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Church of the Week: Hillcrest Baptist

In the early 1630s, Roger Williams, formerly a member of the Church of England, took up clerical responsibilities in Massachusetts. However, he eventually became estranged from authorities in the Massachusetts Bay Colony over the failure of church and civil functions to be independent of one another.

About 1638, he established the first Baptist church in America in the then-uncolonized Rhode Island, which became the first government in history founded on the premise of absolute religious freedom.

At the same time, John Clarke, also originally from England and also dissatisfied with religious practice in Massachusetts, founded a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island.

Williams and Clarke secured a charter guaranteeing civil and religious freedom in Rhode Island from King Charles II in 1663.

John Leland, a pastor from Virginia, actively supported Thomas Jefferson’s religious freedom bill passed in Virginia in 1786. As a delegate nominee considering the proposed federal Constitution, Leland originally proposed to vote against it because of its lack of provision for religious liberty. He offered his support, however, when his opponent for the state delegate position, James Madison, convinced him provision for religious liberty would be made in what became the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Baptist influence, thus, was significant in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

In continuing this Church of the Week series, The Chronicle shines the spotlight on Hillcrest Baptist Church here in Swainsboro. The Chronicle reached out to current pastor Jonathan Shepard for information about the church.

When was Hillcrest Baptist Church established?

Pastor Shepard: Hillcrest was established on February 24, 1952. Hillcrest began as a mission of First Baptist Church.

Who were some of the founding members?

Pastor Shepard: Rev. Kenneth Youmans was called to organize the mission and also served as the first pastor.

How many pastors have served?

Pastor Shepard: Since its founding, Hillcrest has had 20 pastors, including associates.

What is the mission statement of Hillcrest Baptist Church?

Pastor Shepard: The mission statement of Hillcrest Baptist Church is “Winning Souls, Making Disciples, & Exalting Christ.”

What events are planned for the holiday season?

Pastor Shepard: December 5 is our homecoming. Rev. Tommy Henry will be preaching, and Kings Cross will be singing. On December 12, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance of Christ’s life and death. On December 19, there will be a Christmas Sermon and celebration, and on January 16, 2022, we will have a special evangelistic outreach Sunday with Evangelist David Ring ministering on Sunday morning at 10:30a.m. and 6 p.m.

How many members does the church have today?

Pastor Shepard: We have 155 members today.

Who are some of your church’s leaders?

Pastor Shepard: Our Sunday school teachers are Larry Hall, Jeremy Oliver, Janelle Langley, Debbie Johnson, Cassie Clements, Kenny Brown, and Jonathan Clements. Mark Dawkins, Larry Hall, and Robert Coxwell are deacons, and Jonathan & Cassie Clements are our youth leaders. Our children’s teachers include Brook Clements, Brianna Brown, Nicole Shepard, Cherry Carruth, Janelle Langley, Mary Ann Grant, Candice Shuman, Gwen Williams, Cassie Clements, Jan Snooks, Denise Lott, Davie & Chrissy Sherman, and Jonathan Gay.

When do you have services?

Pastor Shepard: Sunday school starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by worship at 10:30 a.m. We also have worship on Sunday night at 6 p.m., we have Awana every Wednesday night 6, and we have a prayer meeting each Thursday at 5 p.m.