By David Meade
One hundred and fifty years ago, Shady Grove Baptist Church was founded when fourteen black men and women set out from nearby Washington Baptist Church, just one and one-half miles east, and began meeting in a Brush Arbor. The date was Feb. 15, 1867, making Shady Grove Baptist one of the oldest churches in Greenville County.
Located off Hwy. 8 in the Ware Place Community of Pelzer, the church will be celebrating their 150th anniversary this Sunday, Feb. 11 with a special program beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The United Voices of Christ Gospel Choir of SC State University in Orangeburg will be the guest choir for the special Sunday morning service.
In addition to celebrating 150 years of service to the community, members of the church will also be burning a mortgage on their sanctuary building, which was built in 2000.
Since its founding the church has built three new sanctuaries and a fellowship building, starting with a small white-framed church that was built at the site of the Brush Arbor in 1875.
This will be their third mortgage burning, and it is being paid off early.
Since 1867, sixteen pastors haved served Shady Grove Baptist and thirty deacons have served in the Deacon’s Ministry.
Richard Suber, Chairman of Deacon Ministries said, “I think God has blessed us tremendously over the years and to be able to burn this mortgage early.”
Deacon Suber said he believes the church has found its place in serving the community under the leadership of their current pastor, Herbert Edwards, Jr.
“God has sent us a pastor with a vision for this community,” Suber said. “We invite everyone in the community to come worship with us.”
Pastor Edwards has served the church for three years.
When he came, the new pastor brought a new theme for the church, which is “Prayer, Faith and Radical Praise”.
Suber said he feels a spiritual growth in the church and though attendance dropped a bit in recent years, finances are actually going up, which Suber said “tells me hearts are being changed.”
“We are going to continue to work by faith and trust God,” he said. “I believe God always has a plan for the community and this church. We walk by faith on a day to day basis.”
With the Rev. Peter Shorter as pastor, the earliest Shady Grove Baptist Church congregation worshipped in the Brush Arbor for eight years.
A small white-framed church was built in 1875 and served as the place of worship until 1961. Rev. J.O. Allen was pastor at the time.
During the mid 1950s, a group of members began to discuss building a new church.
It took years of planning before a final decision was made and in 1961, a new church was built.
Just seven years later, on the fourth Sunday in August 1968, under the leadership of Rev. S.M. Glover, the mortgage on the building was burned during Homecoming Services.
A Fellowship Hall was added to the campus in 1976 and the church building served as the place of worship for the congregation until December 2000, when the current sanctuary was built.
Shady Grove Baptist Church Pastors have included:
Reverend Peter Shorter, Reverend Sammie Watkins, Reverend L.B. Moon, Reverend Michael A. Glenn, Reverend J.O. Allen, Reverend W.H. Miller, Reverend S.M. Glover, Reverend James W. Nesbitt, Reverend John Washington, Reverend J.C. Cowans, Reverend S.A Mattison, Reverend J. Walter Hills, II, Reverend R.W. Kennedy, Reverend W.D. Stewart Reverend Dr. Kaiser Jones and current Pastor Reverend Herbert Edwards, Jr.
IN RECENT YEARS . . .
In April 1979, Rev. S.A. Mattison began pastorship of Shady Grove. Under Pastor Mattison’s leadership, Shady Grove became “The Church of Christian Service” and with God’s blessing the first, third, and fifth Sundays were added as Sundays of worship and a full-time program was initiated.
On December 16, 1990, Rev. Michael A. Glenn was called as the thirteenth pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church. Under his leadership the church became “The Church With A Larger Vision”. Rev. Glenn initiated the concept: “Lead by Example” in teaching, loving, and giving.
This concept motivated the congregation to rapidly defray their indebtedness – with a future building program in mind.
They were able to pay off their indebtedness in seven years and held a second Mortgage Burning Service on Sunday, January 30, 1994.
Also under the leadership of Rev. Glenn, God blessed the church and they were able to install new carpet, a new ceiling, and beautiful new chandeliers in the sanctuary, obtain a new church van, a state-of-the-art copier for the church office and resume a strong Newsletter Ministry – The GROVE.
On February 4, 1998, God blessed Shady Grove Baptist Church when Rev. James W. Nesbitt was called to be their fourteenth pastor.
Pastor Nesbitt led Shady Grove to be “The Church With A Mind to Work” in word, deed, and works.
Under Pastor Nesbitt’s leadership, church attendance grew by over 60% and his spirit-led stewardship training resulted in the doubling of church finances within a one-year period.
Nesbitt shared the vision that God had given him for Shady Grove and led the church members to embark on a financial campaign such that they had never seen before.
The Lifestyle Capital Stewardship Campaign with the theme “Vision to Victory” was a working campaign and involved nearly half of the congregation in the process.
On December 10, 2000, the church marched from the old to the new sanctuary, worshipping and praising God for his great goodness.
During the third and fourth years of Pastor Nesbitt’s leadership, he continued to be led by God toward the next phase of the Vision.
Foundations were laid and plans initiated. A state-of-the-art kitchen was installed to complement the Fellowship Hall which was refreshed with new drapes, fresh paint, new carpet in the pulpit/stage area, and restoration of the hardwood floor.
Spiritual growth continued to be emphasized and the ministries needed to insure growth put into place. A Ministry Development Coordinator was added to the church staff.
In addition, a fully-equipped nursery was made available for parents with infants and Children’s Church for ages eight and under was resumed, insuring a church experience for children designed especially for them.
In Pastor Nesbitt’s fifth year, the Shady Grove Baptist Church Family continued to witness God’s blessings. The church was in the final year of their Lifestyle Capital Stewardship Campaign and experienced a great finale, complete with a closing financial harvest and wonderful fellowship dinner.
Growth was all around: God continued to send new members – some from seeing a television ad featuring Pastor Nesbitt – others from outreach efforts in surrounding communities – and some from viewing a new website.
One new deacon and four new deaconesses were added to those ministries and two additional ministries were initiated under the Deaconesses: (1) New Parents Ministry (2) Mothers Council. Additionally, a church Finance Ministry was initiated.
They continued improvement to the physical structure by installing updated lighting in the Choir Room and added new trees/shrubs to the landscape.
Through the years and under the leadership of their pastors, Shady Grove added new ministries and the church continued to see growth and blessings.
Following are some of the spiritual and material blessings Shady Grove enjoyed after God moved the congregation to a full-time program.
They installed a public address system, purchased a new piano and tone cabinet for the organ. Additionally, they acquired two vans, an offset printing machine and copier. The building was improved by renovation of the pastor’s study and all rest rooms, installation of new carpeting in the Sunday School department, cushioning of the church pews and development of the Fellowship Hall for use as convertible classrooms.
In 1988, they installed an updated public address system to meet growing needs and paved the church parking areas.
Spiritual blessings have been numerous:
Seven men out of Shady Grove (James Burts, David Sullivan, Larry Chapman, Robert Daniels, Steven Miller, Milferd Brock, Sr., and Emanuel Duncan) have been called and licensed into the ministry.
Another faithful member, Willie T. Thurman, was also called into the ministry.
Rev. Milferd Brock, Sr. served as an associate minister and Youth Minister of Shady Grove until moving to another community where he gained a new church family.
Also serving as associate ministers until moving to another church family were Rev. Robert Daniels and Rev. Sis. Queen Daniels.
Administratively, Shady Grove has been blessed with a staff of personnel to carry out its God-ordained mission.
During the 1980’s the staff consisted of: Chairman of Deacons Ministry, Minister of Education, Minister of Missions, Minister of Music, Minister of Outreach, Minister of Support, and Business Manager.
In 1986, they were blessed to employ their first full-time church secretary.
Educationally, Shady Grove has been blessed through the years with an outstanding Sunday School program, Annual Vacation Bible School, Church Library, a Training Department, and a consistent Bible Study program each Wednesday evening.
TODAY . . .
Ministry coordinator Mamie Reid said, “We want to share with our membership a wholelistic approach, spiritual and other parts of the holy spirit.”
“We are a “live-well” church,” Reid said, “Adopting a policy of eating healthy and exercise. Congregation meals focus on eating well, baked foods, vegetables, salads and water.”
“We try to stress low fat diets and exercise.”
Reid said the church ministries all try to do a lot of work in the community.
A commuity garden was established on the property with food from the garden given to seniors and other people in the communithy in need.
“Last year we gave away over one hundred packages of food,”: Reid said.
The church has adopted the Riley Child Development Center in Ware Place where church members offer tutoring and incentives for teaches. They also provide school supplies for Woodmont Middle School.
For ten years they have been actively involved in th Angel Tree Prision Ministry in which gifts are provided for children whose parents are incarcerated.
Shady Grove Baptist Church provides quarterly donations to the McCall Hospice House in Simpsonville.
For the last two years they have hosted a community fun day with help from the Greenville County Recreation Department, providing activites including lunch, fun and games.
They have contributed more than $30,000 over the last ten years to Alzheimers research, providing a walking team for the Alzheimers walk in Greenville.
“These are the things we do for the community,” Reid said. “For our members it is a way of giving back, as the golden rule says, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Minstry programs at Shady Grove include: Deacons Ministry, Trustee Ministry, Education Ministry, Greeter’s Ministry, Hospitality Ministry, Missionary Ministry, Deaconess Ministry, Music Ministry, Sound Ministry, Usher’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Health Care Ministry, Flower Ministry, Brotherhood Ministry, Pastor’s Care Ministry, Prayer Circle, Married Couple s Ministry, Guest and Membership Ministry and a Parking Lot Ministry.
The community is invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Shady Grove Baptist Church beginning with a special service this Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m.
The church is located at 140 New Shady Grove Road off Hwy. 8 in the Ware Place Community of Pelzer.
Reid said the church will be celebrating with special activities and events throughout the year.
Shady Grove Baptist Church
140 New Shady Grove Church Rd.
Pelzer, South Carolina 29669
Prayer Circle: Sundays at 9:15am
Sunday School: Sundays at 9:30am
Worship Service: Sundays at 10:30am