First African Baptist Church Reopens Sanctuary After Renovation

Pastor Thurmond Tillman stands in the renovated sanctuary
Pastor Thurmond Tillman stands in the renovated sanctuary

On Thursday, January 30, 2020, the oldest continuous black church in North America and a registered National Historic Landmark, First African Baptist Church has reopened their newly renovated sanctuary. Visitors from all walks of life have visited the sanctuary and left inspired including Grammy award-winning artist John Mellencamp, actor and civil rights activist Lou Gossett, Jr., Rev. Dr. Jesse Jackson, former Vice President Al Gore, Debbie Allen, and Wally Amos. The First African

Baptist Church began in 1773 when George Leile who was a slave was granted permission to preach up and down the Savannah river. The 1773 organization date for the church makes it clear that First African Baptist Church is older than the United States. On December 1777, he constituted the church in Savannah, Georgia. The building was built in 1859 by members of the congregation who were mostly enslaved. The last renovation at First African Baptist Church was back in the mid 80’s by then contractor,

Exterior Renovations at First African
Exterior Renovations at First African

Rev. Leonard Small who is now pastor at Litway Baptist Church. The First African Baptist Church underwent a restoration and renovation project, which began on Oct. 1, 2019 to preserve the church, so future generations can continue to appreciate its rich history.

The church’s sanctuary still contains many of its historical elements including the light fixtures, baptismal pool, balcony pews, and pipe organ. The newly renovated sanctuary includes: renewing water damaged ceilings, restoring the painted walls, installing new floors, and fixing the bell tower. Rev. Thurmond Tillman, Pastor of historic First African Baptist Church said, “The bell tower started deteriorating, and the foundation that the bell was sitting on was a hazard.” The newly renovated sanctuary average cost is $650,000, according to Rev. Thurmond Tillman, and they are still accepting donations

If you would like to make a donation, visit www.firstafricanbc.com

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