Westside Free Will Baptist Church
Westside Free Will Baptist church began in August of 1955 with 16 members. The church was an offshoot of Little Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Vox. Members of Little Bethel met and decided that a church was needed closer to Johnsonville to meet the needs of the community.
On Monday August 22, 1955, the founders met at the home of Marion C. Todd for the purpose of organizing a church body. The committee consisted of Rufus Coffey, Clarence Lambert, and Floyd Ard. Rev. Carroll Alexander, then a student at Columbia Bible College and graduate of the Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville was called as first pastor. The group settled on the name "West Side" as the church is located on the west side of Johnsonville.
With no building yet secured, the first two services met in the Johnsonville gymnasium. Marion Todd gave his pack house as a meeting place, but the weather that year made this inconvenient. An empty house was given as a more practical meeting location.
In October 1955, land was purchased from Bud Gaster for a church building. The first service was held in the new sanctuary in March of 1956. In June of that year, a church conference was held and a charter was closed with 26 members:
Marion C. Todd
John Franklin Eaddy
Emmie Bell Brown
Miriam Stone (Taylor)
Hathaway Miller (Evans)
Claudia Eaddy (Todd)
Rev. and Mrs. M.S. Todd
Rev. George Todd
Grayling Powell was the first baby born to the new congregation after organization and Dwight Carraway was the first baby born after the new sanctuary was dedicated. Westside was the 5th church to serve the citizens of Johnsonville after the Methodist, Baptist, Pentacostal Holiness, and Church of God.
In April of 1962 the church added added several classrooms to the original building. In 1963, the church added a vestibule, pulpit area, carpeting, and new heating systems. Later that year, a home was purchased as a parsonage. By 1966, church membership had expanded to 143. On July 15, 1967, the church dedicated its new fellowship hall and classrooms to service. Remodeling took place in 1971 with a dropped ceiling and more adequate lighting in the sactuary. The church purchased an acre of land behind the sanctuary and a new parsonage was ready for move in on Thanksgiving Day, 1974.
In 1980, shortly after it was first added, the church's steeple was torn off by a passing tornado. This was fixed in the following months. In 2001, the church dedicated a new family life facility that included a gym, stage, kitchen, and banquet hall. in 2014, the church dedicated a completely renovated and enlarged sanctuary.
Other pastors for the church in the early days included Rev. Hughes, Rev. Edison Kirby, Rev. Benny Turner, Rev. Paul Reid, Rev. Joseph Wallis, Rev. Merritt Floyd, and Rev. Reedy Severance. Rev. Theron Scott became pastor in 1989 and served for 25 years. Rev. Joey Postlewaite has served since 2012.
-information compiled from Church History by Alene Stone and Faye Hanna
Free Will Baptists: A History
In 1702, English General Baptists who had settled in the Province of Carolina requested help from the General Baptists in England. Though they did not receive help, native Paul Palmer labored there about twenty-five years later, and founded the first "General" or "Free Will" Baptist church in Chowan County, North Carolina, in 1727. (Many General Baptists held to general atonement but "personal predestination" or eternal security.) Palmer organized at least three churches in North Carolina. From one church in 1727, they grew to over twenty churches by 1755. After 1755, the churches began to decrease and many churches and members became Particular Baptists. By 1770, only four churches and four ministers remained of the General Baptist persuasion. By the end of eighteenth century, these churches were being referred to as "Free Will Baptist." The churches in the "Palmer" line would again experience growth slowly in the nineteenth century. They organized various associations and conferences, and finally organized into the General Conference of Free Will Baptists in 1921. The problem with the history of Paul Palmer, however, stems from the fact that it is uncertain exactly what view of perseverance he held. In fact, some church historians think he was Calvinistic in his views. He had come from the Welsh Tract Church which was Calvinistic.
Representatives of the "Palmer" (General Conference) and "Randall" (Cooperative General Association - a northern branch of the denomination) groups of Free Will Baptists met at Cofer's Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1935 and organized the National Association of Free Will Baptists as a merger of the two groups. The new association adopted the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, which has been revised several times since then. As of August 2005, the Association claims to have over 2,400 churches in forty-two states and fourteen foreign countries. The Association is actively involved in missionary work in the United States and throughout the world. The Association operates a publishing house called Randall House. Two colleges, Welch College (formerly the Free Will Baptist Bible College) in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College in Moore, Oklahoma, are affiliated with the Association.