Church of the Week: Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
By Bill Segars
Remember last week I told you that we would come back to Darlington County? Venturing out wasn’t too bad was it? If not, we’ll do it again someday. But to today we are back in Darlington County, even downtown Darlington. Much of this information was gleaned from their 145th anniversary service held in 2011. Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church was organized on February 11, 1866 under the leadership of Dr. Isaac P. Brockenton. He and Dr. Corey were able to put together 13 charter members from the First Baptist Church in Darlington in order to officially form Macedonia. They, like many other start-up churches of the time, first met under a “bushy arbor” or in private homes; anywhere that religious minded people with a common goal could meet.
Dr. Brockenton was a believer; he had faith. He lived to see Macedonia build and occupy two buildings before his death in 1908. His typical practice was to tell his congregation that it was time to build a house of worship to the glory of God and then he would place a lone quarter on the offering table. Within a year after everyone stopping laughing, they walked into a new house of worship. Maybe the building was nothing special, but it was theirs, they paid for it, they built it, they were proud of it. The first permanent structure was located on the corner of Hampton and Russell Streets in Darlington. Upon Dr. Brockenton’s death in 1908, Rev. P. A. Callaham led the continuation of growth at Macedonia for the next eight years.
In 1916 Dr. James E. Kirkland came to inspire and motivate the Macedonia congregation. It was through his vision that the group was able to raise $2,500 in order to purchase land on the corner of South Main and Lee Streets, their present location. Even though Dr. Kirkland stayed in Darlington for only four years, he left a group of people that were excited. The group witnessed what they were capable of if they worked hard, made sacrifices and pulled together. So when Dr. C. D. Hubert arrived in Darlington in 1920, his pastorate was made much easier because his congregation was fired up about progress, about building a new building. That inspiration resulted in the present building being started in 1922.
However it was hard to ignore the existing economic conditions in the Darlington area with crop failure and unemployment, progress with fund raising and construction on the new building was slow, as a matter of fact almost nonexistent. With these hardships, Dr. Hubert was not able to see the completion of the building before he left Darlington to accept the presidency of Morehouse College in Atlanta. The economic hardships also provided a challenge in finding a new pastor for Macedonia; they were without a pastor for two years. Even with the apparent setbacks, they were not without leadership as local elders provided the support needed to hold the congregation together until Dr. H. W. Long accepted Macedonia’s call in 1927.
Even with the continuing economic struggles and through The Great Depression of 1929, Dr. Long pushed forward, securing the adequate funding needed to jump start construction again on the dormant building process. With hammers swinging and bricks being laid again, progress continued to be slow, but progress was being made. By early 1935, even though not complete, the building had reached a point of construction that the anxious membership could worship in their building for the first time on Sunday February 3, 1935, 13 years after the building’s foundation was laid.
Dr. Long continued to lead Macedonia until 1945 at which time Rev. C. L. Bowens became the sixth pastor. He and his wife were not just leaders of the church for 45 years, but their time in Darlington provided great leadership and they proved to be role models for the entire community of Darlington. It was in Rev. Bowens’ pastorate that the church building was completed with interior decorations, a central heating system and many more physical plant improvements.
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church continues to be vital part of the spiritual aspect of life in Darlington and into the surrounding areas. This strength is a direct result of the growth through trials and struggles experienced by the previous leaders and the entire congregation of Macedonia that has molded it into the example that their building represents today.
Bill Segars has a strong love and appreciation for history, having grown up on a farm in Kelleytown on land that has been in the family since 1821 . He uses his 39-year building career to combine with his love of history to develop a passion for historical restoration. Segars was able to find, photograph and research more than 700 religious edifices throughout the state.