At the end of a winding road off U.S. 41, just south of Barrett Parkway, sits Noonday Missionary Baptist Church, a small brick church boasting a 125-year-old congregation.
Cars lined the road Sunday outside of the church as members and their guests packed into the small sanctuary adorned with red carpet and wooden pews. Attendees fanned themselves in the late afternoon heat as guest speaker the Rev. Lenton Mitchell, of nearby Pilgrim Baptist Church, gave the audience his advice for having a future as long as its past: following Christian leadership.
That’s just what member Barbara Luster attributes the church’s success to. She called its atmosphere “unexplained.”
“It has a warmness, love and Christian camaraderie here,” Luster said. “I felt God really came here.”
Founded by five African-Americans under an oak tree in 1888, it served as one of Cobb’s first all-black schools before the opening of Lemon Street High School, another school of all-black students before integration.
Near the 5-acre lot where the church stands are the remnants, including an outhouse, of the original building that was destroyed by a fire in 1934.
John Millsap is the chairman of the church’s deacon board and attended school at the church as a child. He walked to the church on a dirt path from a nearby farm before residential development shot up around the property.
Millsap also helped build the structure where services are held now.
On any given Sunday, about 50 members can be found in the sanctuary lined with small stained glass windows. The Rev. Jeremy Abernathy wants to see that number grow to 80. It’s already up 30 members from when he became pastor in December 2012.
That growth is a heartwarming testament to the strength of the church for its members who are descendants of the founders, like Millsap.
“It means a lot to me because it was just a little one room school and it’s where I went as a teenager,” Millsap said.
Abernathy says the history is a reminder of the church’s strength.
“It’s very awing and humbling all in the same breath,” Abernathy said.
And he says the church is going as strong as ever.
“It’s a real strong history,” Abernathy said. “While we’re excited about the past, we’re even more excited about our future.”
JoAnn Birrell, who represents the area on the Board of Commissioners, said the church has earned itself a place in Cobb’s history.
“They’ve been through a lot in 125 years and they’ve sustained themselves,” Birrell said after reading a proclamation by the commission honoring the church.