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State offers day-trip sites with a Baptist twistcomment (0)

April 10, 2008

By Cheryl Sloan Wray

Looking for a fun and interesting destination with a Baptist twist to it? Consider visiting any of the following destinations for either a quick day trip or an overnight stay.

Many people are surprised to learn that the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) headquarters, located in Birmingham, offers guided tours and the opportunity to view hundreds of historic Baptist artifacts. "The history of Southern Baptist missions comes alive as you learn tidbits and highlights of WMU’s 120-year history and see unique items such as Lottie Moon’s trunk, a desk from the family of Annie Armstrong and many international treasures," according to Julie Walters, national WMU communications specialist.

Walters said groups of children are encouraged to visit. "[I]f the (group) leader [requests] to do a certain project, like write letters to missionaries while the kids are here, we are happy to accommodate the request," she added.

Tour groups of all ages and size are welcome anytime between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday but reservations are requested. For more information or to reserve a tour, call 205-991-8100.

Step back in time at Judson College in Marion, founded in 1838 and named for Ann Hasseltine Judson, America’s first female Baptist foreign missionary. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful grounds and such buildings as Jewett Hall and Erskine Ramsay Chapel. Also located on the Judson campus is the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in A. Howard Bean Hall.

Travel two blocks down the street from the campus to Siloam Baptist Church, Judson’s founding church and the founding location of the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board). For more information, visit www.judson.edu.

Marion is the original home of another Alabama Baptist school. Samford University was founded in Marion as Howard College in 1841 and is now located on a beautifully landscaped campus in Birmingham. Visitors can enjoy such attractions as the Quad, Centennial Walk, Burns Hall and Reid Chapel, which offer a picturesque background for leisurely walks or picnics. For more information, visit www.samford.edu.

The University of Mobile (UM) may be the youngest of the state’s Baptist schools — founded in 1961 — but there is still plenty of history to see there. Visitors can stop for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer in Lyon Chapel (formerly St. Stephens Baptist Church), located on UM’s beautiful campus. The focal point of the campus, however, is Weaver Hall, the university’s first building, which is highlighted by a cupola and portico. For more information, visit www.umobile.edu.

The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church & Parsonage in Montgomery offers visitors a glimpse back at the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the state. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor of the church from 1954 until 1960, and the Dexter Parsonage Museum showcases artifacts from his life and the civil rights movement in Montgomery and has a "garden for reflection." The church and parsonage are open for tours Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.–2 p.m. For more information or to book a tour, visit www.dexterkingmemorial.org.

No church is as famous in Alabama — perhaps America — as Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Site of the tragic 1963 bombing that killed four black girls and sparked civil unrest, the church has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Both a poignant reminder of the past and a living history lesson, it is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Groups are asked to reserve a tour. For more information or to make reservations, call the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute at 1-866-328-9696.

While most Baptist camps and retreat centers accommodate large church groups or families, some offer options for smaller groups wanting a rustic getaway.

At Marshall Baptist Association’s retreat center in Guntersville, groups from churches outside the association are welcome for an overnight stay or just the day. Day-use visitors are welcome to use the gym, pingpong tables, volleyball court, fishing piers, playground and playfields. There are also pavilions available to rent. For more information, visit www.marshallbaptistretreat.com or call 256-582-4994.

Mobile Baptist Association’s Camp Whispering Pines in Citronelle also offers accommodations for overnight stays and activities for a one-day excursion such as the ropes course, paintball and lake activities. For more information, visit www.campwhisperingpines.com or call 1-877-866-9795.

And, of course, there is Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, an entity of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. Shocco Springs’ accommodations range from hotel-style guest rooms with two double beds and a private bath to an RV park. Recreation takes the form of swimming, hiking and putt-putt golfing, among other things. There is also a chapel on-site. For more information, visit www.shocco.org or call 1-800-280-1105.

These sites aren’t the only ones waiting to be discovered. For more ideas on destinations related to Baptist history and heritage, call the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission at 1-800-325-9863.

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