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Oakhurst Baptist Church Celebrates 100 Years in Decatur

'By God, we are still here.'

Bill Jackson, associate pastor and community minister, with neighborhood children in late 1960s.  PHOTO CREDIT: Don Rutledge
Bill Jackson, associate pastor and community minister, with neighborhood children in late 1960s. PHOTO CREDIT: Don Rutledge
by Lynn Donham

Oakhurst Baptist Church, a progressive and inclusive congregation, celebrates 100 years of ministry Sept. 21 and  22, 2013. All are welcome to attend our centennial celebration and worship services.

Highlights of the celebration weekend include the following:
  • History displays and art show
  • Service opportunity
  • Storytelling and conversations 
  • Saturday homecoming dinner
  • Performing arts evening
  • Sunday worship and reception following
The Oakhurst congregation took a controversial stand in 1967 to welcome African American members during a period of white flight. Afterwards, the 1,300-member congregation dropped to 500, and the church 
gave up plans for a new sanctuary, moving all of its activities from several new buildings back to its East Lake Drive location near today’s MARTA station. This decision allowed more resources to be used for missions than for construction. In 1972, Oakhurst ordained its first two women deacons, and in 1974, the 
church ordained a female, long-time educational director to the ministry, adding her to the pastoral staff. Several years later, Oakhurst again caught national attention when it offered the church property as bond for an ill, escaped Indiana inmate who had been living peacefully in Atlanta the prior 10 years.

By 1980, the neighborhood had declined. Houses surrounding the church were sold for $1 by the federal government to encourage home ownership. Through these years, the church resettled refugees, tutored children, gave refuge to the homeless, and advocated for peace, justice, literacy, and other causes.

But it was the decision to change its covenant to include anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, that moved the Georgia Baptist Convention to oust Oakhurst Baptist in 1999.

Oakhurst Baptist Church or its members have founded or been instrumental in local ministries such as Oakhurst Recovery Program; Decatur Emergency Assistance Ministry; Decatur Cooperative Ministry; Decatur’s sister city relationship with Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Good Fellowship Club for 
Oakhurst neighborhood. National ministries have included Baptist Peace Fellowship, SEEDS (a magazine and education ministry about hunger), Baptists Today, and the Alliance of Baptists.

For more information on centennial events, visit www.oakhurstbaptist.org/centennial or call 404.378.3677.

Ms. Donham is chairwoman of the Centennial Celebration Steering Committee.

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