From its beginnings in the seventeenth century, the Baptist denomination has emphasized certain key tenets, including the leadership of God as revealed through Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible over ecclesiastical tradition, believer’s baptism, individual responsibility toward God, the congregational church, local church autonomy that encourages cooperation between congregations, the separation of church and state, and religious liberty. Nevertheless, diversity has also marked Baptist denominational life in Georgia. Because membership figures change constantly, and there is some overlap between Baptist groups, the exact number of Baptists in Georgia is unknown. The Chronicle’s ongoing Church of the Week series shines the spotlight this week on El Bethel Baptist Church outside of Twin City.
There is no official deed to the church but according to word-of-mouth family recollections, in 1892, two acres of land were given to be used for a church yard and cemetery. The congregation constructed a “brush arbor” church for attendees and this would begin the establishment of El Bethel Baptist Church.
According to records, some of the founding members of El Bethel were: William Parrish, Emma Parrish, Adell Parrish, D.B. Cowart, Mr. and Mrs. A.F McNure, Richard Williams, Kitty Williams, Bessie Parrish, Sally Cowart, and General Johnson. This group called Reverend William Hursey as their first pastor in 1893. Twenty-eight pastors have served El Bethel. This number includes the current interim pastor, Brother Larry Jennings.
The mission statement of El Bethel Baptist Church reads, “We affirm the Holy Bible as the inspired, infallible word of God and the basis for our beliefs. We voluntarily bond ourselves together as a body of baptized believers in Jesus Christ, personally committed to sharing the good news of salvation to lost mankind and to minister to all. The ordinances of the church are believers Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
During Christmas, the church held several events, including a cantata performed by the adult choir, a play presented by the children, and what has become an annual Christmas event that Emanuel and surrounding counties have come to look forward to, The Walk to Bethlehem. Almost 400 attended this year’s event.
The current membership at El Bethel stands at 215. Some of the church leaders are as follows: interim pastor Brother Larry Jennings, choir director and treasurer Brother Donald Davis, congregational song leader/ chairman of the deacons Brother Rusty Simmons, pianist Ann Walden, Sunday school teachers Lynn Webb, Debbie Clark, Brother Dan Johnson, Brother Marty Boatright, Donita Freeman, Brother Heath Simmons, Megan Simmons, Beth Jennings, Wanda Simmons, Ann Walden, Taylor Simmons, and youth leaders Ashley and Marty Boatright along with Julie and Brent Freeman.
El Bethel’s services include: Sunday school at 10 a.m., morning worship at 11 a.m. (nursery provided), evening worship at 6 p.m. (nursery provided), youth ministry at 6 p.m., children’s ministry at 6 p.m., all on Sunday, as well as Wednesday night Bible study at 7 p.m.
The leadership and congregation invites anyone who does not currently have a church home to come visit El Bethel Baptist Church; they will make you feel right at home.
The Crossroads Chronicle thanks everyone involved in compiling this information and for sharing it with readers. The Chronicle prays God continues to allow El Bethel to keep up His work as outlined in their mission statement and shine their light in the dark corners of the world.