History of Morningside Baptist Church
REVISED: MAY 2018
Morningside Baptist Church began its history as a mission church with 85 charter members meeting in a small red brick house on Frazier Drive near Weems Road in Columbus, Georgia. On August 24, 1952, this mission of Calvary Baptist Church and the Columbus Baptist Association was constituted into Morningside Baptist Church. On this same day, Rev. James R. (Jimmy) Cook was called to be the first Pastor. Little did anyone anticipate then what great things were in store for this newly created church!
During the first year, Morningside averaged about 150 people in Sunday School and the weekly church budget averaged $100.00. However, one year after the founding of Morningside, in August 1953, the church completed a chapel that seated 200 people along with three classrooms and a baptistery. Two years later the church began a Departmental Sunday School in a newly constructed education building. Witnessing continued demand, in 1956 the chapel was enlarged to accommodate the growing congregation. Similarly, in 1958, an additional education building was completed. Clearly in its initial decade, Morningside was being blessed in a special way as the 50s produced a sanctuary and three educational facilities to meet the needs of a growing congregation.
In 1963, construction continued as a new sanctuary was being erected coupled with a fourth education building.
In 1967, Brother Jimmy wrote in the August 20 edition of Morningside Messenger, “Fifteen years have come and gone since a small group of us met to constitute Morningside Baptist Church. In those years, we have come from a small house to well over a half-million dollars in property and from 85 members to almost 900 and from a budget of $5,000 a year to $82,000. Only those who have been here over these years can even begin to realize how wonderfully God has blessed a small struggling church! To Him be the Glory forever and ever!”
Brother Jimmy continued by writing, “Our greatest blessings have not come in the outward things previously named, as important as they are. The richest blessings have come in the spiritual realm. Over these 15 years many precious souls have found Jesus as Lord and Savior. Many of us, who are Christians, have grown in our spiritual lives. The warm Christian fellowship and the very real spiritual atmosphere that have been a part of this church are choice blessings of God.”
With an eye on continued growth and the recognition of an ever-increasing need for additional property, Morningside purchased additional parcels of land. Equally exciting was the acquisition of an Allen Computer Organ for the sanctuary. In an awareness of the need to focus upon children, a four-year old pre-school program was started for children, which greatly helped families in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In order to commemorate this record of success and in acknowledgment of God’s blessings upon His church, a sundial was purchased in 1977 and placed at the site of the original four-room house to memorialize the church’s founding site.
Strategically a significant step was taken in 1978 with the Church’s adoption of a long-range plan that outlined property, facility and programming needs for the foreseeable future.
This decade witnessed continued growth and in response for this demand, many of the educational buildings were updated and renovated. Significant in the realm of stewardship was the elimination of debt previously incurred by the church.
In 1987, a three-year old class was added to the pre-school curriculum as the church celebrated its 35th anniversary.
In order to meet the escalating growth in membership, the church voted in 1988 to build a new larger, sanctuary on Morningside Drive. Ground was broken in October of 1989 and the excitement was contagious.
Launching this decade was the grand opening on November 18, 1990 of the new sanctuary featuring an 1,100 person seating capacity including the choir loft. Equally important was the remodeling of the former sanctuary for newly renovated education space.
In the August 16, 1992 edition of the Morningside Messenger, Brother Jimmy wrote, “I almost did not come to Morningside. A few weeks before, W.I. Barkley, Superintendent of Missions for the Columbus Baptist Association, had asked me if I would consider being the Pastor at Morningside. I had met him at the Chapel, and looked at that little four-room house with two Sunday School classes in each room and a frame chapel that might seat 65 people if they could crowd in on those slat benches. I really could see little hope for such a church on a side street.”
Brother Jimmy continued by writing, “God would give me no peace until I told Mr. Barkley that I would come if the people called. Praise the Lord! He knows a lot more than I do.”
In 1992 in the midst of souls being saved and an expanding campus, Morningside celebrated its 40th anniversary. In announcing his retirement Brother Jimmy used this noteworthy time to write, “these days are very special days to me as I come toward the close of my work here. You are a great people. The best is yet come!”
On August 1, 1993, Morningside called Rev. E. D. (Ed) Helton, Jr., as Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church. A new era had begun.
During this same timeframe, the church approved an on-campus site location to build a new Fellowship Hall for an expanded educational capacity to meet the needs of the senior adults coupled with a new kitchen and dining area for the purpose of holding the church-wide Wednesday night family supper and hosting conference style activities.
On September 5, 1993, Brother Ed wrote in Morningside Messenger, “The flurry of activity around Morningside is exciting. People are joining, attendance is up, offerings have increased, and there is a noticeable sense of enthusiasm everywhere. It is my prayer that as we grow in numbers we will grow in heart and spirit.”
In order to meet the continued growing interest in Morningside, during 1994 two Sunday morning worship services were instituted and the Fellowship Hall and Office complex were opened. Nearly 600 people attended the initial Family Night Supper on November 16, 1994. Additionally, the former Fellowship Hall and office space were renovated for educational purposes and a nursery was added to the pre-school building.
Celebrating Morningside’s 45th anniversary in August 1997, Brother Ed wrote of the upcoming Sunday’s communion service, “The model of the New Testament church was to preach the Word, spend time in prayer, remember the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and to celebrate being together as a family of believers. We will live that model out Sunday, and I’m looking forward to sharing this special time with you.”
Following eight years of selfless service, Rev. Ed Helton resigned as Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in November 2001.
A NEW CENTURY BEGINS
On November 17, 2002, after serving in a productive role as an interim Pastor for six months, Rev. William V. (Bill) Shorey accepted the call to serve as the Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church.
In recognition of the Church’s 50th anniversary of noteworthy achievement, Pastor Shorey noted the church’s desire to continue getting out the message of God’s word. “Morningside Baptist Church’s history reflects a church that grew, expanded and changed to meet the needs of each generation. They did this without departing from the Great Commission or compromising the integrity of Christ’s Church. The record shows the church family worked together prayerfully, diligently and patiently, but always fully trusting God would make His purposes clear and His plan available. When Christ reigns preeminent, Morningside Baptist Church moves forward with one heart, one soul, one mind, and one voice to accomplish God’s purposes in each generation. May our history repeat itself.”
Brother Bill’s words proved prophetic as the church growth escalated in numerous ways including worship attendance, Sunday School membership, tithes and offerings, and evangelism locally as well as with international missions to China and South America. Fiscally sound stewardship was observed as the church became debt free. Most importantly, as Brother Bill focused on outreach efforts, the church grew in the number of people that were baptized coupled with people who rededicated their lives to the Lord.
After faithfully serving the Lord at Morningside Baptist Church for four years, Brother Bill tended his resignation on March 21, 2007. He soon answered a call to serve in the international mission field, where he was credited for making significant inroads to China.
On February 26, 2008, Rev Thad Smith accepted the call to serve as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church.
During his tenure, the former sanctuary was further upgraded as a new home for the Youth Center, which featured enhanced audio-visual technology and a more appealing atmosphere for the students and young people.
Of major note was the extensive study and eventual approval by the church to build a new 38,000 square foot Children’s Ministry Center to house the Children’s Ministry service coupled with a growing Pre-School center. This facility opened on November 16, 2014. With an eye toward the future, it was erected with expansive unfinished space suitable for the establishment of eventual educational areas with a particular focus on younger parents, who might prefer to be closer in proximity to their elementary age children while Sunday School convenes.
After nine years of dedicated service, Rev Thad Smith resigned on October 29, 2017, to pursue a career in church planting in north Georgia.