Shiloh Baptist Church in Shiloh, N.C., celebrated the dedication of a historical marker designating it as the oldest organized Baptist church in the state Oct. 15, in conjunction with the church’s fall festival.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is working with the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program to mark historical Baptist sites, including Shiloh Baptist Church in Shiloh. Shiloh is the oldest, organized Baptist church in North Carolina.
The public was invited to the celebration, where Don Wright, chairman of the Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), presented a summary of the church’s history. Members of other nearby churches, people from the community and local government leaders also attended the dedication.
“It has been very significant for the church to be recognized for its legacy of where we have been and leading up into the future,” Billy Royal, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, said in an interview with the Biblical Recorder.
“It means a lot to our church but also to many of the other churches that are in the area and the churches that have come out of us as church plants.”
The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program approved the marker in May earlier this year. It states the church was officially organized on Sept. 5, 1729 by Paul Palmer.
According to church records, Palmer came from Delaware in 1720 with a mission to travel around the northeastern part of the state, preaching and establishing new churches.
Palmer and local Baptist William Burges first organized a meeting in 1727. They met in Burges’ home and became known as the Burges’ Meeting House.
Members of the Burges’ Meeting House filed a petition to be recognized as a church on Sept. 5, 1729.
They sought the petition under the Toleration Act of 1689, Wright said, which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists, or Protestant groups dissenting from the Church of England. However, they still needed to pay taxes that supported the Church of England, a requirement that did not change until the American Revolution.
Burges later built a small church beside his home in 1736. The chapel that currently exists was built in 1849.
According to Royal, though last names have changed slightly, there are still families active in Shiloh Baptist today whose roots trace back to the church’s founding. Anne Burgess Jennings, assistant historian at Shiloh Baptist, is a descendant of the original Burges family.
The BSC historical committee works with the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program to mark Baptist sites with histories starting in the 1700s, but only historic churches that remain vibrant, said Wright.
Shiloh Baptist has existed and served the community for almost 300 years.
Similar to Shiloh is Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Liberty, N.C., which historians consider the most significant landmark of North Carolina Baptist history. It is called the mother church from which Baptist churches grew and multiplied in the South.
Messengers to the BSC annual meeting have an opportunity to tour the Sandy Creek site Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., at no cost.
Contact Penny Cozadd at [email protected] to reserve a tour seat or for more information about Baptist and local church history.