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Big Hurricane marks 175th anniversarycomment (0)

October 19, 2006

By Susan Chaffin Goggins


Janet Holeman believes the secret of Big Hurricane Baptist Church’s 175-year history lies in “grandparents bringing grandchildren.” She should know. 
   
Holeman’s own great-grandparents were founding members of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Association church, located in Brookwood. Her granddaughter was also baptized there in July. 
   
“It’s a strong community and family church,” Holeman said. “My mother was baptized there, and my father was a member his entire life.”
   
Big Hurricane Baptist emphasized its connection with the past during its Sept. 24 anniversary celebration. “We wanted to have a special celebration that linked the great heritage and legacy of those who worshiped and served the Lord at Big Hurricane Baptist Church for 175 years with those in today’s church,” Pastor John Scott explained. 
   
In keeping with this theme, the church chose to commemorate the anniversary with an Alabama Historical Association (AHA) marker. Permission to place a historical marker depends on the AHA marker committee’s verification and approval of the site’s historical importance. Scott began the application process in February.
   
The marker placed at Big Hurricane Baptist notes the formation of the church between 1827 and 1832, as well as its membership in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association in 1839 and Pleasant Grove Association in 1941.
   
The anniversary celebration culminated in Holeman’s grandchildren unveiling the marker. “Having Shelby and Bailey Kizziah unveil the marker was a wonderful moment,” Scott said, noting that they are descendants of Levin and Margret Pumphrey, one of the founding families. 
   
While church meetings were held near Big Hurricane Creek as early as 1827, oral tradition holds that Big Hurricane Baptist began in 1831. The church, however, wasn’t officially constituted until September 1838 with 24 founding members. 
   
Former member Aileen Kilgore Henderson grew up at Big Hurricane Baptist and researched and wrote the church’s history in 2003. A published fiction and nonfiction writer, she said researching the Big Hurricane Baptist’s history was a labor of love fueled by the strong ties her parents — who were baptized there in the 1930s — had to the church. 
   
Henderson was especially gratified when her research led to the discovery of some early church minutes that were thought to be nonexistent. A church member found them in her late uncle’s possessions, and Henderson had them preserved on microfilm at Samford University in Birmingham.
   
Henderson also discovered that the founding members were racially diverse with two black and several American Indian members. 
   
Dan Wiggins, Pleasant Grove Association director of missions, said Big Hurricane Baptist — which joined the association in 1941 — is the association’s oldest church. 
   
In addition to the unveiling of the historical marker, Big Hurricane Baptist celebrated its anniversary with a concert by Squire Parsons and a fellowship meal. Scott said the church has a Sunday School enrollment of 66 but had 155 people attend some or all of the homecoming celebration activities.
   
Growth is what Big Hurricane Baptist is focusing on for the future. Scott said the church is emphasizing Sunday School with a goal of increasing by 25 percent. To reach this, the church  implemented a new visitation program that involved all church members canvassing local neighborhoods this summer. “We have had a number of visitors in worship who live in the areas we have targeted,” he added. 
   
And the church is still focused on families with Sunday evening services emphasizing family worship. Scott uses classic movie and television clips to illustrate Bible study, and the church has family movie nights, complete with popcorn.

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