BENTON COUNTY – West of Blue Mountain, just over the Benton County line, sits a church on a hill with a vast history spanning several generations.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Flat Rock Baptist Church. The church will celebrate its sesquicentennial during their annual homecoming on Sunday, May 28.
A brief history
When the church was founded in 1867 by Tippah Baptist Association evangelist Elder A.G. Parrott, there were only 12 members who met monthly in the old Flat Rock Church Schoolhouse. The name Flat Rock came from a large flat rock used as a doorstep to the schoolhouse building. Elder M.P. Lowrey, founder of Blue Mountain College, preached the first sermon.
Since then, the church has been housed in three different buildings constructed on land deeded to the church by Joe M. Gunter, Tom M. Gadd, Hugh Jackson and Sam Jackson. In 2012, they completed a multipurpose center for services and fellowship.
In 1940, the church began having service twice a month, and in 1970, full-time services began. Today they have approximately 265 members. Randy Buse is the current pastor.
Memories of Flat Rock
Charles Jackson, one of two life-long members of the church (the second being Leona Gadd Thompson), has many fond memories from his 76 years at Flat Rock Baptist Church. He recalls walking to church barefoot in the summer, horses and mules being tied to trees on the hill, holding baptisms in the lake near his house and eating muscadines from the vines in the gullies behind the church.
“They were the best muscadines I had ever eaten,” said Jackson.
“In the winter the old church (built in the 1870s) had a central heater that would burn wood and coal. It would get red hot and start dancing up and down,” Jackson said.
In those days, the entire community pitched in when there was a need at the church. Their pastor, Bro. Wages, rode a horse to church, and Jackson’s father would drive his truck to Blue Mountain to pick up the pastor in the winter. Church members and deacons would make repairs around the building and take care of the grounds as needed.
“Older deacons pitched in and did all the work themselves in the old days,” Jackson said, remembering. “We scraped the cemetery with a hoe and swept it off with a broom. We didn’t know what a lawnmower was. Everybody pitched in to dig graves. I could see sparks coming off the picks in the wintertime because the ground was so hard.
“When we built the old church on the hill, I helped run shingles on the roof,” said Jackson, speaking of the construction of the third building to house Flat Rock Baptist Church in 1956. Jackson, just a youngster at the time, was one of the many church members working to build the facility.
It was during a Flat Rock church service that Jackson met his wife, Dot, who has helped compile an extensive history of the church and has been instrumental in the planning of the anniversary services. Dot and her sister were visiting singers at the church.
“Charles stayed after the service to talk to me and we started dating shortly afterward,” Dot said.
Shortly after joining the church, Dot was asked to teach a Sunday School class. She was 21 years old at the time and felt she was too young for the task, but since they had no one else she agreed.
“Those wise people made such an impact on my life,” Dot said.
Flat Rock Baptist Church has an eventful day planned for its homecoming and 150th anniversary service Sunday, May 28. Church-goers are invited to dress in old-fashioned attire, if desired. Bro. Cody Matlock will give the message at 10 a.m. followed by a reunion concert by The Landmarks. A memorial is also planned with a “roll call of the deceased.” A potluck meal will follow the services. Pastor Randy Buse and the church family invite everyone to celebrate this milestone with them.
“Flat Rock Baptist Church wants to thank its members past and present for continued support in making Flat Rock what it is today,” said Dot Jackson. “The faithfulness of the Flat Rock ‘rocks’ from past and present have paved the way for our church to be blessed to reach this milestone of the 150th anniversary of our church.”.
Flat Rock Baptist Church is located at 4903 Highway 2, 4.4 miles west of Blue Mountain and six miles east of Hickory Flat. For more information call (662) 316-1592.