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Springhill Avenue Baptist marks 100th anniversarycomment (0)

May 31, 2007

By Alicia M. Atcheson

Celebrating an anniversary is celebrating the fact that someone kept their promise. God has kept His promise to us."

Don Bond, pastor of Springhill Avenue Baptist Church, Mobile, in Mobile Baptist Association, said because of that promise, 100 years after its beginning, the church still stands strong in the city’s Crichton neighborhood.

In the festivities surrounding Springhill Avenue Baptist’s centennial anniversary celebration April 29, Bond reminded the congregation that the church was only 7 years old when World War I erupted and as a church family, it had lived through many wars and conflicts. But he added, "The church has been in this community ministering faithfully because God kept His promise to those who started the church as a light in this community."

In May 1907, 20 men and women met on a vacant lot under a tent on loan from Mobile Association. On May 26, the church was officially organized and named Crichton Baptist Church. Within the same month, the name was changed to Springhill Avenue Baptist.

In 1908, a frame building was erected, and the first church service was held April 12, 1908, even though the structure was not completely finished. Many real estate transactions and building programs later, Springhill Avenue Baptist had become a large vibrant church in the Mobile area.

The church reached its peak membership in the early 1960s, with a resident membership of 1,020 and 962 enrolled in Sunday School. Many of its families were connected with Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile until its closure in 1969. Membership and attendance greatly declined because of the closure and the geographical shift in the population to other areas of Mobile.

Today Springhill Avenue Baptist has approximately 600 resident members.

According to Bond, the anniversary celebration marked the highest attendance in seven years.

"Every seat was filled. Every parking lot was full. We estimate that we had approximately 600 in attendance," he said.

For deacon Chairman Thomas Beckham, the high attendance brought back fond memories.

"Just to see the church filled back up again was the highlight of the day for me. In the 1940s to the early 1960s, our Sunday School attendance was in the 500 range. It was always packed. The ushers would have to ask folks to move over so people could sit down," he said, noting that as an usher, he was thrilled to have to ask people to move over to make room for others the Sunday of the celebration.

The anniversary celebration began much like Springhill Avenue Baptist did — under a large tent set up outside the church where people gathered for a continental breakfast and an hour of reminiscing before the service.

According to Bond, many who had been called to the ministry while attending the church came back to share their memories, as well as people who were married in the church and relatives of charter members.

The worship service featured guest speaker Bob Marsh, Springhill Avenue Baptist’s pastor when the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. He and his wife, Myra, served the church from 1956–1963, the time period that marked its greatest growth.

Johnny Pritchett, a former minister of music at Springhill Avenue Baptist, led the music.

Also during the service, Mobile Mayor Sam Jones presented a resolution declaring April 29, 2007, as Springhill Avenue Baptist Church Day in Mobile in commemoration of the anniversary.

Thomas Wright, director of missions for Mobile Association, brought greetings to the congregation, and the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission also presented a certificate commemorating the anniversary.

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