Sunday, August 23, 2009
WASHINGTON STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
WASHINGTON STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
A Half Century of Service
This Sunday, the second Sunday in October, the members of Washington Street Presbyterian Church will celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the genesis of the one of Dublin's oldest and most community minded churches. Over the last half century, the members of the congregation have been active in many facets of leadership in our community, and in particular, they have taken a leading role in the education of our children.
Just after lunch on the afternoon of October 11, 1953, the Rev. Glenn Dorris called a congregation of people to worship in the assembly building of the Dublin 4- H Club. Rev. Dorris, pastor of Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, had been approached by Lucius T. Bacote and Luther Coleman concerning the organization of a Presbyterian Church for the Negro citizens of Dublin. Coleman and Bacote invited others to join them in their dream of establishing a new church. They met in homes around the city and formulated plans for the initial service. Rev. Dorris took a short lunch break after his morning sermon at Henry Memorial and traveled across the city to the Assembly Building on the grounds of the 4-H Club. For nearly three decades, Dublin was the site of the Georgia Colored 4-H Club. Students from all over the state assembled in Dublin to have fun and to learn how to become more well rounded citizens of their state. During the following November, Lucius T. Bacote, Marine C. Bacote, Freya Bacote, Muriel Bacote, Luther Coleman, Nellie Coleman, and Mary Foster met and formed the nucleus of the founding members of the church. Shortly thereafter, they were joined by Melba Baker, Anne M. Coates, Loutrell Fambrough, Eula Jackson, Mary Hester, and Tranas Long. Officially, the fourteen charter members were considered to be members of Henry Memorial, but in fact they were busy organizing and forming their own church. In the three years before the church became officially established, the members moved their services to the Katie Dudley Village Center.
The members called the well respected Bridges Edwards, Sr. to become the first pastor of their church in August of 1955. The church was under the direction of the Augusta-Presbytery, which bought a house at 112 Carter Street to serve as a manse for Rev. Bridges and his family. Rev. Dorris guided the members of the church through official channels to begin construction on a lot on lower South Washington Street, which was donated by Rep. W.H. Lovett. The building, designed by prominent Macon architects Dennis and Dennis, was built of brick, block, and tile, all donated by Elder Warren Reid of the First Presbyterian Church of Milledgeville, Georgia. The Presbyterian Church's General Assembly granted $40,000.00 and approved a $20,000.00 loan to complete the project. Several church members had a talent for construction and lent their time and labor to the construction of the building under the supervision of Bud Kimbell. Dick Henry of Henry Memorial served as treasurer of the building fund. The building committee was composed of Rev. Edwards, Lucius Bacote, Melba Baker, Hosie Simpson, Luther Coleman, Nellie Coleman, and George Spicer, a Dublin businessman and member of Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church.
The dedicatory service was held in the newly completed sanctuary on November 18, 1956. Rev. Charles Gibbony of Augusta gave the address and presented the congregation with a pulpit bible. Lucius Bacote, Luther Coleman, and Edwin Bates were elected as the first elders of the church. Hansel Baker, Roscoe Brower, Leroy Limeul, and Nathaniel Watson were chosen to serve on the first board of deacons. Lucius Bacote was chosen to serve as the first Clerk of the Session. Rev.Bridges Edwards resigned in 1961. For nearly a year, the church was supplied with a host of interim pastors, including Dr. U.S. Johnson, a leading Dublin physician and public servant, Judge C.C. Crockett, a long time Dublin attorney, along with Reverends Jerry Salter, Leon Anderson, and Daniel O. Honnegan. In May of 1962, Rev. Roosevelt Haynes was called to serve the church. He left after two years to return to school. During an eight month interim period, the church was served by seminary students from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Rev. Joe L. Spears was called to serve the church in October 1964. Rev. Spears served until May 1969, when he resigned to begin a new project in Statenville, North Carolina. For nearly fifteen months, the pulpit was once again filled with seminary students. The Rev. John Albert Yates began serving as a visiting minister in the summer of 1970. He became the full time minister on September 1 of that year. Rev. Chester Johnston became the fifth minister of Washington Street Church in 1975. Rev. Johnston had a dual role in his ministering to the community. In addition to his duties at the church, Rev. Johnson served as a chaplain at the Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center. He was succeeded by Rev. W.H. Wilson, who served as an interim pastor for two years. In 1984, Rev. Johnnie Bennett, who holds the record as the longest serving minister of the church (1984-1993), became the church's seventh pastor. It was during Rev. Bennett's term, that a Christian library was established. The library was initially composed of books donated by members and books from the personal library of Rev. Glenn Dorris, whose guidance and direction was so critical to the formation of the church nearly four decades earlier. Roscoe Brower and Shellie Stroman drove hundreds of miles to pick up the volumes and bring them back to their permanent home in Dublin. Rev. Eugene Allen, who served as a senior chaplain at the VA Medical Center, succeeded Rev. Bennett. The present and first woman pastor of the church is the Rev. A. Vanessa Hawkins.
The church has always been blessed by a host of dedicated servants, many of whom served as educators in the Dublin public school system. Among those people, not previously mentioned herein, are: Nathaniel Watson, Issac H. McLendon, Ethel Beard, Pearl Cullens, Irving Dawson, Sr., Roscoe Brower, Columbus Jackson, E.J. Jones, Edward Copenny, Alton Roberts, Shellie Stroman, William Walthour, and Bonnie Crawley. Additionally, the Women's organization, the essential element of any successful church, has been led by Mrs. Nellie Coleman, Mrs. Columbus Jackson, Mrs. John Green, Marine C. Bacote, Mrs. Charles Manning, Mrs. Nathaniel Jackson, Mrs. Willie O. Beard, Mrs. Edward Copenny, Mrs. Pearl Cullens, Mrs. Lois Stroman, and Mrs. Bonnese Thomas Brower McLain, among others.
The founding of Washington Street Presbyterian Church was uniquely special in the post World War II South of the 1950s. While the evil storms of hate and racial prejudice swirled all over the nation, the people of two races and one faith came together and, along with the help of many others, established a church founded on the principles of Christian faith and service. These principles were espoused not just within the walls of the church, but throughout the community. It was this dedication, especially among the inordinate number of members who were school teachers, that led our community through the perilous times of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Their efforts have left a positive and indelible mark on the people of Dublin, one which will continue to last for decades to come. Congratulations to the present and former members of Washington Street Presbyterian Church for fifty years of ceaseless dedication to our community.