Thomasville Road Baptist Church
By John L. Crow, Fall 2015
On April 11, 1948, Revered D.O. Alderman preached the first sermon at Thomasville Road Baptist Mission. This momentous day was made possible by years of work by members of the First Baptist Church in Tallahassee. In the many months prior, the church recognized the need for a mission on the northeast side of Tallahassee. Preparations were made and a suitable site was sought. On March 17, 1948, the Missions Chairman at First Baptist Church proposed that the church rent an old radio broadcasting building as the initial home of the mission. This proposal was agreed upon and within weeks the small broadcast rooms were converted to classroom and the building’s main room was converted into a chapel. Rev. Joe F. Alewine was appointed pastor and with a congregation nearly a hundred members strong, Thomasville Road Baptist Mission began its ministry.
It did not take long until Thomasville Road Baptist begin the transitioned from a mission to a church. Over just a year after that inaugural sermon, the church purchased it first property at 1950 Thomasville Road for $20,000. Based on the nominal per capita GDP method, this equates to just under $600,000 in 2014 dollars. A significant sum to raise so quickly, but the Baptists of Tallahassee were driven to ensure the success of the mission and so they gave generously, helping Thomasville Road Baptist move one step closer to independence. With a building established and vibrant congregation, the church requested independence from First Baptist in July, 1951, and the request was granted. Beginning in March 1952, Thomasville Road Baptist would operate independently, responsible for its own affairs, and its own efforts to spread the Good News.
In addition to Sunday service, the church emphasized education and set up space for Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and other initiatives to outreach to the community. Ray and Joyce Marston were early members who dedicated themselves to Sunday schooling and in doing so, help children as young as for and five, to learn the lessons from the scriptures, and the teachings of the church. With the church standing on its own two feet, Marston became the Sunday School Superintendent and numerous groups were established for boys and girls of different age groups. At the same time, Rev. Jack Bridges was called to lead the church as Pastor and he helped inaugurate the new organization by both leading the adoption of a new church constitution and as the evangelist at a revival celebrating independence.
Ove the subsequent years the church continued to grow and mature. New Pastors came to lead the congregation, and lead new initiatives arose. By 1957 the church had a successful newsletter, children and youth choirs were developed, Wednesday family dinner nights were started, and plans for a new sanctuary were begun. By 1958, construction launched and was completed by July 1959. On July 5, 1959, the sanctuary had its first use. By 1960 the church had approximately 236 members and over 300 enrolled in Sunday school. With such a vibrant educational program, it is no surprise that in 1962, the church began construction of an educational building located behind the sanctuary. This building helped grow the church educational services finding that it not only taught Sunday school, but also space for music education, Women’s Missionary Union training, and other community services.
This flourishing suffered a great setback, however, when in 1964 a fire gutted the main church sanctuary. Tragically, on Friday, March 13, a fire began in the church sanctuary roof and spread down the walls, destroying almost everything in the building. Fire fighters were able to contain it to the sanctuary, but the damage to that building was extensive. Not to be put off by such an unfortunate event, the church quickly acquired a large tent and held services that weekend. One member said, “I will always remember the church burning and having the revival in the tent following the fire. I made a profession of faith at that time along with my sister… It was a powerful time – God was moving in the lives of many.” Undaunted, the church immediately began the rebuilding process and while they reconstructed their sanctuary, the continued to meet under the big tent.
Over the next decade, the church saw a succession of leaders in the church, including new pastors. New initiatives and outreach efforts were started. The church had many revivals and music concerts. The church hosted public productions to celebrate Christmas and Easter. In 1970 they opened a “Crisis Closet,” a food pantry for those in need. The following year the church produced a church picture book, including a picture of all the church’s members. By 1985, the church celebrated its 20th anniversary and was as strong as ever.
Thomasville Road Baptist Church not only promoted outreach in the Tallahassee area, it also sponsored missions to other countries to help those in need. In 1978, the church sponsored the first of many missions to Haiti. These continued every couple years, each year building on the progress of the previous one. They began other missions to different parts of the world including Africa and South America. More recently, Thomasville Road Baptist has been sending missions to Senegal, Africa. The mission in Senegal has been so successful that there is a two fulltime missionaries in Senegal and a mission building. While serving those oversees, it also continued serving those closer to home. In 1974 it built the Bradfordville Chapel and began offering Sunday services there. Today this Chapel has grown to an independent church, the First Baptist Church of Bradfordville. But back then, it was a move to help meet the religious needs of those north of Tallahassee. As children have always been a focus of Thomasville Road Baptists, it is no surprise that in the last few years they have been the top contributors to the Florida Baptist Children’s Home which has over a dozen campuses across the State of Florida, including one here in Tallahassee. Thomasville Road Baptist itself was also growing and running out of space. It purchased property further up the street and began a capital building fund. It took a few years but finally the funds were raised and the ground breaking took place on January 9, 1977. About a year and a half later the new church at 3131 Thomasville Road was ready for its first services on September 10, 1978.
The building continues to serve the church today, although there have been additions over the years, including a new worship center which was added in 1989. The church also continued to offer various ministries, including reaching out to the college students so prevalent in town. This included helping new churches form, in both Florida, around the nation and in other countries. In 2002, the current Pastor, Rev. Curtis Clark began his leadership at the church and it has continued to flourish. Today Thomasville Road Baptist is bigger and stronger than ever. It plays an important role in the Tallahassee religious community and is likely to do so for many years to come.
Special thanks to Rev. Curtis Clark of Thomasville Road Baptist Church for his assistance in this project.