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Sacred Spaces: Irwinton Baptist Church

164 years ago they entered into the Ebenezer Baptist Association

IRWINTON, Ga. — Most churches have one anniversary date that they celebrate with welcome home services, but Irwinton Baptist relishes two times in history as monumental occasions.

164 years ago this month, they entered into the Ebenezer Baptist Association, about 100 years later they got their own building in Wilkinson County.

Joyce Crawford will turn 88 this fall and she is the oldest church member at Irwinton Baptist Church.

"On Saturday night, we polished our shoes got our Sunday dress ready," she said with a smile.

Faith always took center stage in her childhood her mom's name is etched in the glass of the sanctuary.

"She was a prayer warrior," she recalled.

Pastor Mark Grinsted heard the living history from people like Joyce and he also got to study books of documentation that included ledgers, baptisms, and church meetings.

"I have horrible handwriting, but looking at that handwriting, it was so stylish and so creative and the cursive was so meticulous," he said.

Boy, did those books tell a story that dates back to 1828.

"In the first year, there was an altercation between a pastor and a deacon, and it was so discouraging that the church disenfranchised and they didn't meet anymore until 1843," he recapped.

They still struggled until the mid-century when Irwinton Baptist officially came to life.

The Baptists joined other denominations and all worshipped at Union Church. 

Nobody had much money then.

"The Baptists had the fourth Sunday of the month and they met there for over 100 years," Mark said.

They have the original blueprints from 1957 for the Irwinton Baptist Building that you see today.

Construction took two years.

"I could picture that moment the excitement that was being generated that they had a building that they had absolute use of and they could use it in carrying out the mission of the church," he explained.

The mission took a hit as we all did in 2020 when COVID-19 came.

"Even through the bleak years we have always been here night have been four or five of us or less," Joyce said.

They held services in the parking lot, sometimes with only a fraction of the folks who began Irwinton Baptist 164 years ago, and they did what they do best.

"It's just a country church and we just know each other and we depend on our church family for prayer and being there for each other daily," Joyce said.

"I think there were 59 or 60 people here Sunday," Mark said.

Life is more normal now and the church will celebrate both of their anniversaries this month.

Mark and Joyce say the congregation doesn't forget the sacrifices of their forefathers but they've got an eye on the future fanning out to do what they are called to accomplish.

"We go and we love and we serve -- it's what we do here,"  Mark said.

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