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Brooklyn Baptist Church marks 200 years

Brooklyn Baptist Church is celebrating 200 years with a special dinner on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Brooklyn Baptist Church, first established in 1821 and one of the oldest churches in Conecuh County, was organized in a small log cabin. Elder Alexander Travis, a circuit rider, used it as a union church and school. The church was built on Academy Hill next to Brooklyn Male and Female Academy. In September 1860, the congregation purchased 3.5 acres of land from Eli Hirshfelder for $15 and constructed the present church next to the old church from the first year. The Floyd family donated the land the cemetery sits on to the church. Today, it is the final resting place for over 800 Brooklyn residents.

In 1949, Sunday school rooms were added, and more were added in 1959. In 1960, a new pastorium was completed. Since its construction in 1861, the present church has served as a center of community life with religious services having been held continuously since that time. Brooklyn Baptist is a simple frame building. All of the building materials – lumber, pews, pegs, and shanks – were handmade by members of the community.

The church was added to Alabama’s Register of Historic Landmarks and Heritage on March 24, 1983.

Brooklyn Baptist Church Front Entrance

As true for so many rural churches today, worship services are held on Sunday mornings only for our small community membership. Brother Jack Williamson became pastor in January 1998 and still serves the congregation to this day.

“We have 12 to 15 members most Sundays but sometimes 18 to 20. There are not too many churches that can maintain and stay together to celebrate 200 years, but we are proud to be one of them,” Church Historian Juanita Cary said.

The church will hold a bicentennial celebration marking the 200-year milestone on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 10:30 a.m. with “a dinner on the grounds” to follow.

Brooklyn Baptist does several things for the community. “We provide a place for our people to come and worship God weekly. We are good neighbors with a benevolence fund for those in need, and we support our people by providing food at the time of death or other hardships,” she said. They also support local food banks, provide Saturday night bi-monthly gospel singing and fellowship. The church holds a Sunday lunch for the community to attend quarterly. Cary said, “We thank God for all the opportunities we have to give back a little.”

Sunday school and morning worship services are held every Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. Regarding the special celebration planned on Sunday, Oct. 10, Cary said, “Our 200 years celebration will be inside the church sanctuary. There will be a tent and chairs outside with video and sound set up in order to social distance and enjoy the services. We ask that you please wear a mask.”

Cary said driving through the community of Brooklyn, most people are quick to see only a handful of people or vehicles. “They don’t see much, but to those of us that were born and raised here, we see the activity we grew up with 50 years ago. Being the old town we are, most of our people are now in the cemetery. No business is close, so all of our younger ones moved closer to Evergreen, Andalusia, Brewton, or larger places for work and for activities for them and their children.”

According to Cary, 80 percent of the church’s members were born and raised in Brooklyn, left for employment, and moved back after retirement. “The remaining 20 percent were lucky enough to have a family business to work in and did not leave at all. However you look at it, Brooklyn is home to many of us and we love it. Brooklyn is a unique little town.”

For more information about the church, call Juanita Cary at 251-578-2978 or Susan Blair at 251-578-3547. “We have been standing on this knoll for 200 years offering spiritual truths and guidance to all who enter the doors. God has blessed our people, and we thank Him. If we are not home, please leave a message for us to return your call,” Cary said.