Corinth Baptist Church will celebrate its 200th anniversary, beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday. On July 8, a historical marker and guest speakers began the festivities during worship. Sunday will feature anecdotes from former pastors and guest speaker Rev. Bobby Boswell of Atlanta. He is the executive director and vice-president for ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
In 1812, Little Ogeechee Baptist Church of Oliver saw the need to establish what would now be called a mission called Cowpen situated on Cowpen Branch in the vicinity of Shawnee, Georgia. Four acres of land was deeded to the church by William and wife Elizabeth Edwards for $5 on July 24, 1813.
The first church was built closer toward Cowpen Branch than the present church building on what is now known as Corinth Church Road, also within sight of Clyo Shawnee Road. The first church had a partition down the middle of the church, each side having its own entry. Men and women were not allowed to sit together as was the custom of the times.
Since Corinth was established prior to the Civil War, blacks and whites worshiped together. Most of the blacks were servants or slaves of the community and by mutual consent after the Civil War, after changes of the Emancipation Proclamation, African churches were formed.
The first written records are of Conference records in September 1859. There were 17 very strict by-laws, and parliamentary procedure was held in highest regard with the church admonishing and duly citing members who were engaging in intolerable behaviors such as dancing, card playing, imbibing in alcoholic spirits, profanity and other immoral practices. Expelling members for a period of time until they asked forgiveness occurred.
On Sept. 18, 1875, the Baptist Conference approved a change of name from Cowpen to Corinth Baptist Church. Discussion of a new building for the church began in September 1911. In September 1916, the first sermon was held in the new facility, which had been planned and built over a few years. The church was one big room with an amen corner to the left of the pulpit and choir on the right. Later those corners were made into Sunday school rooms. The old church building was sold, moved and later burned.
The late Cecil Usher recalls the Delco lighting system he helped operate, first approved in 1924. It was a very temperamental gasoline generator that provided light, replacing kerosene lanterns and lighting was unpredictable, according to him as a young lad tasked to operate the contraption.
Through good times and bad, the Great Depression, war, plenty and poverty, Corinth has endured with faith in the Lord and determination. Over the years additions have been made. Modern heating and air conditioning and a nice fellowship hall and Sunday school rooms were added, which offer comfortable worship. There is a large cemetery adjacent to the church. It is of note that the building does not have a steeple, keeping tradition of the worship houses of early generations.
Mrs. Thelma Morgan, by loving and guiding hands, has influenced many young people who became church members there. She would drive them to church, picking up young people along her way. As the matriarch of Corinth, she is still very active at Corinth and an encourager of good Christian values.
The late Delma Usher was a member from birth and served in many capacities including deacon for over 50 years until his health prevented it. He was song leader and taught Sunday school as well as representing the church in the Middle Baptist Association and so much more. His wish was to live long enough to be present on the 200th anniversary. I am sure he will be there in spirit on Sunday and his wife and family sitting in the pews will be his testament to an exemplary Christian life and his legacy of Christian service and values.
The Edwards, Ushers, Morgans, Burns, McCalls, Grahams and many other families are still active through many generations. Mr. Abner Graham Sr. and later Abner Jr. and wife Jewel were among the faithful. Daughter Julie G. Weddle, although not active in this church now, still recalls the summer revivals and her mother and father hosting the preachers overnight as guests in their home for the week. She gave up her room for their accommodations.
The Corinth Sunday School has participated in Sunday School Convention through these years and many have held leadership positions as well in the Sunday School Association.
Sunday, some of the members will be clothed in fashions of days gone by, dinner will be served in the fellowship hall after some good old-time preaching and remembrances as old members who have moved elsewhere and former pastors fill the pews beside the members of the present congregation. The message will reflect the endurance of this congregation, according to members, as the oldest Baptist Church in Effingham County. They have lived by the scripture of the first sermon in the present church building, in September 1916, taken from Galations 6:10. “As we have therefore opportunity let us do good to all men, especially unto them who are one of the household of faith.”
We wish the members at Corinth Baptist a wonderful celebratory day on Sunday and pray for them to have many more years of Christian leadership in our county, country and world.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org