As members and visitors gathered in the sanctuary of Harlem Baptist Church on Aug. 22, a bright yellow banner hung outside declaring why they were there - to celebrate 130 years as a church.
"We're celebrating God's faithfulness to us for 130 years," said Philip Vestal, the church's pastor for five years. "It's a time to reflect and to celebrate. It's also a time to rejoice in what God is doing now and what he's going to do in the future."
On Aug. 22, the members of Harlem Baptist Church, located on East Milledgeville Road, kicked off a four-day church anniversary celebration, which included a variety of activities including a history walk, presentations, sermons from the church's former pastors, Dr. Robert J. Blankenship and Dr. Gary Abbot, a youth night, church dinner and time capsule ceremony.
Harlem Baptist was started in 1974 and now has more than 400 members.
Vestal said the anniversary was a good time for members to renew their commitment to God and their community.
"My encouragement and challenges for the church is to continue the ministry of the church," he said. "To continue to fulfill our mission statement toward a brighter and better future."
Church member Sue Whiddon said she's been a faithful member who has seen the church's progress throughout its many years.
"I've been a member of the church since 1937," the Harlem resident said. "I remember when the church started out with 19 members. I think (the celebration) has been wonderful because it's made such a wonderful progress both materially and spiritually."
Whiddon said she thinks she knows why Harlem Baptist has existed so long.
"I think it takes good members, good preachers, good fellowship and good faith in God," she said. "I think the (celebration) was typical of the church's growth and success."
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