Thursday, June 26, 2008

The History of First Baptist Church of Lithia Springs: the 1940s

The following is part one of a history written by Irene Leavell and Vivian Cranford, members of FBCLS:

The Lithia Springs First Baptis Church was organized on April 7, 1946. It was no sponsored by any other Baptist church, but was born in the hearts of a small group of people who believed with all their soul that God was directing their thoughts and efforts. It was never a mission, and has always had a full-time program.

In February of 1946 a committee was appointed by Union Grove Baptist Church to look into the possibility of moving that church to the business area of Lithia Springs. Members of this committee were Mr. Tom Gore, Mr. Ed Ralls, Mr. L.T. Chandler, and Mr. I.C. Williams. The committee discovered that the James family had given the land for Union Grove Church only on condition that is be used as a church. If the church was moved or disbanded, the land would revert back to the [James] family. The committee’s report was presented to the church and the suggested move to Lithia Springs was not approved.

A small group of people still believed that God was leading them to establish a church at Lithia Springs. Mr. L.T. Chandler was instructed to ask Union Grove Church for the following church letters on March 16, 1946:

Mr. and Mrs. Ed Ralls
Mrs. Allene Ralls Wallace
Mr. and Mrs. I.C. Williams
Mr. and Mrs. L.T. Chandler, Sr.
Miss Ina Myra Chandler (Mrs. Jim Sinyard)
Miss Sara Maud Chandler (Mrs. Bob Bartlett)
Mr. Loy T. Chandler, Jr.
Mrs. Amy Copeland
Mrs. Milton Winn

These twelve people and other interested friends continued to pray, discuss and plan for the organization of a church. This was accomplished on April 7, 1946 in the auditorium of the present Annette Winn School (then the Lithia Elementary School).

The council for the organization of the church was composed of the following members:

Rev. Pat Johnson
Rev. J. Alfred Landers
Rev. G.W. Southard
Rev. J.H. Knight
Rev. S.T. Gilland
Rev. E.W. Glore
Rev. H.L. Folsom
Rev. C.W. Barnes
Rev. C.H. Lockridge
Rev. H.A. Walker
Rev. H.L. Holloway
Rev. D.T. Bice
Deacon H.V. Brannon
Deacon R.S. Abernathy
Deacon H.C. Moore
Deacon R.D. Clay
Deacon Leo Sweat

These ministers and deacons represented the following churches:

First Baptist Church of Douglasville
Mt. Harmony Baptist Church
Mableton Baptist Church
Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church
Community Grove Baptist Church
Pray’s Mill Baptist Church
Austell Baptist Church
Union Grove Baptist Church
County Line Baptist Church
Clarkdale Baptist Church

Rev. Pat Johnson, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Douglasville, served as moderator. He also preached the organizational sermon. Rev. Arnold Patterson, Associational Director of the Training Union, was elected pastor of the new church.

Following the organizational sermon (April 7, 1946), nine people joined the new church. They were:

Mrs. Ed Brawner
Mrs. Edna Epps
Mrs. Hilma McGouirk
Mr. Paul Ogle
Mrs. Paul Ogle
Mr. J.B. Cochran
Miss Eva Stokely
Mrs. Paul Aiken
Master Douglas Aiken

The congregants of the new church met that night to elect officers for the church, Sunday School, and Training Union. Before the election, another chance was given for new membership, and the following people joined:

Mrs. Jewell Brown (Morris)
Mrs. Virginia Cochran
Miss Gleda Brown (Mrs. Ed James)

Officers, teachers, and leaders elected were as follows:

Church Clerk – Miss Eva Stokely
Church Treasurer – Mr. I.C. Williams
Church Choirster – Mr. J.A. Patterson
Church Pianist – Mrs. J.A. Patterson
Sunday School Secretary – Mrs. Milton Winn
Sunday School Superintendent – Mr. L.T. Chandler
Assistant Sunday School Superintendant – Mr. Paul Ogle

The following were elected as teachers:

Men’s Bible class – Mr. E.W. Ralls
Women’s Bible class – Miss Amy Copeland
Young People’s class – Mrs. L.T. Chandler
Intermediate class – Mrs. Paul Ogle
Junior class – Mr. I.C. Williams
Primary class I – Mrs. E.W. Ralls
Primary class II – Mrs. Jewell Brown

Evangelism (Soul Winning) – Mrs. Jewell Brown
Study Course Training – Mrs. Paul Aiken
Enlargement (Census) – Mrs. Paul Ogle

The following held positions with the Baptist Training Union:

Director – Mrs. J.B. Cochran
Associate Director – Mrs. I.C. Williams
Secretary and Treasurer – Miss Gleda Brown
Adult Leader – Mrs. Edna Epps
Young People’s Leader – Mrs. L.T. Chandler
Intermediate Leader – Mrs. Paul Ogle
Junior Leader – Miss Eva Stokely
Story Hour Leader – Mrs. E.W. Ralls

The following held positions on the Board of Trustees:

Chairman – Mr. E.W. Ralls
Co-Chairman – Mr. I.C. Williams
Member – Mr. Paul Ogle
Member – Mr. L.T. Chandler

The following were appointed as members of the Building Committee:

Chairman – Mr. Ed Brawner
Co-Chairman – Mr. I.C. Williams
Member – Mr. L.T. Chandler
Member – Mr. J.B. Cochran
Member – Mr. Paul Ogle

And the Finance Committee for the Building Fund was served by:

Chairman – Mrs. Ed Brawner
Co-Chairman – Mrs. Milton Winn
Treasurer – Mrs. Allene Ralls Wallace

At this first meeting finances were discussed and a budget plan approved. After a group of members pledged to tithe their income, it was unanimously voted to have services every Sunday. The group continued to meet in the school building until the basement of the first church was completed.

Mr. Glen Florence donated to the church a building lot and plans were immediately put in motion to raise funds and begin the building. At the conclusion of the first year, the basement of the building was completed. Services were held in the basement until the auditorium was ready.

From the Sentinel of May 17, 1946, the organization of the W.M.U. is described as follows: The women of the new church met Tuesday, May 14th at the home of Mrs. A. R. DuBard for the purpose of organizing a Women’s Missionary Society. Those elected to serve were: Mrs. A.R. Dubard, President; Mrs. I.C. Williams, First Vice President; Mrs. J.A. Patterson, Second Vice President; Mrs. L.T. Chandler, Young People’s Leader; Mrs. J.B. Cochran, Recording Secretary; Mrs. Ed Brawner, Corresonding Secretary; Mr. E.W. Ralls, Treasurer; Mrs. C.L. Brown, Mission Study; Mrs. Paul Ogle, Community Missions; Mrs. F.B. Stephens, White Cross; Mrs. Milt Winn, Choirster; and Mrs. Amy Copeland, Stewardship and Special Mission and Program Chairman.

Soon after the church was organized, the pastor saw the need for ordaining deacons. They were selected and the following men were ordained at the Austell Baptist Church on October 6, 1946: Mr. E.W. Ralls, Mr. I.C. Williams, and Mr. L.T. Chandler were ordained as Senior Deacons and Mr. L.T. Chandler, Jr. and Mr. L.R. Sinyard were ordained as Junior Deacons. Mr. H. V. Brannon had been ordained by another church, and was approved as a Senior Deacon for the Lithia Springs Baptist Church.

The church continued to grow for the people had a mind to work. There was much to be done on two fronts. The first front involved the physical plant in that an adequate building to take care of present and future growth. Second, and simultaneously, the Kingdom of God must be built in the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls. Workers must be trained to carry on all the various organizations a Baptist Church needs in order to function adequately.

Much of the work of the first building was done by the members themselves. On many occaisions the men and boys worked on Saturdays and the women provided a picnic lunch. Also, many nights the lights burned late as the men worked after having spent long hours on their regular jobs. The labor of love was richly rewarded. On October 23, 1949 the $62,000 building was dedicated to the glory of God.

The theme of the dedication was “A Dream Come True.” All the regular Sunday services were held using all the new equipment and filling all the spaces available. Rev. W.A. Anderson of the state Baptist Sunday School was the speaker for the morning service. Julian P. Snyder of the state Training Union Department was the evening speaker. Following the morning service, a basket lunch was enjoyed. In the afternoon there was congregational singing and a message of dedication by Rev. Pat Johnson, pastor of the Douglasville First Baptist Church.

The dedication was to be followed by a week long revival. On Friday night, October 28, 1949, as the congregation gathered for the evening services, they watched horror-stricken as the new building that represented as many hours of labor and great financial sacrifice burned to the ground. The fire was believed to have been caused by a faulty gas heating system. Fire-fighting equipment was called from adjacent towns and a bucket brigade was formed, but their efforts were hampered by the town’s lack of a water system. All equipment including a new grand piano, new white pine pews, carpeting, four pianos in the Sunday School departments, all chairs, heaters, and much more were destroyed.

It was well the church had a firm foundation because it went from a mountain-top experiences of exaltation to the valley of despair in five short days. It was in the testing time that the real church emerged to build again an even larger, stronger organization, with more facilities to proclaim God’s love in the community.

Three days after the disasterous fire a meeting was called to discuss plans for the future. From that time on, every effort was put forth in raising funds and devising plans for another building. Surrounding churches offered their facilities, a store building, the Scout Hut, and private homes were used on a temporary basis. Later meetings were held in the school until the present auditorium was completed in August, 1951.