Plains Baptist Church is located in Plains, a small farming village of approximately 800 people located in SW Georgia. Plains was founded in 1827 after federal authorities forced out Creek Indians under the Treaty of Washington, and was located one mile north of its present site. Originally three small settlements existed nearby…………..Plains of Dura, Magnolia Springs, and Lebanon. As railway access expanded into the region in 1884, these settlements converged to the new railway location as a single entity. As businesses rapidly developed, local businessmen successfully petitioned the State Legislature to shorten Plains of Dura to just plain Plains, and it was subsequently incorporated as such in 1896. The town is well known as the hometown of U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.
Lebanon Baptist, known today as Plains Baptist Church was constituted on December 1, 1848. Twenty members initially entered into the Church Covenant on that day, and the following day they formally called on the reverend Jesse Stallings to be their first pastor. The first house of worship was built of wood in 1849 and was located one and a half miles west of the town of Plains, near the center of the present day Lebanon Cemetery. Services were held monthly for both Whites and Slaves. The congregation grew and thrived for the next two decades. After the Civil War, “…our colored brethren and sisters requested letters of dismissal“. The letters were granted on March 19, 1870 and the congregation of freed slaves formed their own church, The New Lebanon Baptist Church. The white congregation then determined that a new building should be erected on the original site to serve their growing needs. On December 7, 1870 this second church building was dedicated.
The church, as well as the nearby town of Plains, prospered and grew in the “good years” after the War. In the late 1880’s, it was felt that a physical move of the sanctuary to the center of the city was required to more conveniently serve the congregation. In 1889, the place of worship was moved into the town of Plains where a new, third church building was erected on a lot south of the railroad tracks on South Bond Street. Less than 20 years later, it was again determined that a new, larger building was needed to serve the burgeoning congregation. The handsome church pictured above was completed in 1906, and in 1909 the name was changed to Plains Baptist Church to correctly reflect its “final” location.
This is a view from the opposite aisle to the North Transept. The designers of this church wanted to bring as much natural light as possible into the sanctuary, thus their copious use of glass in the walls. Illumination through natural light carries a spiritual component as well………….. Christ referred to himself as “the light of the world”. You can see that reflected in this church where light is used like almost like any other construction material, bricks, wood, stone, etc. Almost 50% of this North Trancept wall is occupied by lovely, colorful stained glass, Gothic windows dedicated to various church members and families. We are particularly fond of the colorful round window at the peek of the gable.
This closeup of the Chancel, Altar and Apse reflect the Baptist’s principals of simplicity of form while, at the same time, insuring that high quality standards of workmanship and furnishings be met. The simple but elegant bentwood side chairs, the carved wood chancel table, the unadorned carved wooden altar contrast with the Victorian, more formal plush upholstered chairs within the apse which reflect reverence and the Glory of God.
This is a view toward the entrance wall doors and windows. It is one of the many photos we have exhibiting the almost magical light that enters the sanctuary through its elaborate and colorful stained glass windows. The sun is low in the west and provides a literal flood of rays of illumination. This view also allows you to clearly see the very special, stained glass transoms over the doors. Look up and you will also see the glowing circular window found high in each of the North, South and West gables. This is one spectacular display of decorative windows, found not in a huge cathedral, but in a small, country-village church in Southwest Georgia.
Lebanon cemetery is the site of the original church that was organized in 1848 before the three communities of Lebanon, Magnolia Springs and the Plains of Dura converged. The church was built in 1849 and was originally located near the center of the cemetery.
There are now over 1,000 interments in the cemetery including 13 from President Jimmy Carter’s family. The Carter family is deeply rooted in this Southwest Georgia farming town.
What a lovely rural cemetery in the Georgia heartland. Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees.
Plains Baptist, founded in 1848, will celebrate its 166th birthday in 2014. The church building above will turn 108 as well in that year. It stands as a remarkable monument to those who founded and maintained its sanctuary and its mission, as well as a monument to the spiritual journey of the thousands of parishioners who have enjoyed its blessings for so many decades. In the decades to come, through the love and support of its parishioners, Plains Baptist will no doubt continue to offer its blessings to thousands more.
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