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FBC Greenville marks 150 years of steady growth, active servicecomment (0)

June 1, 2006

By Kimberly Wright

First Baptist Church, Greenville, in Butler Baptist Association celebrated its 150th Anniversary April 9.

The church’s history is best understood by illuminations of key events over time.

In 1847, Hanson Lee came to Greenville and held a series of meetings in the Presbyterian Church that resulted in a core group of Baptists. Services continued in the Presbyterian Church until a church could be built.

Nine years later, with the help of founding pastor Robert Keith, a building committee was formed and thus began the process of construction of the first building. First, Greenville, was formally organized on April 28, 1856, and Keith became its first pastor.

The look of First, Greenville, changed with the times. Because of a growing congregation, the church constructed a new brick building to replace the first church’s simple structure.

The brick church served the congregation for more than 60 years until a new Georgian Colonial style church was erected.

During the construction of the third building, worship services were held in a large tent. Danolyn C. Poole, a member during that period, recalled those services.

“We froze in the winter and burned in the summer,” she said. “But that didn’t stop us from singing praises to His name.”

The congregation gathered in the new building in April 1955 to dedicate it to the service of Christ and His kingdom. Leading First, Greenville, at the time of the construction was Otis Williams.

Williams’ tenure was the longest, lasting from 1949 to 1966. He was elected secretary of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) in 1966 and later served on the administration committee of the executive board of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

The church’s continued growth called for the addition of an education wing and a family life center that served various needs of the church, community and county.

The work of women was vital to First, Greenville. In an effort to meet the expenses of the church, 16 women came together in service to the Lord.

And today, First, Greenville, has an active Woman’s Missionary Union that encompasses all age groups from preschool Mission Friends to Girls in Action and Baptist Women.

Along with the women, the men organized the church’s missionary organization for men, The Brotherhood. Its purpose was to provide leadership for the Royal Ambassadors — the missionary organization for boys in the church.

Billie Wells, a member since 1955 said of First, Greenville, “I’ve enjoyed being here. It’s a blessing to be a member and a great church to be a part of.”

Approximately 450 people gathered to celebrate the 150th anniversary and take part in a day full of events.

The celebration began with a fellowship breakfast and was followed by the morning service. Former staff members were also recognized.

Mayor Dexter McClendon and State Representative Charles Dexter — who both grew up in First, Greenville — gave greetings from the city and the state, respectively.

The church’s oldest member, 101-year-old Myra Walton, and the longest-tenured member, Mae Miller (since 1928), were presented with gifts from the church.

The afternoon program included recognition by the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission and Jim Griffin, director of missions for Butler Association.

The celebration ended with the rededication of the cornerstone to be reopened at the 200th anniversary.

“First Baptist has been quite a blessing in my life,” said Margie Kennedy, director of students for the church. “This day was a great day for us because we got to renew a lot of old friendships and see what God has done over all the years.”

During its 150 years, First, Greenville, has been served and directed by a long line of respected pastors: Robert Keith; J.E. Bell; J.B. Hawthorne; N. Taylor; P. Lundy; B. Goodwin; B.H. Crumpton; T.W. Hart; C.P. Fountain; L.D. Bass; J.H. Foster; W.D. Hubbard; S.A. Harris; L.M. Bradley; W.A. Taliaferro; W.M. Blackwelder; L.L. Gwaltney; H. Ross Arnold; Cecil M. Perry; Joseph Avery; Otis Williams; Charles Graham; Charles Blackmon Jr.; Jim Headley; Paul McLendon and currently Tim Patton.

Patton has a master of divinity degree and a master of theology degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Angela, have two children.

Patton is assisted by two full-time ministerial staff members and three who work on the office staff. The church has 27 deacons.

Today, the 491 members of First, Greenville, give thanks for their heritage and look forward to the future with excitement.

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