By John D. Pierce
“It will be a year of remembering and celebrating God’s faithfulness to this church,” said Janet Hudson, chair of the 200th anniversary committee, as First Baptist Church of Augusta, Ga., readies for a yearlong celebration of its history spanning two centuries.
The 2017 celebration will be an opportunity to remember God’s steadfast love and to share that love with the Augusta community, she added. “[God] has faithfully guided the church through floods, wars, epidemics and struggles within.”
The joys have outweighed the challenges, however, for this groundbreaking congregation that has called three sanctuaries on two different sites in Augusta their home.
Through the many years, Janet affirmed, God has “provided wonderful leadership through many beloved pastors, staff members and outstanding lay leadership.”
Historically, the church is best known for hosting the gathering that birthed the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845. Yet the richness of the congregation’s impact in Augusta and beyond calls for more than a single day of celebration.
On Jan. 22, “Kick-off Sunday,” an anniversary song will be introduced by Glen Adkins of First Baptist Shreveport, La., who served the Augusta church as minister of music from 1984 to 1992.
The Sundays in February will be times to honor multi-generational families as well as the oldest living members.
March will bring a celebration of the church’s relationship with Mercer University. President Bill Underwood will speak on March 19 with the Mercer Singers sharing in worship. On March 26, an evening Bible study will led by Dean Jeffrey Willetts of Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology. Activities for children and youth are also planned.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, will speak on May 8, commemorating the denominational group’s organizational meeting hosted by the Augusta church on May 8, 1845.
The church will host the annual conference of the Baptist History and Heritage Society on June 1-3, after which Bruce Gourley, executive director of the Society, on Sunday, June 4 will share insights about the church’s 200-year history. He is the author of a new history book being published as part of the celebration.
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, will speak on July 30.
Homecoming is set for Aug. 20. The big birthday celebration will include recognition of former ministers and staff, a dinner on the grounds, and the launch of 200 balloons.
On Sept. 9, a women’s luncheon will honor those women who have been trailblazers in leadership as well as those who have made significant contributions to the church. The remainder of September will focus on the church’s long and continuing engagement in missions.
The first trustees of the church were elected in October 1817, Janet noted. Therefore, Oct. 22 has been designated as the time to recognize those who have served or currently serve as trustees.
The church’s youth will be spotlighted in November. And the grand finale on Dec. 3 will feature a concert by David Phelps.
“It will have been a year of celebration and thankfulness as God is honored for his faithfulness throughout the years,” said Janet.