Where History Lives: Humble church houses history
People come from all over the world to be in awe of some of St. Augustine’s most magnificent and historic religious architectural structures.
There are a few, however, that don’t spend much time in the limelight.
Today, Moultrie Baptist Church sits on a hill on U.S. 1 South. The church is pastored by Sanford C. Colley and it spends a good amount of time catering to the needs of its community.
Years ago, the church was hardly a twinkle in an eye.
According to Moultrie Baptist Church’s website, in 1926, St. Augustine residents J.A. Barnes, Minnie May Barnes and Cordin Barnes wanted to create a house of worship and obtained a piece of property in the Moultrie area and dedicated it to the Ancient City Baptist Church.
Ancient City Baptist Church was organized years before the land was dedicated to them. In fact, the church’s building was by the grace of Henry Flagler and was completed in April of 1895, according to the Ancient City Baptist Church history.
Unfortunately, the Ancient City Baptist Church was unable to use the property.
St. Augustine Shores Baptist Chapel
It was in the late 1970s that the Baptist community in St. Augustine Shores felt that a church home was needed in the area.
So according to the church’s website, it was in the spring of 1980 that a man named Jeff Brown surveyed Baptists in the area to find their interests. Brown was a seminary student seeking a summer job and was sponsored by the Calvary Baptist Church, which is now Turning Point at Calvary.
“At the time that this church was born in the minds of the people at Calvary Baptist Church, they saw a need to have a presence of southern Baptist in the south end of St. Johns County,” Colley said, “and that was what started their process and began what eventually became the start of a mission called St. Augustine Shores Baptist Chapel.”
On Aug. 10, 1980, the first service, led by Brown, was held in the card room of the St. Augustine Shores Riverview Club.
For the next two years, Calvary Baptist Church and Ancient City Baptist Church dedicated help and encouragement to getting the St. Augustine Shores Baptist Chapel on its own two feet.
From Calvary came a man named Dr. Armando Silverio who often led the church’s worship service while it was still held in the card room.
Silverio served as the church’s second pastor behind a man named Bill Carmichael.
It was him and the church’s third pastor, Michael Mott, who led the church in its beginning phases.
“They were the legs and the workhorses behind all of it,” Colley said.
Moultrie Baptist Church
In 1982, the church decided it was time to shake things up and sought to move from the card room of the Riverhouse Club to another facility.
According to a 1982 edition of The Record, “original building plans called for a structure in St. Augustine Shores on property provided by the Deltona Corporation, but in the spring of 1982, Ancient City Baptist Church offered the congregation property in Moultrie.”
Unfortunately, there was a bump in the road with the Moultrie property.
On May 11, 1985, The Record reported that in 1926, the Barnes family deeded the property to the Ancient City Baptist Church but with restrictions.
According to the article, “There were restrictions imposed on the Barnes Cemetery, which adjoins the property, and by the fact that Ancient City could never convey the title of the property to another party.”
The article continued and said it was through court actions that the restriction was removed and the cemetery property was deeded back to the Barnes family leaving the remaining land for the church.
In addition to changing places, the congregation also decided to change its name.
Originally the St. Augustine Shores Baptist Chapel, in 1985 the church changed its name to the Moultrie Baptist Church.
According to a March 23, 1985, article in The Record, the church’s pastor Michael Mott said that the name change was meant to reflect the future location for the facility.
Groundbreaking for the new facility began in May 1985 and was completed and ready for dedication by May 1986.
The Moultrie Baptist Church continued with renovations in order to accommodate its growing number of members.
Dana Marshall, who has been a member since 1992, remembers much of the expansion.
She and her family moved here from Cincinnati and began looking for a church home.
When they found Moultrie, they found a home.
“This was the first one,” Marshall said. “We never left.”
When the church started growing, Marshall said it was noticed that more space was needed.
A new building was built in 1994, and in 2002, a 40 foot addition was made to the building.
It served as space for classrooms and other things.
It was in 2007 that Colley became the pastor of Moultrie Baptist Church.
Colley said that since he’s been here, he’s seen plenty of changes in St. Augustine as well as the church.
“Moultrie Baptist Church has been through its own transitions from the last 10 to 12 years that saw the church fall into a period of decline.”
Since the pastor has been there, that population has come back to where it is today with a total church membership of between 300 and 400 registered members.
Colley said some of those people are not local anymore but on any given Sunday, the church could see a solid number of members attend service.
In the early 2000s, Colley said, the Moultrie Baptist Church had so many members that it had to split its morning service into two services.
Now days, the church is active in its community by practicing community outreach.
The church hosts an annual backpack giveaway for students going back to school, as well as an Easter sunrise service on the hilltop, veteran’s service and more.
“We try to remain focused on our community and the outreach that we have,” Colley said.