The Good Hope Baptist Church congregation celebrated the church’s 175th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. / W.C. Mann
GOOD HOPE – On Sunday morning, members of Good Hope Baptist Church celebrated the church’s 175th anniversary with a special service and full day of celebration. Members gathered documents and photos, and descendants of several charter members shared their families’ stories. Councilman John Harris represented the Good Hope City Council, and Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope, who grew up attending Good Hope Baptist Church, came to represent the Alabama House of Representatives. Both brought resolutions from their respective bodies honoring the congregation.
Baptists being a fellowshipping (In this context, that means “eating together”) kind of people, of course there was food. With such an event as this, there had to be lots! A fellowship breakfast before worship was followed by lunch and an afternoon of activities.
Good Hope Baptist Church is a congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and claims more than 200 active members today. Six or seven charter members’ families are still active in the church. Ralph Andrews, the current pastor, has served the church since 1996. The congregation was established as Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in 1842, and is the oldest church in the West Cullman Baptist Association. The current city, which came later, took its name from the church. The original log structure sat on the south side of Good Hope Cemetery, and was also home to the community’s first school.
Other important dates in the history of Good Hope Baptist Church:
- 1866 – The original log church building was replaced after being destroyed by fire.
- 1883 – The newly-formed Cullman County Baptist Association held its first meeting at Good Hope.
- 1892 – The school was moved to a separate building on the present site of Good Hope High School.
- 1896 – A new building was constructed at the church’s present location.
- 1942 – The landmark sandstone building (known as the “rock church”) now in use was constructed. There are still men in the congregation today who, as boys, participated in the digging of the basement. With tremendous volunteer labor from the church and community, the project was completed for only $7,000.
- 1957 – An education building was added to the back of the rock church.
- 2000 – The building housing the fellowship hall, nursery and offices was constructed.
The Tribune was with the Good Hope congregation Sunday morning. Pastor Andrews declined to be interviewed, but event coordinators and charter member descendants Laura Calvert Harris and Tammy Young Howard were happy to share about their church.
Harris began, “God has blessed our community for 175 years. We went back and got as much information as we could to make a history book for our members, and we’re just together today just to have a big celebration of God’s blessings on us.
“There’s so much rich history that spread out from this hub of the church into the community. The school met at the church in its beginning, and then, as this rock church was being built, the church met up at the school. So it’s been very intertwined in this community. The town was established and took its name after the church.”
Howard added, “A handful of families started this church, whose descendants are still here. I think that’s pretty neat, both the history and the closeness of the community.”
A large, old solitary oak tree stands in the field behind the church. Though the field is undeveloped and filled with grass more than knee-high, a walking path was cut from the parking lot to the tree for Sunday’s celebration.
Harris explained, “The church purchased some property behind it from a certain member, and in that property purchase, a stipulation was that the big oak tree back here never would be cut down, unless it died of natural causes. That was just to symbolize the deep roots and long-standing faith that were grown here in this church.”
“Our mission statement which was established in 1942,” said Harris, “and it is on the cornerstone of the rock church: ‘To know Him and make Him known.’ And that is still our mission statement today.
“We are a growing church; we have youth programs, children’s programs, and we participate in many ministries in our community. We do a backpack ministry at Good Hope Primary, to provide weekend meals for children who are in need. We have a senior elite program that are very active: they go on trips together and do things together. We’re just a family. If you’re looking for a loving church family, we’re not perfect, but we strive to love each other.”
Howard concluded, “I moved away to go to school, and stayed gone for almost 20 years. but when I moved back and came back to church, it was like I never left. I thought of that guy who said you can never go home again; he hadn’t ever been to Good Hope. It’s just awesome; I don’t think you’ll find a place like it anywhere else.”
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