By ANGYE MORRISON
First Baptist Church of Statesboro will celebrate 140 years of ministry on Sept. 4 — and you’re cordially invited to attend.
On Sept. 3, 1882, 10 local believers founded the church, using a gift of land from Solomon F. Olliff. On that “one-quarter of an acre,” the first building was constructed, set to grow with the new town of Statesboro. The church is still located on the same parcel of land, although it has grown through purchases and gifts of property adjacent to the original site.
With a membership of around 3,000, FBC continues to grow and serve. The staff includes John Waters as Lead Pastor, Keith Hagan as Executive Pastor, Jeff Brazell as Worship Pastor, Drew Felts as College Pastor, Susan Allen as Minister to Children, Ricky Allen as Senior Adult Pastor, and Mark Galo as Student Pastor. The staff also includes Robbie Norman as Discipleship Pastor and Dave Parker as Missions Pastor.
A committee of dedicated members, including Iris Durden and Jean Moore, has been working on the celebration to be held next month. The celebration, they say, will center around the theme of God’s faithfulness through the generations. Both ladies agree that it’s important to recognize the important milestones for the church itself, as well as for the community.
“I think that we have been here and we’re not just existing. We’re growing, we’re doing, and we’re continuing God’s work,” said Moore.
“What we try to emphasize in everything that we do is our commitment to discipleship and missions, and emphasizing the people, not the buildings,” Durden said.
Moore, who grew up at First Baptist, said her life was impacted by the church’s emphasis on missions work, which is still a large part of what the church does today. The church has ministered locally, and in other parts of the state of Georgia, the United States and overseas.
From the beginning, First Baptist supported and established shared ministry projects, mission churches and cooperative efforts. That effort continues today as they partner with a group starting a new church in Portland, Oregon, and with ministry work sponsored by the International Mission Board in Marseille, France.
Members of FBC have through the years served the community in a variety of ways, including ministries for preschool children, middle and high school students, special needs families, senior adults and the Korean community. The church has an active ministry at Georgia Southern University for both national and international students.
For the past 140 years, the significance of FBC is found in the faithfulness of the people who have made up the congregation. “With a love for God, a commitment to the gospel, and a heartbeat for missions and ministry, the steadfast service of the members of this church has provided a God-honoring legacy and history of faith,” states a portion of a brief history of the church.
Former pastor Dr. Bill Perry said, “It is not necessarily the big events that determine the nature of a church. More important is the day-to-day life of the church, the love and worship and fellowship and obedience to God, and the ministry and outreach and prayer life of the people.”
Moore and Durden, joined with the staff and membership, say that although God began writing the story of First Baptist Church in 1882, he is not done yet.
“The faithfulness of God and the dedication of his people have served us well for the past 140 years, and they are vital for us to be a healthy church in the years to come,” they say. “On this celebration of 140 years of ministry, may each of us renew our passion of Jesus Christ and recommit ourselves to be the church he has called and created us to be.”
The celebration will begin during the 10:30 a.m. service on Sept. 4. During the service members who have been a part of the church for 50 years or more will be recognized, as well as descendants of charter members. Charter members included Edmond Kennedy, A.B. Miller, W.B. Corey, Joseph Tillman, James Price, W.J.M. Griner, Mozelle Miller, Mary Tillman, Elizabeth Kennedy and Mary J. Proctor.
Banners will be on display which will highlight the church’s history, and a booklet will be available that will feature some of those same highlights and more. The booklet will also contain quotes from members of the church now in their 90s, along with a photo of each.
A commemorative ornament is being sold now for $5 each that features a likeness of the stained glass window in the church sanctuary. On the back the occasion of the 140th anniversary is noted.
A meal will be provided after the service and all are invited to attend.
For more information on First Baptist, its programs and ministries, as well as service times, go online at www.fbc-statesboro.org.