The area of the Washington Baptist Association (WBA) originally existed as the Baptist churches between the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers. Today it includes 43 churches that are mainly in Baldwin, Hancock, and Washington counties; however, a smaller number of churches extend in to the counties of Glascock, Putnam, and Warren.
The roots of the WBA run deep in the middle Georgia soil. Our oldest congregation is the Powelton Baptist Church, established in 1786. This same church became the place of birth of the Georgia Baptist Convention, aka the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. In 1828, at Sisters Meeting House, a number of churches from the Hephzibah Association voted to establish a new association of churches and named it the Washington Baptist Association.
Associations preceded the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention that began in 1822 and 1845, respectively. WBA continues to support local congregations as they work together to build up the Kingdom of God.
Scroll down to read a brief history of the Washington Baptist Association.
The location of the WBA is at 615 Hwy 24 East in Milledgeville, GA. Our brick building sits on the right just as Hwy 24 turns onto the Fall Line Freeway (8 miles from downtown). Please call 478-453-8111 before you come to ensure someone will be present to greet you.
In 1783 The Creek Indians ceded the land between the Oconee and Ogeechee rivers. As this area was settled, the Baptists began establishing churches. By the end of the Revolutionary War, five Baptist churches created what is now called the Georgia Association.
Baptist churches rapidly increased to more than 50 by 1794. Consequently, the Georgia Baptist Association made provision to divide the churches into an upper and lower region. By 1800 the same area included the Georgia and Hephzibah associations. By 1828 growth demanded that the Washington Baptist Association be established. The first churches of the Washington Baptist Association included Darien, Bethlehem, Beulah, Jackson, and Sisters. Growth was rapid and eventually included churches like Fort Creek (Sparta), Island Creek, and Harmony. By 1832 five other churches joined making it a total of seventeen. Total membership in the Washington Baptist Association churches at that time was about one thousand.
The Georgia Baptist Convention was organized in 1822 and the Southern Baptist Convention was established in 1845. The Powelton Baptist Church in Hancock Co. bears the historical marker as the place in which the Georgia Baptist Convention was born. Powelton Baptist Church is, for the most part, left in its original condition. To this day it has no indoor plumbing.
By 1884, churches that had once been devastated by Sherman’s March to the Sea were now able to build or rebuild. Churches like Smyrna, Friendship W, Friendship G, Mount Stephens, and Milledgeville are among several who were established during that period.
By 1946 the Association began to explore the possibility of a missionary to assist the churches. Records indicate that the position could not be supported. However, by 1954 the Executive Committee of the Association acted on the recommendations of Marvin Pound, Fred Slater, and Norwood Waterhouse to employ the first Director of Missions (associational missionary). Churches were asked to contribute $1.00 per member. Elmer Sizemore, a “country missionary” in Kentucky was interviewed and employed. Successive missionaries were Doyle Middlebrooks and Dan Hodges. David Self is the current Director of Mission and he resides in Milledgeville.
Two of the major programs established by the Association were Youth camps in Crawfordville, Georgia and Coast for Christ in Ghana, West Africa. Youth camp has been a successful way to reach youth for over 50 years. Coast for Christ started when Dan Hodges had a dream to work with Eddie Eniem, a local Ghanaian pastor. This program continues to attract summer mission volunteers from the Association.
In 2003 the Association acquired land on Highway 24 east of Milledgeville where the current office now stands. The mortgage was paid in full in the summer of 2011. A note burning was celebrated at the Annual Meeting.
The building is currently being used to create opportunities to support member churches as they come together in the common bond of serving Christ. This would include the shared use of a mobile projection system, a 7 X 14 V-nose trailer, puppets, and other mission support items. Ministries like Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child (Shoe Box Ministry), prison ministries, plus an active Women’s Missionary Union and Men’s Ministry run concurrently. At present there are 42 member churches in the Washington Baptist Association.
Most of the above information was derived from the book History of the Washington Baptist Association of Georgia. It is a 275 page book written by T.E. Smith © 1979. There are limited copies at the Washington Baptist Association. A quilt produced by Mrs. Mary Cole provides drawings of member churches and is displayed at the Washington Baptist Association. The office and resource center is located at 615 Hwy 24 East between Sandersville and Milledgeville.