Originally published January 12, 2012
GREENSBORO — The old building on the patch of land where Shiloh Church Road and Penfield Road meet had surely seen better days, thought Pastor Norman Waldrip as he stood in the dusty parking lot last March.
So he prayed.
“Lord, raise this church up and let Your glory be on this facility.”
Waldrip routinely passed the structure on his way to nearby Penfield Christian Homes, where he served as a board member. A Georgia Baptist pastor for 54 years, Waldrip was somewhat familiar with the congregation during his time as director of Georgia Baptist Association.
“It was first organized as a church in 1795,” said Waldrip. “For many years the people met at 2:30 on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. The congregation got smaller and over time lost its pastor before stopping meeting altogether.”
After a little more digging, Waldrip found out Shiloh had served as the meeting point for the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1835. It was the second location for the church, originally named Town Creek Baptist, after a cyclone had blown down the original structure three miles away. Separate stories had the church’s steeple, pulpit, or Bible landing at the current site.
Though the power had been turned off to the building in 2009, Waldrip got a look inside after procuring a key. He then wrote an article in the Greensboro Herald-Journal to gauge interest from former members, meeting with them on the last Sunday in May at the church.
“It was probably the first time a group of any kind had gathered there since 2007,” he commented, going with that estimation off the issue date for some Sunday School quarterlies found inside.
An eager group wanting to meet the following week faced cold, hard reality. Field stones originally supporting the building’s corners had been replaced by concrete blocks, but the dirt around those had washed away. A new foundation would be needed.
Also on the Want list was a new electrical system, windows, paint job, and back door. Square nails and wooden pegs holding the floors together evidenced its birth in another era – “The building dates back to the 1870s, I’m pretty sure,” added Waldrip. Another church donated its piano as Shiloh’s had crumbled over the years from dry rot, now missing all of its inner parts though having become home to at least one mouse.
Help was needed.
Around the same time Paul Miller, administration and student pastor at Shiloh Baptist in Newborn, was preparing for Integrity Camp, a homegrown summer camp for the church’s students set to be held at A.H. Stephens State Park in Crawfordville. A missions project is part of that event so he emailed Georgia Association director Andy Perryman for possible sites. Perryman, in turn, sent word out to local pastors.
“When I heard about the youth group looking for a project I called Brother Paul. They did a lot of great work for us,” remembered Waldrip.
Students cleaned the grounds and cemetery as well as inside of the building in the effort. Meanwhile, another group of Shiloh students conducted a car wash at First Baptist Greensboro that raised more than $360 for the Shiloh restart.
Perryman says Waldrip’s standing in the community has helped with getting the church back on its feet.
“Norman is a highly-respected, experienced pastor in the Greene County area,” Perryman stated. “He’s served several nearby churches and as a result has been able to enlist help in restarting Shiloh.”
A move to keep with the church’s history has helped provide volunteers. The 2:30 p.m. start time frees up those wanting to take part in the revitalization. “Some people with a love for small, rural churches attend after going to their own service that morning. Many folks have been dropping by,” said Waldrip.
Men enrolled at the Penfield Homes substance abuse program nailed up new siding. A local quartet and music evangelist from Montgomery, AL have lent their skills. Ken Keely at First Baptist and Robert Robinson at West End Baptist in Greensboro stepped in to lead music.
On Sept. 18, a group of 36 students and leaders from Shiloh-Newborn revisited Shiloh-Greensboro to lead a worship service with Miller preaching.
“They were very well received. The students and Paul did a good job,” said Waldrip. “My folks were impressed with what Paul had to say.”
At the GBC annual meeting in November, 65 new church starts were recognized alongside one restart – Shiloh. Perryman points out that those efforts in the latter category can be tricky because a church’s relationship with its community – often not positive and playing a major part in its folding – follows even if a number of years have passed. Still, it’s an avenue pastors need to look at, adding that “we must concentrate on church revitalization or many of our existing churches will face closing their doors in the very near future.”
Waldrip’s goals for Shiloh include hosting a Vacation Bible School this summer. “We only have two Sunday School rooms and they’re very small. Those could be for preschoolers and children while youth and adults have a worship service in the sanctuary.
“I’ve received a lot of encouragement about what we’re doing here,” he added. “There’s a need in the community. We still need more help with construction, but once we make it more presentable I think we’ll reach more people.”