Ocmulgee Baptist Church celebrates 185 years of ministering in Perry Countycomment (1)
June 30, 2005
By Lauren Brooks
Nearly 300 people gathered June 12 to commemorate the 185th anniversary of Ocmulgee Baptist Church in Perry County.
Despite some wind and rain from one uninvited guest, Tropical Storm Arlene, the celebration went off without a hitch.
“It was amazing having all of these people here,” said Dusty Rhodes, a church member since 1978 and chairman of the homecoming committee. “Judge Roy Moore presented a tremendous message, and the music from The Lamb Family of Tuscaloosa was outstanding. We had 276 people sign our book.”
After a potluck lunch served on the church’s grounds, a number of church members were recognized for various accomplishments and acts of service.
“Seventeen members were recognized at the service for having been part of the church for 50 years or more,” Rhodes said. “One member has belonged for 69 years.”
Pastor Robert Hugh Taylor said the celebration was a significant and exciting time for the church, which usually averages about 125 in attendance.
“It was good to see the community respond to and celebrate the church’s longevity of service,” Taylor said.
The church, which was officially organized June 10, 1820, is located about 10 miles from Selma and 20 miles from Marion.
“We’re a country church,” Rhodes said. “We’ve got people who have never belonged to another church. Each week, people drive from Selma and Marion to come.”
“The church has served the community and members so well it’s gotten an established record and has become a pillar in the community,” Rhodes said. “If there’s a need in the community, we rush to the aid. It’s weathered many storms and is still going strong.”
Taylor said another exciting part of the church’s legacy is the number of pastors that have come from this small congregation.
“There are four active pastors who were called into ministry from this church, and we have two college students who are called into full-time ministry,” Taylor said. “At the service, they each spoke about what it’s meant to them to have roots at Ocmulgee.”
Another who shared testimony of the church’s reach of influence was Park Chittom, a member of First Baptist Church, Selma — a church planted by Ocmulgee Baptist in 1842. First, Selma, now averages 400 in worship.
“Ocmulgee was First Baptist’s (Selma) mother church, and it is wonderful to see the impact that has been made there,” Rhodes said.
Also at the anniversary service, the Lambs, three sisters and a younger brother who all play violin, played a range of songs from hymns to classical to patriotic music.
“They played ‘Washed in the Blood’ as a hoe down,” Rhodes said. “It was so fast and so beautiful. They got a standing ovation.”
Taylor said the message from Moore was spiritually challenging. “He talked about how your faith in God applies to the way you live life,” Taylor said.
Throughout the last 185 years, the church building has grown from a one-room building to the current property that Taylor estimates is valued at about $1 million.
“The initial meeting place was a log cabin,” Rhodes said. “It was located where the church is now. Some of the original materials from the cabin are used in the church today.”
A few years ago, the church went through a massive $325,000 renovation process.
“We doubled the size of our sanctuary and added Sunday School rooms, a chapel and family life center,” Rhodes said. “God has provided and we only owe about $50,000.”
More recently, the old outdoor baptistry was renovated and repaired.
“It’s a concrete pit and spring water is piped in,” Rhodes said. “It’s very cold water.”
That baptistry vat sits down the hill behind the church’s cemetery. And both the baptistry and the cemetery hold long years of church history in them.
“We have one grave out there dated 1821, and we think that is the oldest one,” Rhodes said.
The older headstones toward the back of the cemetery are rubbing away but are still readable. Rhodes noted that one belongs to Charles Crow, the first pastor of Ocmulgee and the first president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
“Ocmulgee is one church that has that unique distinction that their pastor served as the president of our state convention in our early days of development as a convention,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“The Lord has obviously blessed this fellowship with literally decades of opportunities to reach people for Christ and to nurture them in discipleship,” Lance said.
“All Alabama Baptists are indebted to this historic congregation for their faithfulness to the Great Commission through the ups and downs of cultural and spiritual challenges throughout their lengthy history.”
The church is proud of its heritage, Rhodes said — it’s proud of where it has been and of where it has been going since the days it met in a log cabin.
And although the church is excited about the new facilities it has since been blessed with, Rhodes said that’s not what makes Ocmulgee such a wonderful place to worship.
“Ocmulgee is small enough that you know everybody but large enough that you feel comfortable,” Rhodes said.
“It’s a warm, friendly, cooperative and loving church. It’s exactly what God intends for a church to be.”