This is the First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in North America. The first pastor was George Leile in 1777. They worshipped in four different locations before moving to this one which originally had a wooden structure. A group of slaves donated their savings amounting to $1500, which they could have used to buy their freedom, in order to buy the land and building materials to construct the present day church on this site.
Work on this building began in 1855. What is amazing is that the slaves worked on the plantations all day before leaving at night to travel to this location and work by lamp light to complete the church. The plantations weren't exactly close by, so they often walked long distances to get to the church. Now that is faith!
This is the first building constructed of brick and owned by blacks in the State of Georgia. This church has a lot of history, playing a part in the Underground Railroad, so we decided to take a guided tour.
The ceiling is in the design of a "Nine Patch Quilt" which represents that the church was a safe house for slaves. Nine patch quilts were often left outside on clothes lines and served as a map and guide informing slaves where to go next in their travels. Who knew?
During the period of the Underground Railroad when the blacks were questioned about the holes in the floor, they were able to say that it was just an African symbol, rather than giving away the true meaning of the ventilation holes.
The exit to the tunnel remains unknown. After leaving the church, the slaves would try to make their way as far north as possible.
The parking lot near the church is used as a revenue generator for the church during the week. We had parked there the night before and spoke with the parking attendant about the church. The next morning he saw us and came right over and shook hands with each of us with a sincere "y'all made it!" These people are beyond generous and kind.
Four people were baptized the day we attended church, all of them adults. They are completely submerged in the baptismal pool, which is also original to the church. We were ushered up to the front by several ladies who insisted we have a view of the baptism and many people moved aside to give us a better view. This was immediately following...
In this church, if you want to stand up and clap, you do. If you want to stand up and shout Amen, you do that too...whatever and whenever the mood takes you. I wanted so badly to have a video of the beautiful choir singing but was trying not to act too touristy. This is just a small snippet.
The service lasted over two hours. It was long, but certainly not boring. Amen! What an amazing experience!