Sandy Grove Church celebrates 138th anniversary

First Posted: 11/4/2011

Andrea Whitted

We celebrate this day

We lift up holy hands

A long, long time ago

Sandy Grove was in

God’s plans.

Sandy Grove Baptist Church, of 1601 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Lumberton, NC, recently observed its 138th anniversary.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, an “Ole Time Gospel Hour,” patterned after the radio programs of the late H. L. Lewis, began the celebration. Rev. T. Shedrick Byrd, pastor, was the announcer. Four visiting gospel groups sang our souls happy with songs from days of old.

The following Sunday at the 7:45 a.m. service, Apostle Ellie Baker, pastor of True Believers Church of Lumberton, preached on the topic: “Keep on Building.” Pastor Byrd preached at the 11 a.m. service, and we honored our 80-and-90-year-old members. Edith Walker, Irene Taylor, Pearlie Thompson, Annie L. Gerald, William Wells, Olena Ballard, Jannie Jerald, Pernell Powell, Ellouise Powell, Fred Howell, Mollie Robinson, Lallian Thompson, Lela Thompson, Sathilda Allen each received a plaque.

As a little girl growing up in the country on the nearby Wire Grass Road, I imagined belonging to the pretty church at 1601 MLK Jr. Dr. (then known as Fairmont Road). As fate would have it, I married a young man from the church, and moved my membership there.

A member of the church informed me that she became a member of the Grove in the early ‘70s. She said that she found that the ministries provided there are just what she was looking for spiritually. She is still an active member and says she is happy to be a part of such history.

The beginning

In 1873 a band of black Christians came together to start a church, somewhere near Lumberton. The earlier tradition was that blacks could worship in the white churches. Therefore, First Baptist Church on Walnut Street granted permission for black worshippers to organize their own church.

A plot of land was purchased about 1.5 miles south of the Lumber River. Some of the known founders were Sandy and Rachel Smith, Eric and Florence Cobb, Pierce Powell and Emanuel Fulmore. It is believed that the Smiths, especially Sandy, and Powell were in early leadership roles. Sandy Grove Baptist Church has continued to maintain its identity.

The membership claims motherhood of black Baptists in the Robeson County area. All of the existing black Baptist churches in the city grew from Sandy Grove.

Eighteen pastors have led the church in a team effort toward a better religious experience. The former pastors are: the Revs. A.A. Thompson, E.M. Thompson, W.C. Pope, Simeon Dockery, W.D.L. Pope, J.D. Harrell, H.D. Moore, H.O. Rhoe, H.A. Smith, J.H. Clanton, W.D. Burton, P.H. Warren, O.K. Lawson, R.L. Davis, Sidney A. Locks, J.F. Kelly, O.E. Pelham and the current pastor, the Rev. Byrd.

The building

In 1895, a wooden frame building was erected under the leadership of the Rev. E.M. Thompson. Another wooden structure was built in the 1940s, and later it was brick veneered. Brother W.H. Spearman designed and spearheaded a two-story church educational addition with a basement and renovated the church sanctuary with a balcony. The Rev. J.H. Clanton and the membership dedicated the building in 1949.

A day-care center founded by the Rev. O. K. Lawson provided much-needed early instruction and care for children of working mothers. The Rev. Sidney Locks, who was pastor for 15 years, was responsible for several renovations, the purchase of three parcels of land, grounds landscaping, parking lot pavement and development of a bus ministry.

The Rev. James F. Kelly came in 1990. During his tenure, the church parsonage was renovated and painted, ladies restrooms and lounge area were remodeled, padded pews were installed, floors were carpeted throughout the church and the parking area was resealed.

The Rev. Dr. Otis E. Pelham, who came in 1994, led the resurfacing and marking of the parking lot and purchase of a new church van.

In June 2000 the Sandy Grove Church membership began construction of a 6,000-square-foot brick fellowship and dining facility, which was dedicated Aug. 29, 2001.

Sandy Grove Baptist Church is an affiliate of the Robeson County Missionary Union, Woman’s Baptist Home and Foreign Missionary Union, Lumber River Baptist Association, General Baptist State Convention, Woman’s Baptist Home and Foreign Missionary Convention of NC, the Progressive National Convention and the Lott Carey Convention.

The present

Sandy Grove has been blessed under the pastorate of the Rev. T. Shedrick Byrd since 2000. During the past 10 years, the church’s membership, relationships and finances have grown considerably. The parking lot has been improved, along with curbing and walkway extensions. A new vibrant sound system has been installed in the sanctuary. A fluorescent marquee has been inserted within the old marquee structure at the front of the church. The old steeple has been replaced. On Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007, the 7:45 a.m. Early Morning Experience began and has been in existence since.

Sandy Grove places emphasis on being a welcoming church and living up to its motto: Exalting, equipping, empowering and evangelizing.

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