Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

About "How Firm a Foundation" -- First Baptist Church History Book

Recently off the press is the beautiful book recounting the history of First Baptist Church, Blairsville.

Serving on the committee to research, write, design and publish the book were Ed and Doris Durban, Eva Decker, Mary Sue Moon, James Hooper, Tina Hourihan, Carol Rabun and Alan Morgan. They readily acknowledge that many more contributed to the book, making it a compendium of local and area history as well as the story of a faithful group of people who have lived and exercised faith in this place since at least 1875 or earlier.

It is an unusual book. Seldom do you see a church history book that is bound in what I like to call a “coffee table” format, one so comely and physically appealing in a book that you will want to place it in a prominent place in your home. Cover and contents, color and design—all invite the reader to enjoy.

The committee could not find an exact beginning date for First Baptist Church, Blairsville. They learned it was already founded and functioning as early as August 12, 1875, the earliest written records about the church. On that date, three messengers from the church—Isaac Petty, E. Boling and A. Carpenter—were representing Blairsville Baptist Church at the annual meeting of the Notla River Baptist Association and were so recorded in that body’s written minutes.

How long before 1875, or just when or by whom the church was founded has been lost in the mists of time and the absence of recorded information. The committee is to be commended for the sources they consulted to bring as much information as possible to readers about the church’s existence, growth, work and influence in the community and to the ends of the earth.

Old land deeds of August 29, 1883 reveal that a gift of two acres of land on Lot 303 was made to Blairsville Baptist Church Trustees by Jacob Luther Colwell. The Trustees receiving the land on behalf of the church were John A. Christopher, J. W. Meeks and Jessie Y. Walker. Later, in another gift of land from the same Land Lot 303, Mr. Jacob Luther Colwell gave another acre of land on January 8, 1890. On this land a house of worship was erected.

Early pastors, from a list made from memory by J. L. “Uncle Boney” Colwell in 1944, provided insight to first leaders in the absence of recorded minutes of the church’s first decades. Thumbnail biographies of these pastors are given, together with pictures when available.

The title of the book, How Firm a Foundation: A History of the First Baptist Church, Blairsville, Georgia, lends a hint of one of the unique features of the book. “How Firm a Foundation” is the title of a beloved church hymn appearing first in 1787 in London in John Rippon’s “Selection of Hymns.” It was beloved, too, by the first settlers who practiced the “faith first delivered to the saints.” They sang the songs they had learned in the mother country when they gathered to worship. In the seven chapters of the book, the committee used a hymn contemporary to and beloved in that particular historic period. This feature, combined with the history of the period and extensive pictures, many in color, provide a readable, interesting and composite picture of Baptist Church life and the context of events in which the church worked and ministered.

The dust jacket cover has these words about the book: “This is not your average church history book. This is a book about people—Christian men and women who, through dedication and commitment to God and each other, built the First Baptist Church of Blairsville. It is a story, not of a building, but of individual lives bound together within a community of God.” – The Book Committee; Ed Durbin and Doris Durbin, Editors and Writers.

As a researcher and writer, I will return to this book time and again as I seek information about people whose brief biographies and remembrances are included in the book. The excellent index makes the book an easy-to-use reference source. For inspiration, I will read testimonies and remembrances included in the book by various people I have known. In this way I can reconnect with people who made a difference in my own life.

Thanks are certainly in order to the church body itself for calling for and voting to publish what Honorable Zell Miller calls “a golden treasure-trove.” Thanks, a thousand-times over, for the persistence, digging, and hard work of the committee that brought the book to fruition. We think of crowns being a reward of our faithful service and coming after our transition to glory. But with this earthly work, the compilation and publication of How Firm a Foundation, your crown, faithful committee, is in our hands, ready to use, a glowing tribute to your efforts. All who read and appreciate the book will be basking in the glow of your shining crown.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 17, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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