Springfield Baptist Church has had many milestones in its 225-year history: the founding of Morehouse College; the establishment of the Georgia Education Commission, which pressed for public education for black children in the late 1800s; and the formation of the Georgia Equal Rights Association, which marked the beginning of the Republican Party in Georgia.

The Rev. Hardy S. Bennings III counts this weekend among those milestones.

Augusta’s Springfield Baptist Church, which claims the title of the country’s oldest continuously operating black church, celebrated its 225th anniversary last Sunday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network, will speak at 3 p.m.

Augusta Fire Chief Chris James delivers the keynote address at the church’s 10 a.m. service, which will be followed by a wreath ceremony to honor former pastors. At noon, the church unveils the new name for the portion of 12th Street in front of the church: Springfield Way.

“This is a momentous occasion for us,” Bennings said. “Everybody’s excited. This is one of the biggest events in the history of Springfield.”

The church was officially organized in 1787, though its congregation is believed to date to 1773, two years before the American Revolution. The Rev. Jesse Peters Galphin, a slave whose master allowed him to receive training as a minister, was the first pastor.

Today, Springfield has about 175 members. In the 1800s, the congregation numbered more than 1,000, making Springfield the largest church – black or white – in the Georgia Baptist Association.

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