The Tremont Temple Baptist Church, Inc., is a historic predominantly African American Church that was located in downtown Macon for more than 100 years. In October of 2001 the church purchased land in the southwest area of Macon , GA and has had a community outreach ministry presence on that site since July 2002. In its new location the congregation seeks to be a God-fearing, Holy Spirit-led, Bible-believing, progressive, friendly, inclusive body of disciples of Jesus Christ desiring to advance the Kingdom of God through:
T Teaching: Wholistic Comprehensive Christian Education;
R Reaching humanity through preaching the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and Evangelism; personal and corporate witnessing;
E Encouraging and supporting our members in consistent Christian living;
M Magnifying the Lord in the public worship of God in spirit and truth;
O Ongoing missionary endeavors and mission education; providing help to oppressed persons, engaging in the dynamics of the community and the world, providing food, clothing, spiritual encouragement and support for churched and unchurched persons desiring to improve their spiritual and personal lives;
N Nurturing our members through Christian fellowship;
T Tithing our income and time, giving of our treasure, the use of our talents, and total sacrifice to God.
The Tremont Temple Baptist Church was organized under the leadership of the late Reverend S. A. McNeal on January 10, 1897 in the Odd Fellow's Hall on Cotton Avenue . The church was charted as a legal corporation on April 2, 1897 and named after the historic Tremont Temple Baptist Church , Boston , MA . Tremont Temple Baptist Church , Boston , MA is distinguished as a northeastern Baptist congregation in its freedom traditions. Most noted among those freedom traditions are the church’s emphasis on free seats, as opposed to rented pews, for members and its leadership in the abolition of American slavery.
Three hundred communicants formed the Tremont Temple Baptist Church congregation in the face of a divided spirit in the First Baptist Church on New Street , Macon , GA. The church split over matters related to educated clergy, freedom from control of the white power structure in Macon and ministry focus. As Rev. McNeal was not seminary trained, Tremont Temple sought trained pastoral leadership. This is clearly reflected in the call of the first pastor, Rev. W. R. Forbes. Rev. Forbes was a graduate of Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta , GA. The tradition of seminary trained pastoral leadership continues to the present.
The church has had only 11 men to serve as pastor in its 112 year history. All 11 pastors have held advanced degrees: W. R. Forbes, 1897- 1928, graduate of Gammon Theological Seminary; Levi Maurice Terrill, 1928-1935, graduate of Morehouse College; O. M. Collins, 1936-1940, graduate of Morehouse College; G. Johnson Hubert, 1941-1945, graduate of Morehouse College; Levi M. Moore, 1946-1949, graduate of Morehouse College; J. A. Holston, 1949-1956, graduate of Georgia Baptist College; Elisha B. Paschal, Jr., 1958-1962, graduate of Morehouse College; John Alexander, Jr., 1963-1965, graduate of Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center; Alvin H. Hudson, 1965-1989, graduate of Morehouse College; Michael D. Billingsley, 1991-1997, graduate of Alabama State University; James Louis Bumpus, 1998-2012, graduate of Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center; and Camile Holmes, 2013-Present, Student of the Masters of Divinity Program of the Andersonville Theological Seminary.
The founding members of the Tremont Temple Baptist Church were who W. E. B. Dubois described as the talented tenth. As mentioned earlier there were 300 communicants who founded the church. They were all adults who were well educated professionals, business owners, political/civic leaders and high-end domestic workers. These persons were the reconstructionalists of that day. They sought transformation of their community through the practice of their Christian faith. As such the church has been on the cutting edge of social and civic issues since its inception.
The present church membership is 200. Of those members, 15 are 18 years of age or younger, 10 range in ages 19-30, 87 are ages 31-60; the remaining are 61 and older. These persons are generally well educated professionals, retired professionals, first and second generation family business owners, health care providers, and political figures. The church seeks to serve the present age by being a representative voice for justice and righteousness.
Eight significant events have shaped and reshaped the history of Tremont Temple .
The first was its involvement in the establishment of and support of historical African American institutions of higher learning. The Rev. W. R. Forbes led the way in fostering Macon support for the development of Morehouse College in Atlanta . The church’s support of Morehouse included recruiting and funding.
He and Tremont Temple were also instrumental in the organizing and support of Central City College and Georgia Baptist College . Both were in Macon . The church’s support of these institutions also included recruiting and funding. Many of the baccalaureate services and graduation ceremonies were held at Tremont Temple . During this era Tremont became known as a center for life empowerment through education. Because of sparse resources and poor management both schools have since closed.
The second significant event was its involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Under the leadership of the Reverend Elisha B. Pascal, Tremont Temple Baptist Church led the way for social change in Macon . Many of the community organizing meetings were held in it and it was one of the places where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often spoke when in Macon . Through the leadership of Rev. Pascal and the participation of the members of Tremont Temple and other local ministers, a successful boycott of the public transportation system and merchants was organized, the execution of which led to African Americans in Macon being able to sit on the front of the bus, to eat at restaurant front counters, integrated public school system and greater acceptance of African Americans in the mainstream American society. Because of the church’s involvement it became known as a representative voice for social justice.
The third significant event was its involvement in the organizing and naming of the New Era Baptist State Convention of Georgia. In November of 1961, amid the face of contention and division in the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Georgia over leadership and convention direction, a group of ministers left the meeting being held at the First Baptist Church on New Street in Macon and met at Tremont Temple . The ministers present decided to form a new state convention. The Rev. Elisha B. Pascal, pastor of Tremont Temple , offered the name New Era for the convention. It was accepted. New Era Baptist State Convention of Georgia went on to become a part of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC). From that time until the present, Tremont Temple has been a part of the PNBC. Because of the church’s involvement in organizing the convention, it has become known as the mother church of progressive Baptists in Georgia .
The fourth significant event to shape and reshape the history of the church was litigation brought against the church for its attempt to sell the property at 860 Forsyth Street . In January 1974, Charter Medical, Inc. offered to purchase the church for $300,000 with the option to take all fixtures, furnishings and all other significant items from the 860 Forsyth Street location. The majority of the membership voted to sell.
The members voting to sell the 860 Forsyth Street site saw a modern structure with grounds and facilities in west Macon which would secure the church’s future. The sale was prevented by a court injunction by five members which brought about a lapse of the contract which had been drawn up with Charter Medical, Inc. These members felt a strong tie to the land and edifice that was purchased and built by their fore parents. The injunction was filed in the Civil Division of Bibb County Superior Court, March 13, 1974 . The injunction listed the following named members as plaintiffs: Mrs. Lillian Dumas, Mr. Edward Savage, Mrs. F. J. Clowers, Dr. Alonza Epps and Mrs. Terrell Murphy. The injunction listed the defendants as the Rev. Alvin H. Hudson, Mr. Albert C. Howard, Mr. Joseph Alston, Mr. Melvin Fussell, and Mr. Albert Foster. The Superior Court of Bibb County , under Judge C. Cloud Morgan, ordered the case dismissed pursuant to provisions of O.C.G.A. and costs were taxed against the plaintiffs.
This event was devastating to Pastor Hudson and the members. Although the church did not split, the morale and spirit of the church was severely damaged. The litigation expedited the downward spiral of the church. After this event the church became known for being paralyzed in the history and traditions of its edifice.
The fifth significant event was the death of the church’s long time pastor, Rev. Alvin H. Hudson and the church’s matriarch, Mrs. Earl Cotton Bryant, in 1989 and 1997, respectfully. Thirty years of the church’s identity rested in these two personalities. Rev. Hudson was well known and respected in Macon as well as throughout the nation. Mrs. Bryant had served as the president of the PNBC Women’s Department. The church deeply grieved and mourned both deaths. It is difficult to articulate the somber mood of the church during these years. Even today their loss is greatly felt.
The sixth significant event to shape and reshape the history of the church was the creation of the church’s present vision and mission statement presented by me to the church December 1999. This came about through a 18-month process of self-definition that began in July 1998. Several retreats and workshops were hosted for the leadership of the church to work through the process. The most significant part of the process was that the leaders and membership crafted the final document. The statement developed was produced and owned by the leadership of the church.
The seventh significant event was the creation of Power Sources Unlimited, Inc.: An Outreach Ministry of Tremont Temple Baptist Church. Power Sources Unlimited, Inc. was organized and constituted by me and Mrs. Janice Rainey-Whitby in early 2001. Power Sources Unlimited, Inc. as a separate entity from Tremont Temple is a community development corporation designed to serve the larger Macon community through initiatives involving community advocacy, educational enrichment, health education, recreation and community development. This is significant in the life of the church because it allowed the church to partner with government, corporations, agencies and non-profits to provide custom services to fill service delivery gaps in the Macon area. It allowed the church to minister to persons who otherwise would not have come in contact with the ministry. Simply stated, it afforded the church the opportunity to do outreach in the community.
The eighth significant event was the purchase of an expansion property. After years of searching for an expansion property, on October 2, 2001 , the church purchased a 27.9 acre track of land located at 5263 Bloomfield Road , which led to the subsequent move of the church from its downtown location. The new location is approximately seven miles from the original site. On June 20, 2006 , the church began construction of the Power Center , a 12,000 square foot multi-purpose building at 5263 Bloomfield Road . On Christmas Day the same year the church held its first worship service in the Power Center and has been worshiping there every since.
An analysis of Tremont Temple in Macon ten years ago revealed several significant characteristics that affected the ministry of the church. Among these were limited access to the church; a lack of clear vision, mission and purpose; spiritual immaturity; and limited community outreach. The present study is intended to reveal some of the degrees of impact, if any, of the move of the church from one location to another.
As is the case with many historic African American downtown churches, Tremont Temple Baptist Church had become stagnant. As with many human endeavors, sustained congregational life is intricately tied to transformation. That is, to avoid stagnation, decline, and ultimately collapse and disbandment, congregations must constantly be in a process of development and transformation.
In its heyday, around the turn of the 20th century, Tremont Temple enjoyed a thriving and vibrant life in the Macon community as an elitist Black middle class congregation. Although, from the church’s founding through the early 1960’s, the congregation had attracted and sustained a sizable membership and considerable influence in Macon, over the past thirty years the membership and influence of the church have waned. The declining membership coupled with limited accessibility and a limited outreach ministry has had significant negative impacts on the church. These factors support the need for institutional relocation and institutional transformation.
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