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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

125-year-old Canoe Church celebrates church plantscomment (0)

September 3, 2009

By Greg Heyman


The role Canoe Baptist Church, Atmore, played in establishing one of the largest Baptist congregations in Florida and one of the largest in the Southern Baptist Convention was remembered during its 125th anniversary celebration July 19.

More than 100 people attended the celebration, which included a drama re-enacting the church’s founding, testimonials and a

covered-dish lunch. John Stacey, who has been pastor of the Escambia Baptist Association church since January 2008, said Canoe Baptist’s average Sunday School attendance is 30–40 people.

The day’s events concluded with a message from Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla. Olive Baptist was begun in 1894 by members of Canoe. Today Olive Baptist boasts a membership of more than 10,000 people.

“Canoe Baptist Church is special because the church has a history of faithful people through the years who carried out God’s work,” Stacey said. “It is also special because it has endurance. Through the years, the church has dwindled at times to just a few but has remained true to the cause of Christ.”

Stacey’s wife, Cheryl, prepared a written history of the church that reveals that it was organized in 1884 as Canoe Community Church of Christ. Nonetheless records indicate that the articles of faith read at the organizational meeting were Baptist in theology. A year later, the church changed its name to reflect the Baptist faith.

The first building was a one-room structure on Cowpen Creek Road, where Escambia Academy now sits. In 1893, A.M. Lowery, who previously served as church clerk, was ordained and became pastor of Canoe. He led the congregation in planting churches in Alabama and northwest Florida.

In 1916, a building was constructed at the corner of Baker and Hall streets. Church members worshiped there until another sanctuary was built in 1974 along Highway 31.

Fifty-seven-year-old Wiley Farrar has missed few services. One reason is because he is the music director. Another is because his family has called the church home for at least three generations now.

“We’re simple, hard-working folks,” Farrar said of Canoe’s members. “We have a lot of love in our church for each other.”

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