The congregation of Salem Baptist Church at Liberty will celebrate the church's 200th year of service to the Lord on Sunday, September 27th starting at 10:00 a.m.
The church was established in 1809 and some of DeKalb County's earliest settlers, including Adam Dale, helped organize it.
Terry Martin, member of the church, says the worship service Sunday will include a reflection of the past and many of the former ministers will be returning to join in the observance. "We've invited former pastors and all the former pastors still living, except one, have agreed to come back and we'll give them a moment to speak. We'll also have a presentation of the history of the church. Lunch will be served and then there will be a video presentation that was actually created in 1986 called "A Walk Down Memory Lane". That video was actually redone again in 1994 and it's been updated to today. Some historical documents will also be out for people to view. That's one of the good things about the church, people have had the foresight to keep really good records, not only just the church minutes, but some of the original documents. There's just a wealth of information and it'll really be interesting for people to see."
Martin says Salem Baptist Church, which started as a branch of a church at Brush Creek, has itself given birth to many other churches since it's beginnings. "The church was actually started as a branch of a Baptist church at Brush Creek. Around 1805 an arm of that ministry was set up and the people met there for a while and then in August 1809 the church was actually constituted. We went from an original small log building to a little larger building in the 1850's and then finally in 1927 the first cornerstone was laid for the church pretty much as you see it today. Anybody who has driven down Main Street in Liberty or Highway 70 and looked to the south and seen the front of that church, that's a landmark in itself right there. So that church has been here for quite some time. It does set pretty much in the same spot as the original church in October, 1809. Soon after the church came into being, that building was placed there. Prior to that, they had met in other people's houses. They had a little building near the Forks of the Pike there where the flashing lights are now at Highways 96 &70 but once the church started it was set there where the building is now. Of course the building, as you see it now at the front, was started in 1927 and stayed pretty much consistently with updates through the years until 1997 when the church voted to put an addition on which included a fellowship hall, new classrooms, and redoing the basement, but one thing I think is important is that the building committee and the contractor who actually did the work, they built that new beautiful addition but they did it without detracting from that wonderful architecture at the front of that building so when you pull up now, you still see that same view that you have always seen. It blended real well together."
Martin reflected on the early days of the church and the founding members. "When you think about the history of DeKalb County, obviously the first name you're going to think of is Adam Dale and as we present our history you can't separate nor should you try to separate the history of the church with the history of Liberty and DeKalb County. Adam Dale moved into Liberty, selected his place there, sent for friends and family, and a large contingent of those people moved here during that time frame of 1809 and began the church. Adam Dale was actually the first clerk of the church so he was very instrumental in getting the church started and he was active in the church. When we first started there were thirty one members including Adam Dale and his brother William Dale. The original pastor who helped start the church was Cantrell Bethel and he was the pastor there for twenty eight years. He is buried there just to the east of the church (in Salem Cemetery) and it's almost symbolically as though he were looking over that church that he helped start."
Martin says the congregation today is carrying on the tradition of service to the Lord. "We've got a strong membership. On average, there are probably anywhere from 130 to 150 members and guests at the church on any given Sunday. We do have a very active church. We have an exceptional youth group going right now. They're just into everything. We try to do a lot of activities in the community, especially there in Liberty and DeKalb County so we're proud of the church and what God has given us to work with. Our pastor today is Mark Wade. He has been with us since about November, 2008 and the church is very excited to have him with us. He is very active and he takes a great leadership role in the church. We're so excited to be part of this 200 year history of this church but even though we want to celebrate the founding members and everything that's been done, as well as the history of the buildings, the records and all that, we still want to keep in mind that all of this is directly what God has done because none of this would have been possible without him and it's just an extension of the work that he is doing. Salem is considered the mother church of many other churches in the area and the significance of that is each one of those churches went on and created their own history and did their own work for God."