Submitted by Nelle Price Epps
Organization and Beginning
of Prince Avenue Baptist Church
Dr. R. E. Neighbor
From the History of Prince Avenue Baptist Church 1912-1927
by Marguerite Crowley
As a result of information gathered from a census taken during the summer of 1912 revealing hundreds of unchurched Baptists and unsaved people, and feeling the need for another Baptist Church, Mr. W. C. Wingfield was the guiding spirit in launching plans for a large tent meeting. A tent was purchased and placed in a vacant lot at the corner of Dougherty Street and Pulaski Street (site of the First Christian Church). Dr. R. E. Neighbor was the evangelist, Mr. Charles Butler, the song leader, Mr. Charles Neighbor, cornetist, and Mr. C. E. Mason personal worker. The response to the meeting was tremendous and the meeting lasted three weeks, with many peo;le making public professions of faith. This meeting also confirmed the belief that a new church was needed. The records show that many Methodists, Presbyterians, members of the Christian Church, and Baptists supported the meeting, making it a “Union Meeting.”
On October 6, 1912 resolutions supporting the organization of the new church were presented to the First Baptist Church of Athens by Judge A. J. Cobb and were adopted by the church.
One week later, on the Sunday afternoon of October 13, 1912, the new church was organized with 138 charter members: 110 from First Baptist, 17 from West End Baptist, and 11 from various other Baptist churches. Including children of families coming from First Baptist, there was a total of 167, which was about one fifth the size of that congregation.
Participating in the dedicatory program were Dr. E. L. Hill, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Rev. W. M. Coile, Winterville Baptist Church, Rev. Sherman England, Presiding Elder of the Methodist Conference, and Dr. J. W. Lynch, pastor of First Baptist, who preached the dedicatory sermon. Following the reading of church letters and the Resolution of Organization, the new church adopted the Articvles of Faith and the Church Covenant. When the invitation was given, 30 came for baptism, 39 under watchcare, and 2 by letter.
Dr. R. E. Neighbor was called as the first pastor, Dr. Neighbor was an outstanding Bible Scholar and was author of a series of books on prophecy. Rev. Charles Butler became Co-Pastor and Choir Director. Mr. Butler being an evangelist, he was granted time to be away for meetings. Rev. John Bomar was called November 13, 1912 to be Pastor’s Assistant and Superintendent of the Sunday School, which position he held until July 8, 1914. Mr. Bomar was paid a salary of $85.00 per month ($35.00 from privatae gifts and $50.00 from the State Mission Board.)
Dr. Neighbor preached the decatory sermon. Others assisting in the service were Dr. J. W. Lynch of First Baptist, Rev. John Bomar, and Mr. Charles Butler. “The service was tryly a great one, the sermon givig God the glory and praise for what He had wrought. The pastor spoke with liberty and I the power of the Spirit and the powere was evidently present. The usic was a special feature, and feature was ‘The Holy City’, sung by Mrs, Charles Butler.” (from minutes by J. H. Mapp).
Family names predominant in the early church were Wingfield, Mapp, Brooks, Campbell, McGregor, Callaway, Thornton, Stephenson, Pendley, Cox Moore, Moss, Drake, Anderson, Cooper, and Davis.
The church purchased a lot on Childs Street and erected a large ten in which to hold services until the frame building could be erected. Plans for the building were adopted February 19, 1913 and the building was completed at a cost of $18,000.00 The building was dedicated June 15, 1913 and by this time membership had grown to 528. Total church expenditures the first year were %14,611.21
The Sunday School was organized November 10, 1912 accordiing to “age and sex.” Weekly Sunday School teachers meetings began November 22, 1912, 35 people braved falling temperatures and snow to attend prayer services in the tent.
“The membership of the church more than doubled the first year. The spirit was real and genuine. The church was noted for its faith, prayer, sacrifice and fellowship” (from History written by Miss Daisy Drake 1929) Dr. Neighbor served the church until June 1, 1916, and soon after he and Mrs. Neighbor left on a preaching mission around the world.