one day. While praying a glow formed around a tree and Al took this as a sign to continue his work for the Lord.
The old Community Church had served the rural people well for many years but now was in need of costly repairs. There was not enough cash to keep repairing it. There were no stairs to the front door, just two large limestone rocks. In 1938, there was talk of replacing the old wooden church. The decision was made to build a church with stone, inside and out.
Scarcity of funds was a big problem. This issue was solved in many different ways. James M. “Papa” Coker owned a rock quarry and donated all the rock at no cost. Henry Wallace took charge and rounded up the youths to work and acquired the equipment to haul the rock to the building site. Lumber was saved from the frame church to be used again as trusses for the ceiling and roofing. The homemade slatted pews would serve in the new church.
Under the direction of Craig J. Stanfield, Jr., the men worked while the women prepared meals for everyone.
When the sand, gravel, and water were ready for pouring the concrete floor, it was discovered that more sand was needed for the project. Henry Wallace loaded wheelbarrows with the needed sand from the Salado Creek bed and brought it to the site. A few days later the building committee was surprised to see a few green wild onions sprouting up through the cement floor. This required tearing out a portion of the cement floor and beginning again.
Some cash donations were given, but in July 1938 a two-day rodeo was held to raise money. Local cowboys put on the event. A dollar a person was charged and between $100 and $150 was raised, a sizable amount of money at that time.
Mr. and Mrs. S.E. Townsend donated the land at the west end of the property to be used as a roadway for both the church and adjoining cemetery.
The membership was about eighty-two at this time so it was decided that everyone should write to all their relatives and solicit a dollar from each person. This effort raised the money to complete the church and for the badly-needed educational building. The adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” certainly applied to the construction of The Rock Church.
Thus, in March 1939, Coker entered its second sanctuary for services. The tradition of “God’s Work We Carry On” would continue for the Coker Community Church in this new setting.
Today, we still enjoy services in this historic building on the Coker property. With careful planning this structure was incorporated in and preserved as a part of the third sanctuary and is called Coker Chapel where it continues to be used for many events of the congregation.
This historical structure brings to mind the beautiful hymn,“How Firm a Foundation”, with the words “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word!” The Rock structure is entering its 79th year as our “firm foundation.”