While driving in Greensboro during the planning stages of the Old Howard 100 Bike Ride, Dr. David W. Chapman, dean of Samford University's Howard College of Arts and Sciences, noticed a historical marker at a busy intersection.
The sign, marking the site of the 1823 founding of the Alabama Baptist Convention, was in disrepair and leaning at a 45-degree angle, recalled Chapman at an April 9 ceremony to dedicate a newly restored marker.
"We wanted to restore it so that people passing by can be proud of their heritage, a heritage that we need to celebrate and honor," said Chapman.
The Convention was founded at Salem Baptist Church, then located on the spot and now located in downtown Greensboro, by 15 messengers from seven missionary societies.
As part of activities related to the Old Howard 100 Bike Ride in Perry and Hale counties, about two dozen Samford representatives and area residents met to remember the spirit that founded the Convention.
Dr. Earl Potts, former executive secretary and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and longtime member of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, noted that the messengers who gathered to form the Convention were primarily concerned with missions.
"The Alabama Baptist Convention was put in place for the purpose of promoting missions," said Potts, adding that its ministry was and is about "reaching out and touching lives of the people across the state."
Potts, who has also taught in Samford's Beeson Divinity School, recalled when the Convention celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1973. The site was then a cotton field, and a large tent was set up to accommodate the crowd. Of the 3,000 people present, he said, "500 were guests, and all the others were messengers from churches around Alabama."
Samford president Thomas E. Corts observed that although it was a small group that met that day in 1823, "Someone suggested that they could do more together than separately. It was a bold adventure to see what they could do together."
"They never could have foreseen that it would become the multi, multi, million dollar organization that is today," he said, noting the many facets of the Convention, which includes the Baptist Foundation, Children's Homes and other agencies.
It is a wonderful lesson to all of us, said Corts. "Samford and many other ministries would not exist were it not for that cooperation."
The ceremony included special music by Greensboro vocalist Flora Whaley and a performance of "Amazing Grace," by bagpiper Steven Giles, a Samford sophomore from Gilbertown.
The marker is located at the intersection of highways 14 and 61.