Members of Ringgold First Baptist Church have prayed for God's help and guidance through a Civil War, two World Wars, countless weddings, births, funerals and innumerable personal traumas and needs.
That's what happens when you've been around for 175 years.
The church will celebrate its anniversary — technically known as a "terquasquicentennial" — on Aug. 23 with a special homecoming. As part of the morning service, a representative from the Georgia Baptist Association will present a plaque commemorating the anniversary.
Current pastor Eric Kennedy credits the church's staying power as "first and foremost, of course, to God's grace and goodness to the church."
"But second, Ringgold (Baptist) has a long history of deep roots in the community. It has a cohesiveness to the community and a sense of commitment to the church body and the community."
Dan Whitaker served as the church's pastor from 1975 to 1982 and credits some of the church's longevity to its location and to Ringgold's continued vibrancy.
"I think being located right on the main street of a county-seat town helped," he says. There is more to it than that, though, he stresses.
"I think sometimes a First Baptist church has a false sense of pride about being different, and it seemed to me Ringgold was always a church of the people," he says, "the ordinary people as well as some of the city leaders."
On a national level, in 1840, when Ringgold Baptist was established, President Martin Van Buren was defeated by William Henry Harrison, a Whig who died 32 days after his inauguration in 1841. The 1840 census found that United States' population had risen 33 percent to more than 17 million in 10 years, and the steamship Lexington burned and sank off the coast of Long Island, killing 139 people.
Closer to home that same year, a group of Christians organized the Zion Hill Baptist Church on the western side of Taylor's Crossroads, today known as Guyler Street in Ringgold. The earliest known preacher was Elder George W. Selvidge.
The city of Ringgold wouldn't incorporate for another seven years, but the area was seeing fairly rapid growth thanks to government land lotteries that drew large numbers of settlers to the area to take advantage of fertile land where they could grow corn and wheat.
As the city's population grew so, too, did the church rolls and construction on a new brick building on Nashville Street was begun in 1860. Around this time, the name was changed to Ringgold First Baptist Church, as well.
The sanctuary was finished in 1862, just in time to be used by both Confederate and federal soldiers as a hospital during the Civil War. While several other churches in Ringgold were ruined during fighting in 1863, First Baptist was spared and used by several denominations in the years that followed. Over the years, the church has also served as a school.
Over the years, the church has been members of three different Baptist associations — Coosa from 1844-1874, Middle Cherokee from 874-1914 and Catoosa from 1914-present.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.