Greater Mt. Triumph celebrates 116th year
By By James Crawford
On Sunday, the Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church on Carver celebrated a milestone that not many churches can brag about. This weekend will mark the 116th year the church has been in existence in Atmore and a the culmination of more than a century of unity and worship to generations of church attendees from the Atmore area and beyond in the church's extended family.
"We are very excited. It's a long time to be in the community and to be a positive force for people," said Sandra Gray, youth director of Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist and assistant director of the 116th year anniversary celebration.
The church's beginnings lie in the people. It's the people that make a church strong and the origins of Greater Mt. Triumph are a textbook example of just that. In the early days of the church, the congregation didn't have a formal building to gather in so they took turns at each other's house, much like Jesus and the apostles did, according to early biblical scripture.
In the year of 1887, on what is now Main Street, the church built its first official dwelling and was known as the Log Hut Church. Pastors Rev. S. Smith, B. Dorsey, Ed Smith and B. Woods took turns serving at the pulpit in those early days of the church. At the urging of one of those early pastors, the congregation decided to change the name of the church to The First Baptist Church. The name brought with it an increase in church rolls and a greater need for bigger, better facilities.
In 1903, the congregation under the guidance of Rev. Burl L. Woods bought land from Sam Bullard and built a second church building. Shortly before the second church was built the congregation changed its name again, this time to Mt. Triumph Baptist Church.
The church continuing to thrive and grow and under the leadership of Rev. W.M. Franklin, built a third and much larger church in 1912. Franklin continued to serve for 13 years as pastor at the new building. A brick veneer was added to the church in 1936 and the title Greater was added to the church's moniker, making it The Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church.
The fourth and final building phase of the church's development began shortly after the arrival of Rev. H.H. Smith in 1956. Smith felt the church was again in need of a larger facility and had plans to grow his congregation into a new building. Smith developed and implemented a building fund to accomplish just that and in short order was able to gather enough funds that the church began to dismantle the former building and begin anew with a new structure of larger size and stature.
The Rev. Smith began a finance system within the church that resulted in the publishing of a monthly financial report to keep the congregation informed of church standings. The church members gathered at the Escambia County Training School during the rebuilding phase.
Smith continued to serve as pastor at the newly rebuild church until 1967, just over eleven years. The Rev. J.D. Williams from Pensacola served with distinction for just over a year when a second Pensacola pastor named A.L. Durant, Sr., took over duties at the church as its 14th pastor and served at the helm until Feb. 15, 2003, when he retired from pastor duties at the Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist. He will continue to serve as Pastor of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Pensacola, where he has served in dual capacity for a number of years. A search committee has been formed to locate a replacement for Durant. In the interim, church elders will share pastor duties.
Durant will give his last sermon at 3 p.m. today in conjunction with the celebration events at the church. He will be joined by Rev. C. Johnson, pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, who will be giving a sermon on Sunday at 11 a.m., and by Rev. K.W. Kidd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Evergreen who will also be delivering a sermon. The combined choirs of Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church will perform for those in attendance along with the male chorus and the First Baptist Evergreen Choir. The church has invited all past and present members to come back and join in the festivities along with the general public.