The History of the
Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association
Rev. Philip M. Broomfield, Moderator
Rev. Delmons White & Rev. Gregory Thomas, Vice Moderators
Reverend Frank Roberts, Moderator Emeritus
By Wilbert Maynor, Clerk/Historian
Edited & Published by: Rev. Gregory Thomas
Treasurer: Deacon Theodore Mobley
Sunday School & B. T. U. Congress Senior Women’s Department
President: Rev. John Nesbitt President: Sis. Robin Frazier Vice President: Rev. Willie C. Scott Vice Pres.: Sis. Bertha Scott Dean: Sis. Susie Reed Junior Department
President: Sis. Rosie Wright
Vice Pres.: Sis. Debra Enoch
1st District Moderator: Rev. Samuel Robinson Vice Moderator: Rev. Arnold Middleton 2nd District Moderator: Rev. Willie C. Scott
Vice Moderator: Rev. Eric Cooper
2nd Vice Moderator: Rev. Charles Hyde
3rd District Moderator: Rev. Levi Sapp
Vice Moderator: Rev. E. Charles Lee 4th District Moderator: Rev. John McPhatter Vice Moderator: Rev. Raphael Smith 5th District Moderator: Rev. Dr. Diane Evans
Vice Moderator: Rev. Frank Bedford
The History of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association
By Wilbert Maynor, Wilbert Maynor, Clerk/Historian
(Many years prior to Wilbert’s involvement with the association his grandmother, Mrs. Hettie Drane Zeigler, the niece of Rev. Inman E. Bryant, told him the story of the beginning of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association. In 1966 Wilbert was appointed to serve on the Finance Commission and has been a member of the staff of the association since that time. He has been a member of the staff with 5 of the 12 moderators.)
The organizational process which resulted in the formulation of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association began in 1868, when a group of former slaves who were determined to worship God by going to church, but did not have a church in which they could be involved and fully participate in the services. However, they could sit in the balcony of all white churches and observe. This was not their ultimate goal, therefore, one Sunday morning after the regular church service at Goodwill Baptist Church in Sylvania, Ga. Bro. Inman E. Bryant, Bro. March Kent, Bro. Raleigh Bryant, Bro. J. S. Scott and Bro. Oscar Grant acknowledged their call from God to preach the gospel. They approached Rev. Edenfield and Rev. McCall and asked them to ordain them as preachers of the gospel.
Now that they were ordained ministers, they preached, but they also began the awesome task of organizing churches for African Americans in Screven County, Bulloch County and Effingham County. This was a task that had to be guided by the hands of God due to the opposition they faced. Their mode of travel was mule and wagon. Many times they were dragged from their wagon and beaten to the ground. At Antioch in Statesboro, at the end of an organizational meeting they came out and their mule and wagon had been taken away. But they were determined not to let the gates of hell prevail against them. It took about three years to get some churches organized and operating.
The next task was the formulation of an organization to which these churches may choose to belong. This would give a group dimension to the many problems and issues that our people had to deal with during those times. One of their major concerns was the education of our youth. There were no high schools in the areas and only a few church related one room elementary schools were in their beginning stages.
As the process continued the name for the new organization was debated. Finally the conclusion was to name the new organization the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association. The word “pilgrim” was chosen because it reminded them of being treated like pilgrims as they were moved from place to place during slavery. The election of the first moderator was the next order of business.. They elected the first moderator of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association, Rev. Inman E. Bryant who served for 22 years, (1871-1893). The first annual session was apparently held in 1871. We do have a copy of the minutes for the 2nd annual session held at Ditch Pond Baptist Church in Sylvania in 1872.
During the administration of Rev. Bryant, a high school was built, staffed and operated by the Pilgrim Missionary Association. The name of the school was, The Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Normal and Industrial Institute. It was the only high school for blacks in Effingham County from 1880-1936. The institute offered vocational classes in such subjects as carpentry and home economics. A donated printing press led to the development of a journalism program. This made it possible for all of the printed materials needed in the school to be produced by the journalism classes. The association newsletter, “The Pilgrim Traveler” was also done by the journalism department. After serving the black community for 56 years the school was closed in 1936, when Effingham County built a public training school for African Americans.
Rev. Bryant’s son, Rev. Peter J. Bryant, one of the ministers from the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association began preaching at the age of 23. He was one of the founders of Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., Bryant Theological Seminary and the National Baptist Convention. An elementary school is named for Peter J. Bryant in Atlanta.
The others moderators who followed Rev. Bryant were: 2. Rev. Samuel Beaufort (1893) 3. Rev. John Powell 4. Rev. William Dunlop 5. Rev. William Dunn 6. Rev. R. I. Hagins (1923) 7. Rev. J. H. German 8. Rev. J. W. H. Thomas, Sr. (1929-1975) (46 yrs.)
All of the moderators from Rev. Bryant to Rev. Thomas served as administrators of the association school. They raised funds to support the school and were also committed to raising funds to support those students who attended college. It was also during their time that 22.5 acres of land was purchased in Effingham County, the site upon which the present Educational Center was constructed in 1981.
From the beginning of the association the annual sessions were held at various churches for 110 years. However, during the administration of Rev. J. W. H. Thomas, Sr. the vision for an Education Center was revealed. He also enrolled in college while serving as moderator and earned a B. S. degree in English. He encouraged greater participation in the college student Funds and urged the churches to send more funds to the association to provide increased financial support for college students. Thus, the fund is now named the J.W.H. Thomas, Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund. Since the inception of the association it has been a loyal supporter of education and continues to provide funds to help students continue high school their education after.
Rev. R. L. Lee was the 9th moderator from 1975-1982. He was a student of Nehemiah, who frequently preached that we will be successful if the people have a mind to work. It was during his administration that the Education Center was constructed in 1981. This ended the 110 years of holding annual sessions in the various churches. The Education Center provided a place for all future annual sessions.
Rev. Frank L. Roberts (1982-2000) was the 10th moderator. It was during his administration that tenure was established. This made it impossible for a moderator to serve for more than a 12 years. He also burned the mortgage on the Education Center, reinstituted the newsletter, “The Pilgrim Traveler,” and organized the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association Mass Choir. He also sponsored bus trips to the National Baptist Convention.
Rev. Jonah E. German (2000-2012) served as the 11th moderator. He was the first moderator to serve the tenure term of 12 years. During his administration the dining facility was constructed. The J.E. German pavilion and a walking trail were established. Also the historical marker for the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Normal and Industrial Institute was placed in the area of the walking trail. Major renovations were also done to the main sanctuary. Thus, the construction of all of our facilities is estimated to be at least $500,000.00, but all debts for construction are paid in full. Video equipment was installed in the main sanctuary and dining facility prior to the end of the tenure for Rev. German.
In 2012 the 12th moderator of the association was elected, Rev. Phillip Michael Broomfield. His installation ceremony was held on March 10, 2013. His two vice moderators are: Rev Gregory Thomas and Rev. Delmons White. This team promises to progressively move the association forward.
We are eagerly looking forward to the continued growth and expansion of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association as together; we strive to achieve greater heights.