Linden Baptist a strong presence in Marengo County

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

For as long as the Baptist religion has been around in Marengo County, Linden Baptist Church has been there.

Its history goes back more than 180 years to its earliest existence as Sardis Baptist Church. The first pastor, Dr. William Fluker, served the members of Sardis Baptist for ten years, boosting membership to 70 during his time there. When the Rev. John Collier arrived in 1830, the church was named Linden Baptist Church.

Over the course of the next 30 years, several pastors served Linden Baptist, including the Rev. Lockwood, the Rev. William Dossey, the Rev. Edward Baptist, the Rev. C.M. Breaker, the Rev. A.J. Parker and the Rev. W. Jacob Parker.

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Throughout the years just before, during and just after the Civil War, membership at Linden Baptist fluctuated. After the war, black members decided to part from the church and form new churches throughout the area.

The first evidence of an official church structure dates around 1884 when Mr. C.W. Currier completed construction of a building on East and Center Streets. The Ladies Missionary Aid Society played an important role in raising funds for construction. This church building was relocated to Mobile Street in 1901 when East Street was opened for the first railroad to come into Linden.

Linden Baptist remained at this location for 15 years. Pastors serving during that time were the Rev. F.M. McGill, the Rev. F.C. Lowry, the Rev. R.M. Hunter, the Rev. I.W. Martin, the Rev. J.R.G. White, the Rev. J.W. Sandlin, the Rev. W.A. Parker, Dr. Richard Hall, the Rev. J.G. Lowrey, the Rev. Chas M. Brewer, the Rev. W.W. Howard, the Rev. W.F. Shute, the Rev. C.W. Hudson and the Rev. W.K.E. James.

When Linden Baptist’s pastorium on East Street and Cahaba Avenue burned in 1915, the Women’s Missionary Society, under leadership of the Rev. J.J. Justice, purchased the Old County Courthouse from Marengo County. The lower floor was used for the pastor’s home and the upper for worship services.

When property for a new pastorium was purchased on West Cahaba Avenue in 1918, the lower floor of the Old County Courthouse was used for Sunday School and B.Y.P.U. work.

As church membership flourished, the congregation quickly outgrew the courthouse. After years of fund raising and planning, a new church was built and the first service was held Jan. 2, 1949.

Those church leaders and individuals involved with the nearly 30 years of fund raising and planning were Dr. J.V. Dickinson, the Rev. C.W. Cook, the Rev. E.X. Atkinson, Dr. E.L. Tiffany, the Rev. W.T. Edwards, the Rev. Zack Appleton, the Rev. C.M. Agee, the Rev. E.C. Owensby, the Rev. J.E. Edwards, Dr. O.A. Forehand, C.W. Ford, James Nettles, Clarence Glass and Bill Reid.

Over the years, church membership steadily increased, and in 1956, membership totaled 546. Only six years later, that increased to 614. During those years of congregation expansion, the facilities continued to develop and expand as well.

With Rev. Jack M. Green’s leadership, the church went through a complete interior redesign, with new pews and the addition of air-conditioning. The following year, the pastorium was remodeled and an educational building was added to the back of the church.

Linden Baptist reached out to the community to promote Christianity by sponsoring its first mission church in 1967. A group of five families pioneered the Forest Hill Mission which became a constituted church in 1969.

The 1970s brought new developments for Linden Baptist. The addition of the Frank Jones Library, two upright pianos for Sunday School, a baby grand piano for the church’s auditorium and a new electronic organ took place under the leadership of the Rev. Paul B. Moore.

A house for the minister of music and a bus for the Bus Ministry were purchased in 1973. Improvements were made to the sanctuary, educational building, youth department, nursery and children’s departments in the 1970s, as well.

Other pastors who led Linden Baptist throughout the 1970s were the Rev. Bill Middlebrook, the Rev. Ralph Brannon and Dr. Glen Savell.

Due to increased membership and need for more expansion, an 8,700 square foot building and auditorium were constructed in 1981. The building was dedicated in a special service May 16, 1982.

The latest addition to Linden Baptist is the Fellowship Hall. Constructed in 2003, the building is approximately 18,900 square feet, containing high ceilings, a spacious kitchen, new appliances, abundant storage and a covered drive through entrance. It also contains five staff offices, a conference room, reception area, bridal room, family parlor, church library, two work rooms and a fax room.

Linden Baptist holds worship services at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. each Sunday and at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. The current pastor of Linden Baptist is the Rev. Billy Harris.