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Auburnís Farmville Church marks 175 yearscomment (0)

September 30, 2010

By Sammie Jo Barstow

Mabel Bryant was there 25 years ago when members of Farmville Baptist Church, Auburn, put certain keepsakes into its cornerstone to commemorate its 150th anniversary.

And she was there Aug. 22 to see the keepsakes removed from the cornerstone as the Tuskegee-Lee Baptist Association church marked its 175th anniversary.

“I remembered most of what was in it: newspaper articles, two Bibles and a lot of letters,” said Bryant, a longtime church member.

Pastor Josh Tanner was eager to see what the cornerstone held to learn more about Farmville Baptist’s history. He was particularly interested to find fund-raising letters that were sent to community leaders and prominent people in the state in an effort to rebuild the church after it burned Jan. 14, 1951.

“Not only people in the community responded but also many state senators and legislators and prominent businessmen in the state,” Tanner said. “This just demonstrates to me that Farmville was and still is a significant influence in the life of our community. We look forward to continuing to work in every way we can to impact the Kingdom.”

More than 200 current and former members and friends gathered to celebrate nearly two centuries of doing just that.

The church, which began with 17 members, now averages 130 in Sunday School.

David Bentley was the guest speaker. A retired pastor from Opelika, Bentley has served as interim pastor of Farmville three times.

“Farmville has always been a good, strong church because it is theologically sound and traditionally strong,” he said. “It has always been at the center of Baptist thought and leadership.”

The church was established in 1835, four years before the city of Auburn was incorporated. The congregation met in a schoolhouse until the first church building was constructed in 1893.

Other than those bits of information, Farmville’s history is difficult to trace because the 1951 fire destroyed its records.

However, the blaze did not harm the congregation’s spirit. Members met the night of the fire and determined to rebuild.

After worshiping in a local community center for 54 weeks, they relocated to the basement of what would become the present sanctuary.

On May 16, 1954, the new building was dedicated. The sanctuary’s furnishings incorporated the only pieces that could be salvaged from the burned building: five pews and a piano.

In 1967, an education building was added.

Because the exact date of the church’s founding is unknown, the congregation decided to celebrate the 175th anniversary with two events.

The first event was held May 16. Nearly 210 people attended that morning service, which was followed by a churchwide, potluck dinner and old-fashioned games, such as a watermelon-eating contest and three-legged race.

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