In 1956, an article ran in The Times titled, “138 Year Old Church Faces Slow Death.” The community wasn’t optimistic about Flat Creek Church after Lake Lanier had swallowed up the roads that led to Forsyth County, which gave access to a large portion of its congregation.
Yet on Sunday, May 20, what is now known as Flat Creek Baptist Church will celebrate its 200th anniversary with a special service, the release of a new cookbook, a showing of some of the church’s historic items and an outdoor dinner celebration.
Flat Creek Baptist Church 200th anniversary celebration
Where: 5504 Flat Creek Road, Gainesville
When: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 20
Coming Sunday: Columnist Johnny Vardeman takes a closer look at Flat Creek's long history.
“Through studying the 200-year history of Flat Creek Baptist, the four themes that bubbled to the surface that describe who the church is through the years were, music and worship, missions, discipleship and fellowship,” the Rev. Mike Taylor said. “Those things provide kind of what railroad tracks are for a train, they kind of shape the direction for the church from generation to generation. And over time that kind of shows strengths of who we are.”
Since January, former pastors of the West Hall church have been visiting to speak to the congregation. The Revs. Fred Lodge, Charles Jones, Bob Cain, Loren Hildebrandt and Joe Vernon have all visited and will be back for the 200th anniversary celebration as well.
During the service May 20, the church will show a video of its history, giving members and guests a look at where the church came from. It will recognize those former pastors again as well.
The event will include a homecoming choir allowing choir members from years past and present to lead the church in a few songs. Taylor will also give a short message before the two-hour service, which begins at 10 a.m. with a break at 11 a.m., wraps up.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Taylor said. “And it’s historic that we’re side-by-side with Hall County that’s celebrating 200 years in December ... and we actually precede the Georgia Baptist Convention, because before they ever started, we were here.”
Taylor said though Flat Creek Baptist is a small church with 779 members, but an average of 158 regular attendees, it has made an impact on the community because of its history. As it hits its 200th year, Flat Creek members are looking forward to what else the church can accomplish.
“The understanding of your past, it doesn’t lock you into the future, but shapes the future so you can make informed decisions heading into the next 100 years,” Taylor said. “Sometimes old churches get set in their ways, but this church has continued to reach out and be faithful to the mission of people who don’t know the Lord.”
As the area continues to grow, Taylor said he expects about 1,000 new homes within a 5-mile radius of Flat Creek Baptist. Those new residents will be welcomed at the church, and Taylor hopes they’re encouraged by its rich history. Although they will have other church options, including many larger in Hall, Taylor said as a pastor he is there to provide for the community however he can and said a church doesn’t “have to be monstrous for God to be blessing it.”
He believes that is what has been happening at Flat Creek Baptist for the past 200 years and the anniversary May 20 will celebrate that while looking ahead at what is to come.
“It’s a catalyst,” Taylor said. “It’s a springboard. Two hundred years is a springboard, and if we rightfully study and appreciate where we’ve come from, if we grasp that, we get a better bounce for the future.”