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Old Fellowship turning 175
Baptist church is one of oldest in Bulloch County
The late Buck Sherrod and his son Danny stand in front of Old Fellowship Baptist Church in 1967 - 52 years ago. The family have been long time members and Danny Sherrod is now a deacon at the church.

One of Bulloch County’s oldest churches will mark a milestone later this month and everyone is invited to join the celebration.

Established in 1844, Old Fellowship Baptist Church will commemorate its 175th Anniversary and Homecoming on Sunday, Oct, 13. The observance begins with an 11 a.m. service at the church, which is located at the corner of Mud Road and Highway 80 East, just east of Stilson in southeast Bulloch County.

The service will be followed by a covered dish lunch with guest speaker Eric Rentz, who is the Southeast Regional Missions Consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, and the church’s current pastor Dr. Tony Lambert.

Located physically in Stilson, but with a Brooklet address, the church has been an integral part of the community since its establishment in 1844 as a one-room building on three acres of land given by “Wash” Brown. Initially, the few families that made up the body of the church met on the second Sunday of each month.

The first pastor, John G. Williams was called in 1845, and according to a history compiled by members of the church from the original minutes of church meetings, the first record of a salary paid to the pastor was in August 1846 for $3.

Mrs. Diane Bath, serving on the history committee for the church, helped compile the document and noted that the handwriting of the old documents was beautiful. “However,” she added, “their English was different then and hard to read. The formality was so prevalent in the early minutes.”


Starting a ‘Sabbath School’

Membership grew gradually, and in 1852, the records stated that the church “agreed to commence a Sabbath School” and appointed two teachers.

According to handwritten minutes, the Civil War was an especially difficult time for the church and the community at large. Written documents stated, “There was no pastor from December 1864, the time of Sherman’s army passing through our neighborhood until January 1867.”

It would be another two years after the war that Old Fellowship had a pastor again.

Membership continued to grow, causing future additions to the church. Longtime member, Mrs. Edith Hutchison, remembers the additions during her time.

“I was about 12 when my family started going there,” said 95-year-old Hutchison.

“It was just a single building at first,” she said. “Then four rooms were added on the back for Sunday School rooms. A kitchen and social hall were added next. The next addition was more Sunday School rooms and the last addition was a larger social hall and kitchen. So, I’ve lived through all these additions”

Hutchison remembers that the church building originally had two aisles and a stove for heat sat on the left side of the church. “Everyone hovered near the stove when it was cold,” she said. “And in the summer, the windows were open. Everyone had handheld fans and the bugs were bad.”

The longtime member also remembered that for many years, the church did not have a permanent pastor. “Youth and pastors from First Baptist [Church, Statesboro] preached and students from Mercer came before we had a fulltime pastor.”


50 years as a church musician

Another longtime member, Mrs. Eta Anne Groover has served for more than 50 years as a musician for Old Fellowship. When Eta Anne married Wilson Groover in 1958, she began attending church there, and her mother-in-law Mrs. Ida Groover played the piano at that time.

Eta Anne Groover laughed and said, “When they find out you can play the piano, you’re drafted.” She said that she and her mother-in-law took turns playing on Sundays, and she also played the organ once the church purchased one in 1968.

Eta Anne said she has, however, missed a few Sundays playing over the years. “Sometime in those years, I had four children. I had to work that in there, so I might not have been there every Sunday.”

Her daughter, Susan Boddiford, now plays the piano, and 85-year-old Eta Anne plays the organ.

When speaking of the longevity of the church, Eta Anne Groover pointed out the closeness of the church body. “Anybody you talk to in our church can tell you – we don’t fuss. We all get along. We work together to get the job done. We’ve had good pastors over the years, and we take care of each other.”

Diane Bath, a member of Old Fellowship since the early 70s and who’s taught Sunday School for most all of those years to all ages, spoke fondly of the membership as well. Bath, who turns 72 this month, said, “That deep-rooted faith in God of our members, the belief in Jesus Christ, is our strength. We know we’re not perfect. We’re sinners saved. Without a savior, there’s no way to experience eternity with God.

“It’s a true belief and we’re committed to God’s work and committed to that little church on Mud Road and 80, to keep it going as a lighthouse.”

With a rich history and 175 years of longevity, Old Fellowship Baptist Church continues to bless the community of Stilson and beyond.

The public is invited to the celebration on Sunday, Oct. 13 at Old Fellowship – 5526 Highway 80 East, Brooklet.




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