The congregation at Fort Creek Baptist Church, one of the most historical churches in McDuffie County, celebrated its 150th anniversary Sunday.
An estimated 650 members and guests filled the pews of the new sanctuary, which was built earlier this year. After a special sermon, given by the Rev. Wayne Bray, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., those attending enjoyed a variety of delicious home-cooked dishes and desserts. Rev. Bray is the oldest son of the Rev. Phil Bray, who has served as pastor of Fort Creek Baptist Church near Dearing since 2003.
Later in the afternoon, music was provided by area bands with Christian singers, including recording artist Terri Gibbs, of Grovetown.
In welcoming those who came to commemorate the church's historic milestone, the Rev. Phil Bray said there would be an even bigger celebration someday - a celebration that will last for eternity with God.
"Are you ready?" he asked. "If not, get ready today. There's plenty of time. We're going to be here all day."
Fort Creek Baptist Church, located on Fort Creek Road in southern McDuffie County, was established on July 18, 1860. The small country church started out with just 55 members -- 50 of whom were white and the other five black. Five years later, the five black members left Fort Creek Baptist Church to form another church, known today as Poplar Head Baptist Church, located near the mission church.
Fort Creek Baptist Church has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding.
Today, the membership has nearly climbed to 700.
When the old sanctuary was torn down, Kenneth Huff, one of the longest serving deacons in church history, remembers that it was a time of mixed emotions, personally.
"It broke my heart," recalled Mr. Huff, a retired building contractor -- one of those who helped tear down the old, outgrown sanctuary. "I'd never torn down a church before."
A member of Fort Creek Baptist Church for the past 57 years, Mr. Huff said he and his brother, David, merely are following in their late father's footsteps and trying to do God's work. Their father, Billy Reuben Huff, like his sons, served as a deacon at the church, died in 1994.
Kenneth and David Huff were around when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary -- 50 years ago. And so were several other church members, including McDuffie County Tax Commissioner Sandra Whitaker, who was just 10 years old then.
In addition to having served as a longtime deacon, Kenneth Huff also has served as Sunday school director of the church for the past three decades.
"That's what is so exciting about this church -- is to see what God has done in those 50 years," said Mr. Huff.
The average Sunday school attendance back then was 50. Today, the average Sunday school attendance is 300.
"This is just a country church," added Mr. Huff. "The clothes don't make it. It's what is in the heart that He sees. There's a good loving spirit here. That spirit is the Holy Spirit."
The Rev. Phil Bray described last Sunday as a wonderful day and an old-fashioned day.
"The best is yet to come," said Rev. Bray. "His blessings will be even greater tomorrow. When He comes back to His children, this church won't be asleep. It will be awake and at work."
Rev. Bray told those attending the 150th homecoming anniversary that Sunday could be a new beginning in the lives of those who don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
"Folks are hurting," he said, noting it was time for God to get His message across that whatever your problems are in life there is a place of new beginnings. "There is a place to get a new."
Prior to introducing his son, the Rev. Wayne Bray, as the guest preacher for Sunday and this week during revival services, Rev. Phil Bray said Fort Creek Baptist Church had become a regional church.
"People come here from a 50-mile radius to worship with us," said Rev. Bray. "It's good to do the Lord's work."