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FBC Sylacauga marks 175 years since dirt-floor cabin beginningscomment (0)

August 7, 2008

By Stacey Jones

Though passers-by may assume First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, has always stood downtown on Broadway Avenue, its first two church buildings were not even located in the city limits of Sylacauga.

While its location has changed over the years, the church’s vision to reach the southern portion of Talladega County and beyond has not. And that was something to celebrate May 25 as First, Sylacauga, marked its 175th anniversary with letters from first lady Laura Bush, Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, spoke during the event.

Linda Dickson, church historian, said the day showed church members how God has been there throughout the years. “There had been 33 pastors to carry us through these 175 years, but always the same and only one God that had sustained, provided and protected the congregations over the years,” she said. “The sense of responsibility has become so strong for our church, as we know that we must prayerfully seek God’s direction for the future.”

From the eight charter members who formed the Coosa River Baptist Association church to today’s 1,800 members, the church has been missions-minded.

First, Sylacauga, began in 1833 as a mission of Tallasahatchie Baptist Church — its “ministry in the hill country.” The mission, which was four miles west of Sylacauga, was called “The Hill Church” for two years. Then the name was changed to Mount Zion Baptist Church of Christ.

Members met in a dirt-floor log cabin on a farm until attendance outgrew the building. In 1844, they moved into in a newly constructed church building that was two miles closer to Sylacauga than the previous location.

In 1861, the same year that the Civil War began, a donation of three acres from Henry Penn Oden allowed the church to relocate to its present site. During the war, many young men from the church volunteered for service. Five of them, including Oden, lost their lives. One pastor, John Jefferson de Yampert Renfroe, served as chaplain with the Army of Northern Virginia.

Sometime between 1912 and 1913, the name changed again — this time to First Baptist Church, Sylacauga.

Under the pastorate of John Warner, 1961–1965, the church began to broadcast morning devotionals once a week on the local radio station and subsequently its Sunday worship service. The service is now televised. In the recent past, many youth and adults have shared the gospel during missions trips.

Dickson said one exciting ministry of First, Sylacauga, is its Christmas Dinner Theater. Choir members serve a meal and perform music to present the gospel to inmates of Childersburg and Alexander City Work Release centers. The performances, held at the church, close with an invitation for those who want to make decisions for Christ, said Judy Andrews, church pianist and assistant to the minister of music.

“We normally have 30 or more decisions per performance,” Dickson said.

Timothy Childers is senior pastor of First, Sylacauga.

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