Augusta Church Celebrates 225 Years, the Oldest Black Church in U.S.

The historic church, which is where Morehouse College was founded, had a congregation of more than 1,000 people in the 1800s.

Posted: 08/14/2012 03:25 PM EDT
Augusta Church

It is said to be the country’s oldest continuously operating Black church with a storied history that includes the founding of Morehouse College and the establishment of the Georgia Education Commission. 

Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, recently celebrated its 225th anniversary with a large celebration that included choirs, speeches and sermons 

Rev. Hardy S. Bennings III, who has been pastor of the church since 2009, referred to the 225th anniversary celebration as one of the biggest moments in church history.

“This is a momentous occasion for us,” Bennings said. “Everybody’s excited. This is one of the biggest events in the history of Springfield.”

Springfield Baptist was officially organized in 1787, although its congregation is believed to date as far back as 1773, two years before the American Revolution. The church’s first pastor was the Rev. Jesse Peters Galphin, a slave whose master allowed him to receive training as a minister.

In the 19th Century, the church had more than 1,000 members, making it the largest church of any race in the Georgia Baptist Association. Today, it has a congregation of about 200 members.

The college that would be known as Morehouse first organized in 1867 in the basement of Springfield Baptist under the name Augusta Baptist Institute. The school quickly outgrew the church. In 1879, it moved to Atlanta as the Atlanta Baptist Institute and was later renamed Morehouse College, an institution that has produced several prominent black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. 

“After all these years, Springfield stands tall. It proves Springfield is a resilient people,” Bennings said. “I think history will look back on us and say we were a small group of people who envisioned big things. This chapter in our history is for all of those long nights, those difficult times when Springfield had to stand tall. This is for all of those moments.”

 

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(Photo: Courtesy of AugustaGA.org)

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