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West Mount Sinai celebrates 150 years

By Walter Geiger Thanksgiving week got off to a grateful start Sunday as West Mount Sinai Baptist Church celebrated its 150th anniversary with day-long celebrations. The church has a long history and an historic connection to First Baptist Church of Barnesville (FBC). The only churches older in Barnesville that are still viable are FBC (1825) and First United Methodist (1827). The church traces its origins to 1868 when slaves left the balcony of FBC where they had been worshipping and organized their own church. In 1880, the original structure was destroyed by fire. After the blaze, services were held under a brush arbor for a time. Elders bought a church building that was originally used by white citizens and moved it to the corner of Perkins Alley and Elm Street. Baptisms were done in a branch behind the home of Nellie Russell Jenkins until a baptismal pool was built in the churchyard. The church was rebult and moved to its present location on Akins Street in 1909. The land for it was donated by Ben Turner, a white FBC member and proprietor of Barnesville Planing Mill. According to accounts, the church was rocking from side to side as it was being moved and the members sang ‘˜The ole ark’s a-movin, mourner won’t you come along; the ole ark’s a-movin, thank God. The ole ark’s a reel, the ole ark’s a rock and the ole ark’s a-movin to the mountaintop’. The missionary ladies of the church fed those who moved the church and settled it on its new foundation. They also gathered unique stones and placed them around the churchyard. Those women included Emma Hightower, Mattie K. Pound, Anna Willis, Savannah Chatfield, Pearlie Jenkins, Esther Harrison, Amanda Brown, Sallie Y. Moore, Nannie Smith-Fallings, Judy Pope, Lula Bush, Amelia Smith, Para Lee Willis and Ida Lee Russell Owens. The original deacons included Sy (Grandpa) Shehee, Peter Jenkins, Dennis Jenkins, Burrell Jenkins, Phil Jenkins, A. Brown, Henry Smith, Jack Head, Will Whit, Y. Youngblood, Alfred Mays, Jack Russell, Fred Revere, Henry Mathis, Earnest Sullivan, Rufus Acee, Hull Simmons and Wyatt (Dad) Smith, who chaired the board of deacons for 26 years. The newly-relocated church was dedicated in the summer of 1910 and the first sermon was preached by Rev. John Henry Moore. John H. Pound designed the sanctuary’s unique ceiling and donated the first 12 stained glass windows at a cost of $100. Deacon Earnest Sullivan was church treasurer – a post he held for 29 years. A choir stand was added in 1926. Soon thereafter came a pastor’s study and indoor restrooms. Sallie Y. Moore, organized the junior choir and made the first choir robes from crepe paper. She was also among the first Sunday school teachers along with Martha Taylor and Mary Sullivan. The church has had 11 pastors. They are (in order) Rev. Jim Few. Rev. Gilmore, Rev. Lowe, Rev. John Dubignon, Rev. John Henry Moore, Rev. Oscar Moore, Rev. D. F. Fuller (who served for 36 years), Rev. W. R. Favors, Rev. St. John Clark, and Rev. Horace Fuller Jr. (37 years). The current pastor is Rev. Waylon Knight, who began his tenure in January, 2014. In 1964, a house and lot adjacent to the church were bought and the fellowship hall was built and connected to the church under the direction of Deacon William E. Fletcher Sr. More land was acquired as the years passed to grow the church campus to its present size. Many members of West Mount Sinai have gone on to become ordained ministers including Peter Bush, S.M. Wimbush, Matt Willis, Lawson Few, Robert Brown Sr., Philip Youngblood, Lorenzo Wilkes, Dave Revere, William K. Richardson, Bill Wright, Willie F. Green Jr., Marvin O’Neal and Anthony Williams. Rev. Knight currently has an accomplished group of veteran deacons to lead the church as it adds to it’s rich legacy in the years to come. They include Dr. Eldridge Harris, who has chaired the board of deacons for 32 years; John Vaughn, secretary; John Williams, treasurer; William Parker, assistant treasurer; Hubert Rogers Jr., James Baker Jr., Willie Williams, Charles Hardaway and Terry Johnson. ’Our church has long been an integral part of this community and we will continue to fill that role. A large part of our 150th anniversary celebration has been public outreach. We want to continue to reach out to and serve the community we have called home for the past 150 years,’ Rev. Knight concluded.

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