By Bob Terry
Editor, The Alabama Baptist
By now you probably know The Alabama Baptist (TAB) will soon celebrate its 175th anniversary of continuous service to Baptists in Alabama and beyond. The first edition of the publication rolled off the press on Saturday, Feb. 4, 1843, in Marion. It was a total of four pages and sold for $3.
Today Marion is a quiet, picturesque little town, the county seat of Perry County. In 1843 it was an economic center of the state with its plantation economy. Marion was called “the Athens of the South” with both Judson College and Howard College (now Samford University in Birmingham) located there.
Two years later when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was organized Marion was such an important city the SBC located its Home Mission Board (HMB) there. The first desk of the HMB’s leader can still be seen at Siloam Baptist Church, near the campus of Judson, which is still at its original location in Marion.
Years of ministry
February 2017 will mark the beginning of the paper’s 175th year of ministry. That is an unusual accomplishment made possible only by the blessings of God, the hard work of those associated with the paper and the graciousness of Alabama Baptists.
It is an accomplishment worth celebrating and we hope to do just that. As part of the celebration the first book devoted to the history of The Alabama Baptist will be published in late September. During the fall of 2017 the paper has requested time from each of the 75 Baptist associations in the state to share a brief historical presentation highlighting the contributions made by The Alabama Baptist over the years.
On Feb. 6, 2018, a 175th Anniversary Birthday Party will be held in Marion with the help of Judson and Siloam Baptist.
On March 2, 2018, Samford University and the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission will help sponsor a symposium examining the work and contributions of the state Baptist paper across the decades.
Speakers will include Timothy George, founding dean of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School; Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford; Mark Baggett, professor of English and law at Samford and son of former editor Hudson Baggett; and Steve Stewart, assistant professor of journalism at Troy University and former owner of The Monroe Journal.
For 175 years the paper has:
•reported events from the world of religion.
•provided practical help for everyday problems.
•examined moral and ethical issues from a biblical perspective.
•shared resources for Christian living.
•undergirded what Baptists do together.
•imparted information of God’s work at home and around the world.
•inspired readers for missions and ministries.
The paper has become a welcome visitor and a trusted friend in tens of thousands of Baptist homes across the state with more than 150,000 regular readers. Today it is the most widely circulated state Baptist paper among Southern Baptists.
In his book “Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie,” Wayne Flynt noted the purchase of The Alabama Baptist by the state convention in 1918 and called editors L.L. Gwaltney (1919–1950), Leon Macon (1950–1965) and Hudson Baggett (1966–1994) the most influential Baptists of their days.
The breadth, duration and impact of The Alabama Baptist altogether make the paper’s story an important part of Alabama Baptist life.
That is the story told in the first book devoted to the history of The Alabama Baptist. Elizabeth Wells, retired archivist for Samford and librarian for its Special Collection and Archives department, is writing the book.
She is weaving the history of the paper through the many wonderful stories about the contributions and impact of this ministry drawn from Alabama Baptist history and from the publication itself.
The more than 200-page book will be a four-color, fully illustrated coffee table-style book. Having read the first few chapters, I believe it will be a great read.
To ensure the widest circulation of the book, titled “The Alabama Baptist: Celebrating 175 Years of Informing, Inspiring and Connecting Baptists,” the book has been priced about 25 percent below recommended market value. Our goal is not a profit from the book but the widest circulation of the story of this valued ministry. To preorder the book, click here.
Consistent with this decision, the board of directors of The Alabama Baptist voted to lead a $50,000 fundraising campaign to underwrite the production of the book and the other anniversary events.
Underwriters who donated prior to the Aug. 30 deadline will be listed in the book and acknowledged at other events. In addition, each underwriter (including those donating after the deadline for being included in the book) will receive an autographed copy of the book based on giving level.
Levels of giving
Directors approved three levels of giving opportunities for underwriters:
TAB Founders’ Society for gifts of $1,000 and up.
TAB Ministry Partners for gifts of $500–$999.
TAB Friends’ League for gifts of $250–$499.
The members of the board of directors unanimously voted to each give at the Founders’ Society level. So did the administrative team of the publication and the editor. That is how much those privileged to lead this ministry believe in the importance of telling this important story and helping celebrate the remarkable achievement of the ministry evidenced by its 175th anniversary.
As subscribers and regular readers you know the importance of The Alabama Baptist. Many of you grew up seeing the paper in your parents’ home and your grandparents’ home. Now it is in your home. It also is available on your computer and on your smartphone so the ministry can be a part of the lives of your children and grandchildren.
Tax deductible gift
You can help tell the story of how God has used The Alabama Baptist to inform and inspire Baptists for 175 years and help celebrate this special anniversary with a special tax deductible gift to The Alabama Baptist.
Please consider making an underwriting gift to The Alabama Baptist. Simply send your donation to The Alabama Baptist, 3310 Independence Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209. Be sure to mark the gift for the 175th anniversary.
Thank you for your regular readership of the paper and for your continued support.
Editor’s Note: This editorial was originally published in The Alabama Baptist in December 2016.