Book traces Ahoskie First Baptist history

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 2004

AHOSKIE – &uot;How is the two hundred-year story of a great church to be told? Is it the story of its buildings? Is it the names of members and dates of events? Is it the first sermon and hymn in the first service?

&uot;While the story of buildings, names, dates and events loom large in the memory of a church, it is not the essence of its history. The story began before the first date and is larger than the buildings, persons and events that flesh it out.&uot;

That is how the Rev. Jessie Croom of First Baptist Church in Ahoskie chose to break the ice in his new, soon to be released publication entitled, &uot;Faithful and Free&uot;.

The book, which Croom describes as a labor of love, is a result of eight years of intensive research in an effort to fill in the gaps in the church’s history.

&uot;The last known publication that documents the history of the church was published in 1939, so there was a huge gap of information that was missing,&uot; said Croom, who spent countless hours reviewing old church records, newspapers and other sources in an effort to complete the last 79 years of the church’s history.

&uot;It has been a long and difficult task trying to pull together the history of this church,&uot; he stated.

The research, which Croom says included reading church and deacon’s minutes, church newsletters, visits to the Baptist history collection at the libraries of Chowan and Meredeth colleges and Wake Forest University and frequent consultations with some old Biblical Recorders helped him to compile the text.

&uot;It was very time consuming and probably not a task I would do again while serving as pastor,&uot; he chided.

The book will be published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society and Fields Publishing in Nashville, Tennessee and includes a historical timeline dating back to the church’s inception in 1804. It’s release will coincide with the church’s 200th anniversary.

It will also contain a center spread of color photos and feature an update on the church’s history as documented by renowned former pastor Oscar Creech, who wrote the church’s first history.

&uot;I asked Creech’s children for permission to reprint some of the information he had written in the book and they were gracious enough to let me,&uot; he explained. &uot;I also obtained permission from Parker Brothers, which is the company that owned what is now the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald because they were responsible for printing the text and they too granted me the privilege.&uot;

In addition to doing a chronological history, Croom offers a retrospective look at church discipline and other believer practices in the late 19th century, an evaluation of denominational relationships, music and worship styles, missions, and educational and social ministries as well as an epilogue that examines the cultural and economic conditions of the area.

&uot;I wanted to have something to commemorate our 200 year anniversary and since there was a blank in history, I thought it was very fitting to write an update of our history,&uot; he said, adding that the book would likely be available in time for the church-wide bicentennial celebration scheduled for October 24.

&uot;The celebration is open to anyone who wants to attend from current and former members to family and friends of the church,&uot; said Croom. &uot;First Baptist is the second oldest church in the area next to Meherrin Baptist in Murfreesboro, from which it was born. We are very proud of our heritage and I am hoping that this publication serves as a motivational tool to spur the church into a new vision of what it could be in the future. We have a rich past and we want to continue that legacy for future generations.&uot;

Croom has served as pastor of First Baptist Church for the past 13 years and is the sixth pastor to serve in the pulpit there since 1925.

He was educated at Wake Forest College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and holds a B.A. in Religion and Sociology and a B.A. of Divinity with a minor in language. He is married and has six children and six grandchildren.

For more information about &uot;Faithful and Free,&uot; contact the church office at: 252-332-4003. Books are $35 per copy.