A History of Salem Baptist Church
In 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the 1st President of the United States, the Constitution went into effect, the Post Office was established, and the United States celebrated it’s very first Thanksgiving. And on July 27, 1789, Salem Baptist Church was constituted by the Georgia Baptist Association and began its ministry to the community of Salem that would last for years and years to come.
It’s been said that you can’t know where you are going, unless you know where you’ve been. Today, we look back over the past 225 years to see where Salem Baptist Church has been. For the first few years of its existence, Salem was known as Buffalo Creek Church. It sat on a branch of Buffalo Creek and Reverend John Gresham served as its first pastor. The building on Buffalo Creek served the congregation until 1828, when a new building was built and a school started roughly one mile north on 5 and a half acres deeded to Salem by Matthew Rainey. We now sit in the second building on this site.
As with most smaller communities, there have been ups and downs. Cold winters and drought-filled summers played victim to the many farms in the community. Wars saw many men and women shipped off to battle, leaving their families to struggle to fill the gaps left behind. Throughout it all, Salem has served as a hub for the community, meeting needs, sharing the gospel, and loving on people in a way that brings honor and glory to Jesus.
Since the initial groundbreaking, the church building has undergone numerous transformations and changes. In the late 1930s, the old Salem school house was torn down, having operated since the early 1800s.
In the early 1950s, Sunday School rooms were added onto the front and back of the building, making room for the bible classes taking place before and after worship services. Granite tables were also added behind the church, expanding the dinner on the grounds tradition, with an awning added soon thereafter to offer shade during those Second Sunday August Meetings.
In the 1960s, a concrete block fellowship hall was built, adding a kitchen and two more sunday school rooms to keep up with the expanding congregation.
In 1989, Salem celebrated its bicentennial, having served the community of Salem for 200 years.
The 2000s offered many additions and renovations as a new fellowship hall was added to the Southeast side of the church in 2002, the sanctuary was remodeled and renovated in 2003, and in 2005, a new educational building was built, doubling the size of the previous one, offering 8 new Sunday School rooms, a kitchen, and a dining area to help meet the needs of the growing youth and children at Salem. It was dedicated to Ms. Gertrude Bacon Booth, who served as a teacher and mentor for many years to the children of Salem.
In 2008, the sanctuary was renovated again, increasing the seating capacity, adding a balcony and choir loft. The wide boards used on the sides of the sanctuary today are preserved wood from the old church building, as is the floor of the pulpit. A porch was also added to the front of the sanctuary, creating the appearance we all know today. In 2013, the parking lot was expanded to over 100 spaces in order to better direct the traffic flow and protect children entering and exiting the facilities.
Additions and upgrades aside, the purpose and heart of Salem still remains to fulfill the great commission of “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Youth and Adult Mission Trips in recent years to Mexico, Jamaica, Alaska, Cherokee, and Colorado have demonstrated the desire to see the name of Jesus made known. Pastors Jack Lindsay, Dan Fuller, and most recently, Brett Mask, have helped lead the people of Salem towards a deeper understanding and love for the gospel.
For 225 years, God has worked through the members of Salem Baptist Church in service to their community, the nation, and world. Salem isn’t just a church, it’s a community of people who long to serve others, worship the one true God, and share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus.
This is where we’ve come from and our desire for the future is the same…to share the good news of Christ as we become more like Him. We invite you to join us in what God is doing in and through the community here at Salem, and our prayer is that you would be a part of our next 225 years.