Garden Lakes Missionary Baptist Church
A Brief History
References to the Garden Lakes Missionary Baptist Church are often shortened to the “Garden Lakes Baptist Church”, and the abbreviation, GLBC, is often used in this context. The early history of GLBC is actually a story about harmonious, mutually beneficial cooperation between a business, the Garden Lakes Company; a school, Garden Lakes School; public spirited citizens of a young growing community; and an aspiring young church, GLBC.
FORMATIVE YEARS (1956 – 1957)
It seems to be the consensus of all the current GLBC members who were around at the time that James and Lena Edwards deserve the recognition for originating the idea of establishing a Baptist church in the Garden Lakes Community. A quote attributed to Rev. J. Herman Gresham, the Associational Missionary for the Floyd County Baptist Association during that period, is: “When it is time to form a new church, all you have to do is give Baptists a place to swarm”.
In the mid-1950’s Garden Lakes was a rapidly developing residential community. The nearby General Electric Medium Transformer Division plant had opened for business and shipped out its first transformer, destined for duty with the Georgia Power utility company, in January, 1953. The Georgia Kraft Company was doing a bustling business out west of Rome. Many people were moving into the west Rome area to work there and at other area businesses.
Mister B. S. Elliott had formed the Garden Lakes Company to develop a housing community to meet the needs of the many young families that were moving into the area. Through the efforts of a hard working Civic Improvement Association the community had already acquired a new community school (Garden Lakes School) and community fire protection services. Sometime during 1956 the Edwards sensed the young community needed a church. Before long, they shared their thinking with other couples, such as: William and Lynette Gordon, Robert and Pauline Fowler, and Jack and Essie Morgan.
In November, 1956, the four men (Jim Edwards, Bill Gordon, Robert Fowler, and L.A. “Jack” Morgan) met with Rev. Gresham, the Floyd County Baptist Associational Missionary, to explore the creation of a Baptist church. Rev. Gresham advised the four to conduct a community interest survey. The survey revealed that about a hundred families in the community were interested. Next, Rev. Gresham suggested that a committee of 12 men be formed to begin the planning toward establishing a new church. They needed a place to meet, a budget, and a preacher to come to serve this new church.
The Floyd County Board of Education generously permitted the group use of the new Garden Lakes School as a temporary meeting place. That decision was, without doubt, facilitated by the fact that Newton Whatley, the school principal, was a member of the “committee of 12” and Lynette Gordon served on the school’s Board of Trustees, and she was the wife of Bill Gordon, another member of the “committee of 12”.
On March 3, 1957, slightly more than one hundred people congregated at the Garden Lakes School for the very first church service. The lunchroom served as the meeting room, and the principal’s office served as the nursery.
The month of May, 1957, was a busy one in the life of the young church. On May 5, 1957, the Garden Lakes Missionary Baptist Church was officially constituted with 173 charter members. The Church adopted its first operational budget of $20,000! By the chartering date the Church had already fully organized a functioning Sunday School with an enrolment of 282 members and a Training Union with an enrolment of 110. The young GLBC had been born and was now eagerly setting off on its missionary journey.
The Rutledge Years (1957 – 1970)
A milestone was reached in August, 1957, when the Church extended a unanimous call to Rev. Robert W. Rutledge to come as its first pastor. He preached his first sermon as pastor in September, 1957, and soon had his wife, Helen, and their son, Buddy, settled into the Church’s newly acquired pastorium at 2622 Garden Lakes Boulevard. The pastorium was the first real estate asset of the new church.
The chairman of the first pastoral search committee (or “pulpit committee”, as it was known then), J. Noble Finley, recalled how challenging their task was to enlist their first pastor. Imagine going out to woo a prospective pastor, armed only with the truthful responses to the inevitable questions. When asked about the location of the church, they had to admit that they were meeting in a school and did not have their own building. When asked about the church’s budget, they said they had adopted one for a total of $20,000. Finally, when asked about where the pastor and his family might live, they had to say that they did not have a place for the pastor and his family to move into, but they were planning to build one. It was a daunting challenge being extended to the first pastor, but Rev. Rutledge was the unique type of individual who could take such a challenge and run with it.
Wise and thoughtful planning went into selecting a permanent site for GLBC. A four-acre plot located at the corner of Redmond Circle and Hillside Avenue was selected and purchased for $16,000.
In March, 1958, the Strange Brothers Real Estate office and warehouse building (in later years this same building housed the “Frame-Up” and the “Biscuit Bucket” businesses before it was eventually razed and the lot cleared for development in 2012) was placed on the real estate market. The Church voted to acquire the property for the sum of $16,500. Then ensued fifteen weeks of joyous volunteer labor, punctuated by blessed Christian fellowship, as the members assembled to work in the evenings after they had finished their normal day’s work.
Their magnificent efforts transformed the old warehouse building into the loveliest church building the world had ever seen. The sanctuary even included a baptistry. The pews and pulpit furniture were purchased from Rome First Baptist Church. This was the first place that GLBC could truly call home. It was to serve as the church sanctuary until a more permanent facility could be provided.
In January, 1959, GLBC retained the services of an architect, Mr. Bobby Toles, who produced, using the church planning services of the Southern Baptist Convention, a visionary set of plans for the future church complex. The fulfillment of those original plans reached fruition finally in 1984 with the completion of the present worship sanctuary.
In November, 1960, the Church entered into a contract to build a new worship sanctuary (now known as the Rutledge Chapel) and the first unit of an educational building, completed in 1961. The second and third units of the educational building were completed next to the first unit in 1964. Worship services were moved into the new sanctuary, and the “warehouse church” became Sunday School meeting rooms and the church fellowship hall.
Then, in 1968, a two-story educational building (the fourth unit) was completed, according to plan, at the south end of the current complex, leaving quite a gap of some considerable space between the new building and the original buildings. The permanent sanctuary was ultimately to fill in the gap, joining all the buildings together. That was accomplished in 1984.
On September 6, 1970, Rev. Rutledge departed GLBC to continue his ministry in Augusta, Georgia. He had led the fledgling church from its infancy into a state of growing maturity, seeming always to know just what the young church needed to be doing and knowing when it needed to do it. GLBC had grown to a membership of 816 and a Sunday School enrolment of 853. We had been blessed by his extremely able leadership, and the Church regretted his leaving.
The Church was deeply saddened by the news of the death of Reverend Rutledge on March 17, 1976. His wife, Helen, returned to live in the Garden Lakes community, and continued as a member of the Church until her death on September 19, 2012. In April, 1976, the Church honored the loving memory of its first pastor with the naming and dedication of the Rutledge Chapel.
The Post-Rutledge Years
Reverend Robert Skelton (1970 – 1978) Rev. Skelton was called to serve as an interim pastor on September, 10, 1970. He was subsequently called unanimously by the Church to become its second pastor on June 15, 1971. He served until late 1978. God blessed the maturing GLBC during this period as it continued to realize its ultimate goal of becoming a vital community church, serving for the glory of God.
Rev. Skelton led GLBC through an outstanding program of debt reduction and payoff. It was during this period that the Church voted to sell the warehouse building that had served as the first worship sanctuary. They also sold the Church pastorium. The proceeds were used to fund the building of a new metal recreation/fellowship hall, with much of the construction being done by the church members, (reminiscent of that earlier time when the old warehouse building had been lovingly shaped into that first worship facility by many of those same members).
Dr. Clarence Drummond (1978 – 1988) Dr. Drummond responded to become the Church’s third pastor in November, 1978. Under his leadership the Church undertook a careful study of its policies and committee structures, carefully considering the roles and purposes of various church committees. Thus did we move from an oral tradition of operation to a written and documented tradition. Dr. Drummond led us to develop a careful plan of ministry action budgeting, and his leadership urged the deacons to begin an organized plan of deacon family ministry. Such careful planning has served the church well in the intervening years.
The Church entered into a very successful “Together We Build” program, with Newton Whatley serving as the campaign director. The Church membership responded faithfully and vigorously, and ground was broken on September 26, 1982, to construct the permanent sanctuary in the open space between the upper and lower portions of the church facility. Twenty-one months later the 27-year dream came true as the Church enjoyed its first worship service in the beautiful new sanctuary on July 1, 1984.
Reverend Jim Conrad (1989 – 1993) The Church’s fourth pastor, Rev. Conrad, was called to serve, and he preached his first sermon as GLBC pastor on the first Sunday in May, 1989.
Reverend Conrad was welcomed warmly by the Church, and a new surge in church membership accompanied his ministry. Soon, many new families with young children came to join GLBC. The Church reaped the sizeable benefits of the large influx of new church leadership of active and eager workers that marked his ministry.
Rev. Conrad left GLBC in December, 1993, to accept the challenge of leading a fledgling congregation that was attempting to start a new church in a growing area near Kennesaw, Georgia. The circumstances reminded us of GLBC some thirty-six years earlier.
Dr. Mike Jones (1994 – 1997) The fifth pastor of GLBC, Dr. Jones was called to serve in August, 1994. He led us faithfully for three years until he tendered his resignation in 1997 to pursue another calling of Christian ministry.
Dr. Jones is remembered for his quiet, but strong, style of leadership and his challenge to the membership to continue its growth in Christian worship and service. It was during his leadership that the Church seriously revamped its committee structure, reducing the number of church committees down to four major committees that had responsibility for the leadership in virtually all areas of church ministries and programs.
Dr. Roebuck led the Church into developing an emphasis on ministering to young families and children (the same constituency from which the Church was built in its beginning). Under his leadership GLBC entered into a cooperative agreement to support the efforts of a fledgling Hispanic church, Primera Iglesia Bautista, to develop into a self-supporting church in our community. Again, it reminded us of our roots when we were a young and struggling congregation, seeking to develop our church.
Dr. Roebuck led us through an exciting time at Garden Lakes Baptist Church. In 2001, we finished the renovation and building of a new state-of-the-art space to serve the children’s programs in the church. Then, a second phase of the building program that made available much-needed education space and a choir/music practice area was completed.
Finally, in early May, 2004, Dr. and Mrs. Roebuck were given the church’s most sincere best wishes as they undertook their second retirement from a full-time ministry.
Dr. Drew Corbett (2004 – 2008) The community around GLBC continued to grow, and the challenge to remain faithful to the original visions of ministry that propelled the early Garden Lakes Missionary Baptist Church forward moved the Church forward into its exciting future. The church called Rev. Drew Corbett to become its seventh pastor in 2004.
Rev. Corbett, his wife, Joy, and son, Luke, met with us for his first service on the third Sunday of May, 2004. Approximately one year after coming to GLBC Rev. Corbett became Dr. Corbett as he received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Luther Rice Seminary.
During Dr. Corbett’s tenure the church conducted a very successful capital campaign to hasten the payment of the church’s building indebtedness and to provide for the refurbishing of the sanctuary and narthex areas of the church. The church pledged in excess of $800,000 for the three-year campaign that ran through May 1, 2008.
One significant new ministry begun during Dr. Corbett’s time was directed toward care for divorced persons. A second ministry that the church undertook was for the benefit of bereaved persons who are struggling with the loss of loved ones. A third area into which Dr. Corbett led the church was in using drama and music as a refreshing means for presenting the Gospel message.
Dr. Corbett’s pastorate ended when he submitted his resignation in April, 2008, under somewhat strained circumstances. He moved away from the Rome community, leaving the church and his wife and family behind. His actions of recent days had not credited honor to himself, his church, his family, or the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Dan Whitaker (2008 – 2009) An interim search committee was formed. It brought out of his retirement and into service to the church, Dr. Dan Whitaker and his wife, Joyce, in July, 2008. The church was blessed with his leadership for one year, while a pastoral search committee was seeking a permanent pastor.
Dr. Whitaker led the church through a time of healing and affirmation with his gentle touch of sensitivity and warm support for the strengthening of the membership. He is remembered for his spiritual leadership and outstanding preaching talents. In addition, he will always be appreciated for his willingness to participate in all scheduled work activities at the church and his constant recognition and acknowledgment of the contributions of individuals in all the various ministries of the church. Dr. Whitaker served through the last Sunday of June, 2009.
Dr. Richard Kremer (2009 – 2014) The church joyously welcomed Dr. Richard Kremer, his wife, Melissa, and children, Stewart, Mark, and Clara in early July, 2009. The church looked forward to responding to his leadership in helping us to fulfill the mission of being the beacon in the Garden Lakes community that God called us to be.
Shortly after Dr. Kremer’s arrival a vacancy occurred on the church ministerial staff, and the church voted to create a fulltime position of Minister for Education, Pastoral Care and Youth, which Melissa Kremer was called to fill.
The Kremers served as a dynamic leadership duo until each submitted their resignations to pursue another ministry calling in Macon, Georgia. They faithfully served in their respective capacities at GLBC until the final Sunday of October, 2014.
Dr. Dan Whitaker (December, 2014 to Present) The church membership reflected upon the splendid ministry provided by Dr. Whitaker in his earlier stint as our interim pastor and voted to call him back into service for a reprise of his previous service at GLBC. The church welcomed him back into service on the first Sunday in December, 2014.
The church also voted to create a ministry position of Minister to Youth, Education, and Contemporary Worship and to call Mr. Ryan Okubo to serve in that position on March 8, 2015.