By Tia Lynn Lecorchick Managing Editor
The Madison Baptist Church, a pillar of the community, is set to celebrate its 180th anniversary on Sunday, Nov. 9 with a special service at 10:30 a.m., featuring former longtime pastor Jim Ross delivering a sermon in honor of the church’s milestone. Members from the past and present, as well as community friends, have all been invited to share in this day together at the church. After the service, everyone is invited to a luncheon that will be held at the Morgan County High School cafeteria. “For many of you, Madison Baptist Church has been your home for years,” said current pastor, Charles Smith. “It is here that you have made lifelong friends. At Madison Baptist Church, your family and friends have married, shared fellowship, endured suffering together, prayed together, made a joyful noise to the Lord together and bid farewell to loved ones together. It is truly Home.” “It is on special occasions that we need to go home and renew friendships and to share with one another our lives as followers of Christ,” added Smith. Church Administrator Jim NeSmith hopes this occasion will serve as another opportunity to reach out to the community. “Madison Baptist sort of leads the way in this community,” said NeSmith. “We are big into helping people. We work real good together with all the other churches in the community, and you don’t see that too often.” Chairman of the Anniversary Committee Wayne Tankersley believes this anniversary will celebrate Madison Baptist’s long dedication to the local community and refresh the church’s commitment all at the same time. Tankersley credited Pastor Charles Smith’s leadership for the church’s continued efforts of benevolence to the community. “He wants us to be very much a part of the community, a visible part of the community,” said Tankersley. “We want to be a church that is a giving church, a serving church within our community.” With about 250 regular-attending members, the congregation will gather Sunday to learn about the church’s long history in Morgan County and refocus their vision for the church’s future. The official founding of Madison Baptist is recorded as Nov. 13, 1834, originally located on Academy Street. The church moved to its present location on Main Street in 1858. Since that time, the building has been renovated and revamped several times, preserving historic elements when possible. According to the church’s history records, the current sanctuary closely resembles the initial sanctuary, both in design and in appearance, but now includes modern updates. Changes include a resituated baptismal pool, a redesigned steeple, remodeled choir loft, and expanded pews. The crown jewel of the church’s sanctuary is the large stained glass memorial windows installed in 1906. Madison Baptist Church has had 38 pastors in its history and ordained many men to preach the gospel overseas as missionaries. Madison Baptist’s historical claim to fame involves a legend from the Civil War Era. It is believed that Madison Baptist Church quartered the horses of Sherman’s Army, Union Troops led by William Sherman during his infamous “Sherman’s March to the Sea,” in the basement of the church during the Civil War in 1864. Tradition claims that this led to Sherman sparing Madison from a fiery destruction. “Whether it is true or not, it has certainly been the desire of the Madison Baptist Church throughout its history, and even now, to help ‘save the town,’ and the world as well, by proclaiming through its life and work its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” said Sabin Landry, one of the editors of Madison Baptist’s history brochure.