Central Baptist Church celebrates 100 years
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
“We have something special here at Central,” said Pastor Tim Coker. “And we are proud to be a part of Darlington.”
Celebrating their 100th Anniversary this year, Central Baptist Church will hold a special service on March 22nd with The Lord’s Supper for one service only at 11:00 a.m., and will welcome home generations of families that grew up in this church, that was once part of First Baptist Church.
“It is wonderful to see that here a century later, these two churches are the largest and contribute so much to the community.”
The original community members that formed the church on the basis of the Welsh Neck Confession of Faith met at the old Darlington Guards Armory on Main Street, and decided upon the name of Central Baptist Church, with 35 members in attendance: Smilie Vaughan, Angus Gainey, A.C. Coggeshall, Mrs. A.C. Coggeshall, Collin Coggeshall, W.T.. Harper, Miss Fannie Harper, Varleigh Ward, J. P. Hewitt, C.B. Edwards, Miss Annie L. Edwards, McIver Edwards, Mrs. A.E. Woodruff, Miss Emma Woodruff, A.B. Hutchinson, Miss Fannie Henley, Mrs. F.L. Dennis, W.B. Oakes, George H. Edwards, Mrs. H. Edwards, Perrin Edwards, Miss Anna Edwards, W.L. Ward, Mrs. W.L. Ward, Miss Jannie Lou Ward, Mrs. J.H. Fender, Miss Maude Ward, Mrs. Albert Jeffords, Miss Florence Edwards, Mrs. D.W. Horton, P.H. Edwards, Jr., B.E. Woodruff, Mrs. H. M. Smith, Miriam Hutchinson, Miss Azile Estes, and Miss Mary Edwards. Immediately following the meeting, eight members were received: Mrs. Smilie Vaughan, Miss Haskell Vaughan, Warren Coggeshall, George H. Edwards, Jr., C.B. Edwards, Jr., Henry Humprhries, W.C. Edwards, and Miss Margaret Edwards.
The first preachers were visiting ministers; after five months, the first preacher was called on August 22, 1915, Rev. G.C. Epps of Carrolton, Texas and assumed duties on October 3, 1915.
According to church historians, Rev. Epps was promised $100 to help with moving expenses from Texas to South Carolina, and $75.00 a month. The group met at first at the Old Opera House, later known as the Liberty Theater, until their beautiful Georgian Revival church was built on the corner of Park and Main Streets, next to the Carnegie Library. The church building was dedicated on May 5, 1918.
The church thrived at this location, and many members of Darlington today recall fond, happy memories of baptisms, weddings; when the News and Press featured the and according to Dr. Cliff Wilson, “I remember receiving Boy Scouts confirmations in that sanctuary.”
As the church grew, the congregation decided to build a larger campus and acquired land on Spring Street. A ground breaking was held on April 17, 1966 and the first church service led by Rev. James E. Daughtry was held on June 25, 1967. An evening outdoor service was held in honor of Miss Annie Edwards, with former pastors Rev. Robert Clyde, Rev. James Rogers, Rev. James Bowers in attendance.
In the past 47 years at the current location, the church now has a thriving ministry that includes a kindergarten 2k – 5K, and a variety of programs for all ages, including AWANA, Boys Scouts, Girls Scouts, youth group, and adult ministries.
Rev. Coker has been at Central Baptist since 1995, and he and his wife Donna, have two children, Christopher and Ashton.
“Our church is strong in our commitment to missions,” said Rev. Coker. “Our congregation has a large commitment to local missions, including The Lord Cares, Darlington County Free Medical Clinic, and we are making plans now to develop a Soup Kitchen.”
The church also has a commitment to fitness, with church member Curtis Boyd and his family of Fitness World Gyms being a positive congregating spot for many people in the Pee Dee.
“Curtis is one of our congregation that shows his faith in all he does, and we appreciate him so much,” said Coker. “The current ‘Ride for Christ’ – where folks can gather on Sunday mornings for a spin class set to Christian music is just one of the ways this church message spreads beyond the sanctuary to the community.”
The mission field goes far beyond Darlington, however.
Central Baptist supports mission trips within the U.S., with one upcoming to Baltimore MD, and several congregation members just went on a mission trip Nicaragua March 6 – 14: Katie Bollinger, Ryan Bollinger, Jonathan Bryant, CJ Grant, Danielle Kriss, Kameron Reames, Max Ward, Jace Watford, and Jim Watson. Another congregation member just returned from Guatemala, Hannah Chapman, who went with her school. Yet another member, Jason Norris, was in Haiti and scheduled to return on March 15.
Rev. Coker saw first hand how caring this congregation was when he went through treatment for cancer seven years ago.
“I looked out into the congregation to see several of my congregation with their heads shaved,” said Coker with a wide smile. “You don’t know what that meant to me.”
As a cancer survivor, Coker has a newfound perspective on how to minister to his flock. “I have calls from all over the community, not just from Central, to help people who have been newly diagnosed,” he said. “No one understands it like a survivor.
Coker also is especially compassionate to individuals dealing with the affects of Alzheimer’s disease, which his late father suffered from before his passing.
The church currently has two services, a traditional service with hymns accompanied by piano that many grew up with at 8:30 a.m., and a more contemporary service with a praise band at 10:30 a.m. and an array of services on Wednesday night.
“We were one of the first churches to put lyrics up on a screen,” said Coker. “And I have used some other what you would call modern techniques such as using videos from time to time.” But, pointing his extensive collection of books on the bookshelves that line his office, Coker said, “But, I love to hold the Bible in my hand on Sunday. There is just something about holding a book in your hand that I love…and especially that one.”