There are several framed photos of the congregation lining the hall at Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church. The congregation makes a point of taking one every so often when everyone is together for a service.
As congregation members arranged themselves on the concrete steps leading up to the church’s double doors on Sunday, the church’s secretary, Minnie Likely, was already talking about having their new one framed.
The photo will be the latest in the church’s 76 year history.
“We should make sure the children are near the front,” Likely said, trying to get everyone in order. “Come on, get up here.”
Sunday was Philadelphia Primitive Baptist’s Homecoming Celebration, in which everyone gathered to remember the church’s past and how it has helped shape the community around it.
It was the largest congregation the church had seen in a while, as they welcomed back former members who were in town visiting for the holidays. Likely invited them all to the pulpit to speak.
“God brought us here, and he did not bring us here to leave us,” she said. “So at this time, I would like to invite anyone to share with us ‘when I attended Philadelphia Church.’ Think about yourselves and share with us whatever you would like to share.”
Many of them stepped up to share memories from years past – reminiscing about youths spent in the pews and beloved church members who had since passed away.
Philadelphia Primitive Baptist opened its doors in 1945. Then, it was a small wooden building, about 30 by 25 feet. But since, it has been rebuilt into a stronger, more enduring structure.
The church and its congregation have weathered many storms, said Likely – the closing of the paper mill, several hurricanes, economic hardship and the Covid-19 pandemic.
As 2021 draws to a close, she said she is reminded of the church’s endurance and its lasting impact year after year.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said. “God knew what we were going to need when he sent this pandemic around, because had we not had this modern technology, Elder Davis would not have been able to minister to us in the way that he has been able to do… Thanks be to God for the minds of all of the younger ones who are coming along, not forgetting the foundation that we’ve stood on all of these years.”
The service lasted a little under three hours that afternoon, with everyone taking the time to enjoy being together under Philadelphia Primitive Baptist’s roof once again.