Springhill members to celebrate history

Published 12:10 am Monday, June 22, 2015


NATCHEZ — The founders of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church met in a makeshift tent in a field in Roxie in 1865. Little did they know 150 years later, the church would still be going strong.

Members of the church past and present will gather later this week to celebrate its sometimes-rocky history.

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“As I reflect over the history, I reflect over a lot of hardship,” said Associate Pastor Cardell Jenkins. “I reflect over a lot of adversity and change.”

Jenkins remembers his grandmother, Carrie Vanderson Jenkins, passing on stories about the church, which were told to her by older members.

When a nearby landowner saw the first worshippers meeting in a field, he donated land to the church. The church grew until 1965, when it was burned down as a result of its involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Jenkins said.

During that difficult time, churchgoers gathered the ashes from the burned church and prayed around them, asking that they would be able to rebuild, and that the people who burned down their church would be caught.

While Jenkins doesn’t know if the arsonists were ever caught, the church did recover. Another donor, Earl Whitehead of Roxie, had recently purchased land on which he wanted to build a new house. That land already had a large house on it, and Whitehead donated the existing house to the church and had it moved to the church site, Jenkins said. That donated house was converted into what is Springhill’s sanctuary today.

“I recall my grandmother describing the road to the church as an old narrow wagon road off from everything else,” Jenkins said. “Many encouraged them to move the church, but membership refused. Grandmother said, ‘Now look today. A highway runs right by it!’ ”

In 1981, Roland Freeman, a photographer, put photos of it in his exhibit, which later became a book, “Southern Roads/City Pavements: Photographs of Black Americans.”

One of Freeman’s photos shows a smiling usher greeting churchgoers, something Jenkins has always loved.

“The House of the Lord ought to be a place where everyone is welcome no matter who you are,” he said.

In honor of its anniversary, the church will celebrate from June 24 through 27. Six former pastors are expected to participate in the anniversary.

Service times Wednesday through Friday, June 24 and 26, are at 7 p.m. The service on Saturday, June 27, begins at 10 a.m. with a memorial service and will be followed by a picnic on the grounds.

“We’re going to have a memorial service where we take time to remember those who have gone on before us,” Jenkins said.

As the church prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary, it looks forward to the future, too, he said.

“I think it’s a blessing to have seen 150 years, and I believe the Lord’s going to bless us, to bless someone, to see 150 more.”

Jenkins said all are welcome to participate in the anniversary events.

Springhill Missionary Baptist Church is located at 4942 U.S. 33, Roxie. For more information, call 601-322-7317.