Church celebrates its 90th birthday

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The current church building


News Contributor

First Christian Church of Bainbridge had a lot to celebrate on Nov. 21, 2010.

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Every year, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the church holds its annual Thanksgiving meal after morning worship services. This year was no exception, except that this was also the 90th birthday of the congregation.

Also honored during the worship service and with a birthday cake afterward was Mrs. Theda Weathersby, the oldest attending member, who turned 90 in October.

First Christian Church is a part of the Restoration Movement, or the Stone-Campbell Movement, begun on the American frontier during the second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. The movement sought to unite all Christians in a single body patterned after the Church of the New Testament. They did not consider themselves Protestant because they stemmed directly from the 1st century Church.

Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week, and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation.

Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the Biblical names for the followers of Jesus and promoted a return to the purposes of the first-century church, as described in the New Testament.

It would not be until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the Restoration movement would reach into southwest Georgia. Mars Hill Christian Church was organized as early as 1896, and Oak Grove Christian Church was organized a few years later.

In 1919, meetings began to take place to organize a church in Bainbridge. These first meetings consisted of a few devoted women who gathered in their homes. Enough interest in starting a church finally resulted in a formal organization in March 1919 by O.K. Hull, a Disciples of Christ preacher. By the time he left in 1920, the church was well-established, first meeting in the City Hall and then later in the Decatur County Courthouse.

According to records from the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, there were about 25 charter members. Among them were Mrs. Ed Cloud, Mrs. T.C. Funderburke, Mr. and Mrs. O.W. Oakley, Mrs. H.E. Perkins, Mrs. W.J. Brady, Mrs. Jordan, Clara and Lisa Jordan, Mr. and Mrs. George Tucker, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Kirbo, J.A. Kirk, N.P. Arline, Miss Mildred Carmichael, Dr. and Mrs. W.M. Harrell, and Mrs. E.A. Irwin.

Although not charter members, other early members were Mrs. Esther Reynolds, Mrs. Ethel Hughes, Mrs. Josie Pope, Mrs. Mattie Brockett, Mrs. Gwen Williams, Burnie and Mildred Hughes, Mrs. Lizzie Enfinger, Mrs. Susie Enfinger Dixon, Mrs. Marie Dixon, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Fulton, Mr. Bill Belote, Dr. W.R. Howell, Mr. and Mrs. G.C. Griffin, Judge John Drake, Mr. Byron B. Bower, Mrs. Bob Dean, Mr. Will Salter, Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Jessie Ola Ward, Mr. and Mrs. Musselwhite, Mrs. Freddie Campbell, Mrs. Susie Ruth Player, and Mr. Deese, who owned the store where the church office is now located.

Records show that Jesse Wayne Dean was baptized in 1928, and Mrs. Theda Weathersby was baptized in 1932 in the Rexall Swimming Pool on Planter Street by Howard Matheny, the minister at that time. Other baptisms were held at Open Pond, Twin Lakes, Lake Douglas, First Baptist Church, and much later, at the Church of Christ building on Scott Street.

On June 12, 1925, a building on the northeast corner of Broughton and Clay streets, originally a residence and later a dance hall, was purchased for $2,000. The building was put in shape for worship at a small expense, and a dedication service was held on June 18, 1925.

Known ministers during the 1920s and 1930s were Herman Forbes from Milligan College in Tennessee, H.H. Ambrose, James H. Barfield, Howard Matheny, J.F. Matthews, Harold Miles, Wilbur Wallace, Paul Howle and Will Salter. Many times the church was without a minister for a time, and fill-ins were used when available. Preachers were shared with Oak Grove and Mars Hill so that services in Bainbridge were held only once a month. At other times part-time and student ministers were employed.

In 1953, the First Christian Church of Bainbridge was incorporated with the State of Georgia. Elders and Deacons signing the petition for incorporation were T.E. Weathersby, Jesse Wayne Dean, Ben Easom, W.B. Belote, Frank Roff and Charles H. Kirbo.

In 1960, a new educational building was dedicated at 908 S. Scott St., and in 1967, the present Worship Building was dedicated. The property on the corner of Scott and College was later acquired, and after the old Deese Store building was removed, the small cottage was renovated to become the present church pffice.

Ministers from the late 1940s to the present were A.I. Zeller, L.E. Groseclose, A.K. Alexander, Bob Wade, Carl Cooper, Larry Woodley, Earl Shaw, James Wilkin, David McIntosh, Richard Chamness, Bruce Quiggle, Wes Stedtefeld and Jeff Stapleton.

Damon Edwards is currently the acting minister and youth minister.

With information from the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, member interviews, old articles from the Post Searchlight, and photos donated by members, a new history of the church was compiled by Bruce, Susan, and Rebekah Mann and given to its members.

For more information and service times and opportunities, contact the Church office at (229) 246-4850.