Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church helped grow other congregations

Published 9:08 am Saturday, February 16, 2013

By Rev. Dr. William A. Scott/Contributing Writer

In Southampton County and Franklin freedom has always been an elusive and indefinable concept for the black community.

Objectively freedom means, among other things, lack of restrictions, self-determination, independence, choice and autonomy. It deals with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices or interpretations.

In its pure form, freedom is that immutable liberty of the soul and mind, granted only by God; it is a state of being that inculcates life and life’s rights.

The culture of institutionalized servitude has slowed down freedom for the black community of Southampton County, but it has not stopped their progress. In that freedom is closely tied to liberty blacks have persistently and earnestly exercised that freedom in the black church.

As we celebrate Black History Month highlighting the accomplishments of noted famous black Americans, this article remains local, portraying the actions of “the mother of churches” in the county — Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Boykins.

It is a story — a small snapshot of history — of an institution that was born in a “hush harbor,” spread to a log cabin and eventually evolved from one edifice to another.

The evolution of the people from nothing to something is indeed reflected in the progress of the church — always searching for that immutable liberty of the soul and mind that God given right to life and life’s rights.

The church was organized in 1865, during the last tumultuous year of the Civil War by a small group of ex-slaves. They started worshipping God in a log cabin called Bethel near Cross Keys.

This was a brave audacious display of courage for two principle reasons:

n Local whites were still extremely hostile towards blacks over the remembered slave uprising lead by the incipient prophet-activist, slave leader and preacher Nat Turner who started the uprising near Cross Keys

n Hostility toward blacks over the realization of lost slave labor that was still essential to the county’s economy.

Undaunted, they continued worshipping God at Bethel under the spiritual guidance of the Rev. Buck, the church’s first pastor. Eventually Bethel was moved to its present location at 30188 Shiloh Road and renamed Shiloh Baptist Church.

For nearly a century and a half, God has blessed Shiloh with 17 pastors, each adding to the physical expansion and spiritual growth of the community and church.

During those years, the church birthed many holy men and many holy women of God. As the church increased in members, so too did its officers and auxiliaries.

Shiloh has ordained 10 preachers, licensed 18 ministers, ordained 30 deacons and 28 deaconesses, and appointed 28 trustees to interact with local and county officials concerning church physical properties, and has engaged seven church clerks.

The church started under the pastorate of Buck (1865-unknown), expanded under the Rev. Rouiser Mason (1880-unknown), continued to flourish under the Revs. James and Linwood Kaiser as well the Rev. S.N. Daughtrey. They brought structure and discipline to the church (1890-1930).

The church building was remodeled under the Rev H.L. James (1930-1945), grew steady under the Rev J.W. Law (1951-1960), increased substantially under the Rev. J.W. Brown (1965-1979), advanced spiritually under the Rev. Michael A. Porter (1985-1993) and moved to a higher level under the Rev. Anthony Ferebee (1994-2002), who became Shiloh’s first full-time pastor.

The Rev. Curtis Mitchell (2006-present) is full of love and compassion for the people of the community and members.

As with all congregational church organizations, the deacons are the backbone of the church. The church’s growth and existence has depended upon their wise council.

Deacon Johnnie Sykes was Shiloh’s first recorded chairman of the deacons; it continued under the Godly management of Chairman Manuel Murphy, and today it still provides wise council under the spiritual strength and leadership of Chairman Jessie L. Murphy Sr.

It is worthy to note the long tenure of Sykes as chairman from 1888 to 1953, a total of 65 years.

The position of the church clerk is essential. Shiloh clerks have included Ralph Peeples, Isabelle Claud, Emma Tann, Mary Freeman, Lottie Bell, Mildred Benson and Beulah Gholston.

As a compliment to Shiloh’s spiritual influence in the community, the title “the mother of churches” is appropriate because Shiloh has birthed many pastors, preachers, teachers, deacons, clerks and trustees and helped grow five branches — Bryants, Odom Chapel, Zoar, Galilee and New Bethel Baptist churches.

In her century-plus history, she has behaved much like a mother hen hovering over her brood given spiritual nourishment to fledgling ministries, supplying ministerial assistance, and even provided pastors to churches in search of shepherds.

In this regard, Shiloh has maintained close relationship and fellowship with First Baptist in Franklin, Mount Tabor Baptist in Newsoms, Pine Level Baptist in Capron and White Oak Springs Baptist on Delaware Road in Franklin to name just a few.

Even the name has biblical connotations as revealed in Genesis 49:10 — Shiloh is a name of the coming Messiah. Accordingly, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Boykins has and will always have a pontificator in its ranks; be it a holy man of God or a holy woman of God ‘til Shiloh comes.