Thursday, June 26, 2008

The History of Lithia Springs First Baptist Church: the 1950s

This is part two of the church history written by Irene Leavell and Vivian Cranford, members of FBCLS. Part one can be found here.

After the disasterous fire of 1949 a second sanctuary building was completed in August, 1951. As soon as the auditorium was completed and dedicated, the educational building was started on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In November of 1952, the Rev. J.A. Patterson resigned as pastor of the Lithia Springs Church and accepted the call of the Midway Baptist Church. The building program was moving along and the membership increasing steadily. For several Sundays the church had visiting speakers. Dr. George Brown served briefly as interim pastor.

In May, 1953, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the church called the Rev. Marion Beaver as their new pastor. He had recently graduated from the Southern Seminary and moved here from Louisville, Kentucky with his wife, Ruth, and their son, Mark.

The church contined to outgrow its facilities and in 1955, a building fund campaign was inaugurated to try to accommodate the growth. The Sunday School enrollment had reached 506 compared to 346 in 1953! Every available foot of space was being utilized. The two-year nursery was housed in a stairwell with no window or ventilation. The primary department used another stairwell. The Beginner Department used the furnace room with only one outside door for ventilation. Juniors and Intermediates shared what was designed for one Adult Department. Adult classes met in the partititioned balcony in the auditorium. Some classes met outside if the weather was agreeable.

In spite of the tremendous physical handicaps, the church continued to grow in all its areas of work. At this time, Mrs. J.M. Williams was employed as part-time church secretary and Mrs. Eunice Rice as part-time minister of music. The missions program of the church was projected to adopt a missionary with the church paying $1000 of her salary. The Foreign Mission Board suggested the name of Mrs. Ray Shelton, Missionary to Uraguay, whom [at the time of this writing] we still support.

The church celebrated its 10th anniversary at special Easter services in 1956. The young church had grown in membership from 24 to 510 in a decade. The property was then valued at $85,000. This included the main building and the basement of the new educational building. The Sunday School now had nineteen classrooms, four in the auditorium, one in the corridor, two in the stairwells, one in the vestibule, and one in the pastor’s study. Two stories of the new educational building were finished in early 1958.

On April 27, 1958, there was a service of dedication and open house. Another day of dreams come true! The pastor wrote in the program that “Through these past few years, the shadow of a partially completed building has hung heavily over us. But today we rejoice that by the mercy of God, we see our building completed.” It was already being filled to capacity and a new challenge of a larger building to take care of increasing needs was presented. The enrollments at this time were:

Membership – 593
Sunday School – 578
Training Union – 228
W.M.S. and Auxiliary – 115
Brotherhood – 50
Budget - $34,888.00