Above: Pastor Mercer, affectionately known as Brother Q, meets with children during the Children’s Sermon at Homecoming 2018. RACHAEL J. MERCER/Special
PORT WENTWORTH — On Sunday, April 22, the congregation of North Salem Baptist Church, located at the Chatham-Effingham County line along Highway 30, celebrated 195 years since its founding.
According to the church’s history North Salem was constituted on April 13, 1823 with 70 in attendance and 45 charter members. The church got its start on one acre of land given by John A Keller. In 1887 a larger building was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. As the church grew the worship center was enlarged and remodeled on several occasions through the years
However, in 1997 a new 400-seat sanctuary was completed with much of the money donated by Miss Loe Keller and dedicated in honor of the George A. Keller family.
The original one-acre church site has grown to 10.4 acres with two educational buildings for classrooms and a social hall. The old sanctuary is now being used to facilitate the children’s church.
Rachel Mercer, wife of the North Salem pastor, Quillian Mercer, explained, “The commitment to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ while serving the community has given eight generations the opportunity to see the church continue to grow and thrive.”
Mercer has been the pastor of North Salem for 42 months and the church has begun to grow again. Upon his arrival there were 40-45 people in attendance on Sunday mornings, but that number has steadily grown to an average of 100-120 on a regular basis.
Rachel reported, “We have had 16 new believers baptized and the church has had more than 80 adults and children come into the fellowship of the church in the past three years. In 2017 the church took a mission trip to Whitley City, KY, and has also donated over 150 backpacks through the Georgia Baptist Mission Board to benefit the physical and spiritual needs of Appalachian children. Vacation Bible School numbers have risen each year and the church projects having 150 in VBS this summer.”
The church had 160 in attendance for their 195th homecoming/anniversary and 220 people gathered at North Salem for Easter Sunday’s worship service.
Pastor Mercer commented, “We have not had explosive growth and that is probably good, because we do not currently have the infrastructure to accommodate that many people, but the growth has been good and sustainable.”
The North Salem Baptist Church has the reputation of being a welcoming, friendly church. Mercer explained, “We had a couple with seven children visit us recently and they indicated that each member of the family was received with a great measure of warmth and hospitality.
“We have also had some people come to our church from churches in conflict and discovered that our fellowship provides healing for them. Some of them may stay, but others may be healed emotionally and decide to go back to their former church and that is fine. We just want to people to know that we love them unconditionally.”
A place to be converted
“We are not here to pacify folks,” Mercer continued. “When I first came to North Salem I started preaching through Malachi. In that prophecy God urges those who have rebelled against God to return to Him. From the beginning I wanted the people to know that I loved them, but I had no intention of compromising on sin. Our church is not a place for sinners to come and hide, but a place for them to be converted.”
Pastor Mercer unveiled artwork that celebrated the homecoming/anniversary and preached on the topic “Pressing On,” urging those in attendance to keep telling others about the Good s of Jesus Christ.
North Salem Baptist Church is located at 955 Georgia Highway 30 in Port Wentworth. Information about their ministries can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/NorthSalemBaptistChurch.