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175-year-old Cusseta Church ‘right in there with the big ones’comment (0)

May 13, 2010

By Greg Heyman

The story of Cusseta Baptist Church is a dramatic one, complete with growing pains and a near-death experience.

But this East Liberty Baptist Association church has persevered and lived to celebrate its 175th anniversary April 18.

An estimated 200 people attended the anniversary celebration compared with the two dozen or so who usually attend worship.

“It was just wonderful to see so many people who had been away from Cusseta for years and years,” said Anne Alsobrook, a church member since 1957.

Though the congregation is small in number, its spirit of giving is something to marvel at, said Interim Pastor Charles Whitson.

“We are in the top 5 percent of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention in per capita giving for active members. Other churches give so much more than we do, but it comes down to one on one. We’re right in there with the big ones,” he said.

“I tell our people, ‘We’re not many but we’re much.’ They work together and they are excellent in giving. I am amazed at it,” Whitson added.

During the celebration, Calvin Milford of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission presented a plaque commemorating Cusseta Baptist’s years of service. State Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, also offered a commendation.

Whitson said about 10 adults who were members of the church’s youth choir as far back as 30 years ago returned to sing with the sanctuary choir during the anniversary service and the afternoon singing that followed lunch.

According to a church history prepared by Alsobrook, what would become Cusseta Baptist Church was begun April 18, 1835, as Bethesda Baptist Church. Seven individuals met with three men from Cusseta, Ga. who helped them constitute the church during a meeting at the home of James Taylor Sr.

The church’s first building was a log cabin located three and a half miles west of the Cusseta, Ala., city limits.

Francis Callaway served briefly as pastor until John Blackston was called in July 1835. During the latter part of 1836, Blackston wanted the church to declare nonfellowship with churches favoring missionary activity.

But the congregation firmly supported missionary work. As a result, Blackston resigned. Blackston was succeeded by Benjamin Lloyd, who began as pastor in October 1836. Sometime in 1837, Lloyd also expressed his support for a nonmissionary church.

Subsequently Lloyd resigned after church members again affirmed their support for missions. He was followed by John Humphries, who became pastor in 1838 and remained at the church for 14 years.

The church history also highlights the church’s ministry to the Creeks living in the area at this time. But hostilities between the Creek Nation and the U.S. government caused church services to be suspended from May to August in 1836 and the Creeks to be relocated to a reservation in Oklahoma following their defeat.

Four years later, the church constructed a large frame building near the log cabin that had served as the congregation’s meeting place. The congregation met in the frame building until 1856, when church members voted to move into the city limits of Cusseta.

Services were held at Cusseta Methodist Church until a building for the Baptist church, which by this time had begun to be referred to as Cusseta Baptist Church, was finished in the spring of 1857.

The church constructed another building in 1901 at the same location at a cost of $1,200. There have been renovations and additions to this building, which still serves as the place where Cusseta Baptist worships.

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