Unearthed from the sanctuary’s remnants following a devastating 2011 tornado, a hymnal page containing the song “I am blessed” still is delivering a powerful message at Crowe Springs Baptist Church. The page, which survived the storm’s wrath, will be framed and displayed in the house of worship’s entranceway in the near future.
After hearing the story during Crowe Springs Baptist’s 150th anniversary service on Sept. 26, Associational Missionary for the Bartow Baptist Association David Franklin revealed the cherished item underscores the fact that “even in the midst of the storm” the church and its congregation were blessed and in return were a blessing to their community.
“[After the tornado] they went out and helped their community clean up — did everything they could to help their community,” said Franklin, who coordinated the 2011 tornado relief effort among Bartow’s church community. “They waited to [rebuild] the church after they had helped everybody they could. So that church was the last thing that was rebuilt. [Their response] says that the mindset is think of others before you think of yourself, which is ... what Jesus taught. They have continued right where they were. ... They have continued to just work hard. It hasn’t been an easy journey. A lot of people have come to help them. I think that shows [the spirit of] not just that church but this community.
“... I think [the anniversary service was] a great reminder to say that, you know what, we really are blessed. [It was amazing] to sit there in a place [where] 150 years ago in 1865 at the close of [the Civil] War, people were starting a church, and it’s still in existence today.”
Located at 290 Crowe Springs Road in Cartersville, the house of worship was established Sept. 9, 1865. The church’s initial building was constructed in 1868 on property donated by J.L. Luther. Situated on a hill, the structure was shaped out of rough cut lumber and hand-hewn beams. The church was moved further down the hill in the 20th century, where it remained until the April 2011 tornado struck. Along with destroying the sanctuary’s roof, the storm also damaged the church’s fellowship hall with a downed tree.
Shepherded by Ronnie Cowart since 2001, Crowe Springs Baptist has featured 26 pastors since its inception. Prior to Cowart, the pastors included Perry Hawkins, Charles Thompson, Rob Heardden, I.M. Brittain, A.W. Bufford, A.H. Rice, C.A. Neal, M.W. Hart, H.C. Cowart, Clinton Stevens, Eugene Stafford, O.E. Kimsey, Warren J. Watkins, Stanley Standfield, Bill Sutton, Charles Moore, Willis Wilson, Jim Smith, Roger Tucker, Alan Jarman, Willis Lovingood, Willard Nations, Martin Brooks, Donald Collum and Stacey Nicolson.
“It was a very exciting time for the church, and it’s also a very exciting time for me to be able to tell the ... history of our church,” said Cowart, adding during the anniversary service he discussed the physical and spiritual history of Crowe Springs Baptist. “A lot of times today, the history of the church is really overlooked. ... One of the biggest parts of our history is actually recent history. The church was founded … [in] 1865. Once the original building that was built in  was moved down to the location closer to the spring, that building stayed there and was a landmark in the community up until April 27, 2011.
“… [Through our tornado recovery efforts] I learned the difference [between] the church building and the church. The church is a living body of believers. It’s people that work, and they need no walls. There are no restrictions as to how far the church can reach, and how well the church can work together, whether they’re in a building, whether they’re in a tent or whether they’re just in an open lot. The church has power, no matter what. The building is a strong symbol in our community. The building is important for us to have a place to join together, but it’s not a requirement for us to be a church. And I learned that the beauty of the church is always the people and the Lord we serve, not the building.”
As noted by Franklin, Crowe Springs Baptist responded to the needs of its neighbors prior to focusing on rebuilding its sanctuary.
“It was important to me that we take what building we [had] left and turn it into a community center first,” Cowart said. “The true church did what the church is supposed to do. They got out, and they loved the community. We helped people with tarps. We helped folks with clothes. We helped folks with food. We put out hot meals every day. We took care of the community first. The church was very much alive and functioning during the storm, even though our building was destroyed.
“... Even today, the families that are there that were there during the storm, we have a very good relationship. We love our community, and we’re proud of the community that we’re in. There were some really strong people there during the storm and, though some of them don’t attend our church regularly, we still have a great relationship with them. There’s a connection and a bond there because of all the things that we all suffered together.”
Dedicated in June 2012, Crowe Springs Baptist’s new sanctuary was a labor of love for the congregation and its Bartow supporters. Even though the church’s insurance policy only covered about 50 percent of the projected construction costs, the church never lacked the resources needed to complete the new structure, filled with present-day amenities.
“We have been supplied a beautiful building,” Cowart said. “... Once we got started and we went through all the permitting process, we found folks that were so gracious to us, not only the volunteers that came from all over this state and out of state to help us out but also the businesses ... from the architect to the builders to the graders. … The whole community came together to help us. ... We thought we would get started and get to a certain spot and have to stop and try to raise money. We never stopped, and we never [ran] out of money.
“... It was unbelievable how much love people showed toward us. People that I never knew and that never knew me beforehand and never knew us beforehand came out and showed us how much love there is in the community for Christ and the church. [I] developed some great friendships, met a lot of great people and most of all experienced the benefits of faith on a whole other level. I learned more through that experience there than any other experience I’ve ever had other than salvation.”
Along with celebrating their church’s heritage, Cowart and his congregants also are looking toward the future.
“I’ve been going there since I was a child,” Buck White said. “I joined [and was baptized] in 1984. … I’ve been choir director there now for probably 20 years — since ’95. I’m also the church clerk and … I’ve been a deacon there since 2003.
“It’s just a wonderful thing [for our church] to be here for 150 years. It’s a good feeling to know the church has been there that long, and it’s been important in the community for that long. ... [I want the county to know] anyone is welcome any time. The door is always open. We want to be a light in community.”
Averaging between 45 and 75 attendees each Sunday, Crowe Springs Baptist conducts Sunday school at 10 a.m., morning worship service at 11 a.m. and a Sunday evening service at 6 p.m., except for the third Sunday night of the month.
For more information about Crowe Springs Baptist, visit the church’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Crowe-Springs-Baptist-Church-1420950561465437/timeline/.