Sandy Creek Baptist Church celebrates 200 years
By Ann Cantrell
A common saying tells us that “All things in time must pass away.” Sandy Creek Baptist Church for the past 200 years has eluded this proverb.
This March the church is celebrating their 200th anniversary and also their long heritage with the county.
Rev. Butch Lee attributed their long standing presence in the area to several reasons but foremost was their adherence to the Bible and will of God. He went on to say though, that another reason they have remained for so many years is the dedication of many families to the church.
“This church has been stable in a lot of different areas and the people in this church have been long time, multiple generation members,” said Lee.
Lee attributed this stableness to the fact that families who attended Sandy Creek in its beginning have continued to make this church their spiritual home. He said that even as new generations go off to college away from Madison, they tend to return to the region and continue to go to Sandy Creek Baptist Church.
One of these families, who have stayed with the church for the past 200 years, is the Malcom family who is recorded to have attended Sandy Creek since 1821. John Malcom was a revolutionary war patriot originally from Virginia who eventually settled in Morgan County.
The church was founded in March 1808 by five preachers and one layman. From its conception, the church was integrated with black slaves and freed blacks sitting side by side with whites. In the church record it is recorded that in 1818, slaves were allowed to join church with their masters. In 1819, “free persons of colour” were received into the church as well.
Lee said that after the Civil War and Reconstruction, most of the churches were segregated and at the turn of the century, the church purchased five acres of land on their current location to build a facility. At the old location, remained Mt. Vernon church.
Into the next century, the church remained central to area and community. An area Lee said was scarcely settled and still considered frontier in the 1800s. He said he realized this fact when he went to the University of Georgia and read about the school’s beginning.
“The professors actually kept muskets next to them…to protect themselves from Indians,”
Leaving the frontier and moving into more recent times, Sandy Creek Baptist Church has remained stable in their faith and also as an integral part of the community.
In October 1916, the church left the Apalachee Association and joined the Morgan County Association with other churches in the area. Lee said that throughout their history, they have continued to be involved within the community by reaching out to other churches and organizations such as nursing homes and extended care facilities.
Lee came to Sandy Creek after leaving another Baptist church in Peachtree City to fill in until the church found a permanent pastor.
“I’ve been filling in ever since,” said Lee.
While Lee may not have planned to stay with the church initially, this past February Sandy Creek celebrated his 24th year as their pastor.
Lee was interested in the church and Madison for several reasons, such as the similarity of Madison to his hometown of Jonesboro. Another reason he was interested was the rich history of the church.
This Saturday and Sunday, Sandy Creek Baptist Church will celebrate this rich history with several commemorative events. Rev. Cory Sexton, Assistant and Youth Pastor, said that when the church first began, it meet on both Saturday and Sunday and in recognition of their beginning, they will meet this Saturday and Sunday as well.
This past Saturday was “Old Fashioned Day,” were the members were encouraged to dress up as people did at the turn of the century.
This upcoming Saturday, Dewey Fischer, a special speaker, will address the congregation. Also, Sexton said the men of the church will cook and serve barbeque chicken. This Sunday, Easter Sunday, there will be a sunrise service with breakfast, in addition to the regular service. At the regular service, a singing group of two women called the Enlighteners, will be performing.
The two women, Frankie Rimer and Donna Davis, met when they were six years old at the school for the blind in Raleigh, North Carolina. They decided to sing together and have been performing across the country ever since.
All of these events commemorate not only the rich history of the church but also the faith and stableness in their belief. Sandy Creek Baptist Church has weathered more than a few changes including the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Depression, both World Wars and even the Spanish Influenza which discontinued their services from Oct. 1918 to Jan. 1919.
Lee and Sexton both attribute this steadiness to the church’s adherence to the Bible but more importantly the will of God that has kept their church alive.
“We tend to believe we are here by the grace of God,” said Lee.
With the grace of God, Sexton and Lee say the church plans to move into the future with all of its technology and advances but also never failing to embrace their heritage and Bible based principles.