Top 5 Oldest Churches In Macon - Part 2
The church played an important role in the community. In Macon, this is proven by several historic structures including First Baptist Church, said to have been established over two decades prior to Emancipation; Greater Turner Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church, Macon’s oldest African-American church; Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church, the oldest black Presbyterian church in Georgia and Steward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his only speech in Macon in 1957. Of the more than 250 congregations in Macon, by far the greatest number has been Baptist, with Methodist a distant second, but increasing numbers of churches are non- or interdenominational. Check out our second installment of Macon's Top 5 Oldest Places to Worship today.
1. Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church (c. 1838)
Tracing its roots back to the pre-Civil War era, the Church was organized around 1838 when Pastor Samuel Cassels was instructed to preach and minister to the slaves of the members of the 1st Presbyterian Church's congregation. Joseph Williams, David Laney, and Robert Carter were the first Ministers ordained to serve the church following its formal establishment. The Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church is not only the oldest African-American congregation in the state of Georgia, but also bears the distinct honor of being one of the oldest minority congregations in the country. Named for the street on which it is located, the Church has become the primary place of worship for many generations of the most prominent black families in Macon. It also enjoys the privilege of being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in America, another indication of its importance in the local, state, and national communities. The story of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church, which began as a small group of slaves worshipping in a small ``African Chapel'' and has grown into an expansive and successful church, is truly an inspiring one of the dedication and perseverance of a faithful congregation of people who put all their love and trust in the Lord.
2. Greater Turner Tabernacle AME Church (c. 1871)
Greater Turner Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church began with weekly house to house prayer meetings led by Sister Julia Ann Johnson. In 1870, a mission named Mt. Calvary AME church was organized in south Macon and in 1896, Rev. G.H. Greene was appointed pastor and under his leadership the congregation purchased a building on Oak Street from a white congregation and the name was changed to Turner Chapel AME Church. In 1911, on Labor Day, ground was broken for the erection of a brick basement that was used for worship for about 12 years when the name was changed to Turner Tabernacle AME Church. In 1936, under the pastorate of Rev. David Norris, the church was incorporated and the name was changed to Greater Turner Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. A.M. Roberts, Jr. was appointed pastor in 1944 and the church's debts were paid in full in 1945 allowing the congregation to focus on the church's mission to its members and the community.
3. First Baptist Church (c. 1845)
The First Baptist Church on Cotton Avenue was established by African-Americans more than a quarter of a century before the adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation, which called for the freedom of all slaves on United States soil. Its origin was in the Baptist Church of Christ at Macon. For the first eight years, whites and African-Americans worshipped in the same building. Records indicate that at the time, there were two hundred eighty-three African-Americans and one hundred ninety-nine whites. As members of the racially mixed church, the African-Americans were to a great extent, a distinct body. Alternate services were led under the direction of a licensed minister and deacons of their own color. Members exercised authority to receive and exclude persons as members of their church body. The ordinances, however, were administered by the pastor of the whole church. On March 1, 1845, land and building were deeded to the colored portion of the Baptist Church at Macon, "for religious services and moral cultivation forever." The Reverend T.M. Robinson, who served 1887-1895, led the First Baptist Congregation into the building of the first unit and the laying of the corner stone. Following Reverend Robinson's death, a dispute emerged among the congregation regarding the selection of a pastor. The dispute resulted in the church being closed by court action in November, 1896. A settlement was reached with a split of membership. The split gave rise to the birth of another church, Tremont Temple Baptist Church.
4. Steward Chapel AME Church (c. 1868)
Steward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church has never strayed from its course chartered by Richard Allen. Since its founding in 1865, Steward Chapel has been involved in the struggle for spiritual and social freedom. Even its founding was imbedded with controversy. In the spring of 1868, Steward was appointed just before the church burned, robbing the congregation a place to worship. No one ever learned the origin of the fire and thus began to seek a temporary home. The first chosen location was at New and Pine Streets in Old Temperance Hall and that location was later used as part of the teachers home of Ballard School. From there it moved to City Hall and then was later permitted use of the Armory Building until it's present location was secured. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his only major speech in Macon here in 1957. Steward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a force to reckon with in the battle of religious and social freedom. "As long as there is a soul to save, Steward will continue in the fight for justice and equality for all its members."
5. Holsey Temple CME Church (c. 1895)
Located on Washington Avenue, Holsey Temple church began as an outgrowth as First Methodist Church in 1839. In 1848, a separate church was provided in the name "The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church." Holsey Temple was formally organized in 1867. In 1870, land was purchased for the building, and the original church was built on Washington Avenue. After fire and tornadoes destroyed the structure, members rebuilt this brick church in 1895 and the original stained glass and pews remain today.
More Historical Churches Worth Mentioning...
Bethel CME Church (c. 1863)
Unionville Bapist Church (c. 1865)
In 1865, a wealthy land owner by the name of Mr. Wyler, donated land for a black church to be established. Mr. Wyler stipulated that the first black Baptist or Methodist to place timber on the land and sit on it all night would be awarded the deed to the land. Shortly thereafter, two enterprising black Baptists, Lee Buckman and John Josey, retrieved the timber from their bed, placed it on the property and remained there until the following morning to await Mr. Wyler’s arrival. Seeing this, Mr. Wyler donated and deeded land at 1610 Pio Nono Avenue to establish the Unionville Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Pollack served as the first pastor.
Tremont Temple Baptist Church (c. 1897)