About our church
Following the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, a new chapter was written. At the time Pres. Abraham Lincoln declared freedom for all slaves, the entire city of Rome was in a rebuilding state, recovering for the most part, from siege from General William T. Sherman, who burned many buildings in the downtown area. For the newly freed slaves, their faith became a means of sustenance as they adjusted to life beyond the plantation. They soon settled in an area just north of downtown called “Five Points”, and it would come to be known as the apex for African Americans.
It was here, that a pioneering group of men and women set out to organize a place of worship for people of color. The group built its first edifice in a small clearing adjacent to a stack of railroad tracks banked near the edge of the Etowah River. Working collectively, they cleared a swath of land where they built a log shack, Bush Harbor, as the site of all religious services for African Americans. Today the site of Bush Harbor houses the former office of Dr. George Houser, Sr. Bush Harbor was eventually destroyed by fire, but for the church’s congregation, the foundation had been laid and the “Colored Baptist Church,” as it had come to be known, remained intact and continued to hold worship services in the basement of the all-white First Baptist Church , with the understanding that it was a temporary arrangement.
Though they struggled, the members of the Colored Baptist Church scrounged and scraped until they saved enough money to rebuild their church. Women sold berries for $.10 (cent) a gallon and men sold wagon loads of wood for $.50 (cent) and on July 10, 1868, they were able to purchase land from Perry Chisholm to build again. The land would eventually be the site of the church’s current structure, but in the early years, the first “church” was a wooden structure that, in addition to housing worship services and weekly meetings, also served as a school. Unfortunately, the building met the same fate as its predecessor across the street and also was destroyed by fire. A second Bush Harbor was built and served as a meeting place until the current structure was built. In just five years and against all odds, the first African American church in Northwest Georgia had a permanent home. When the church was completed a group of members met to decide on a new name for their church. Sister Hannah McClendon commented, “Well, well, I am so thankful that we can go in.” Another member seized on the name and said, “We’ll call the church, “Thankful.” Reverend Jefferson Milner was the first pastor and served until his passing in 1895. Other pastors that succeeded him were: Reverends Lyons, Holmes, Poindexter, Laster, Waits and Harris.
During the pastorate of Reverend Holmes a disagreement brought separation among the congregation, several members left and organized what is now our sister church, Springfield Baptist Church.
Reverend J.H. Gaston served as Thankful’s 8th pastor for 18 years. Other pastors included: Reverends J.C. Gaffney; J.H. Brown (1920-1929); O.C. Thomas (1930-1934); Ralph W. Riley (1934-1940); Frank Sanders became pastor in 1940, followed by Reverends O.M. Collins and J.N. Hollis. Reverend Collins was instrumental in procuring funding for the current annex building, which had been planned since Reverend Riley’s tenure. Reverend Clarence Tuggle served as pastor from 1957 to 1975. It was under his leadership that the church was renovated, with the addition of the annex and parsonage, where as the Annex building was name in his honor.
Reverend O.B. Yates became pastor in 1975 and led the sheep of God until 1988. It was during Pastor Yates administration Thankful began several new ministries one being a Sunday Morning Radio Broadcast on WTSH, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 5, 1985. Reverend Ervin D. Ward was the successor to Reverend Yates, serving as pastor two years (1988-1990). After weathering a storm and the resignation of Reverend Ward, Thankful was without a pastor for several for months, but God blessed us to endure through the leadership of Deacon Henry Smith. In the year of 1991, God truly blessed us to enter a new era with the leadership of the anointed Reverend Nim B. Russell. During the 23 years Reverend Russell served as pastor, the church grew exponentially. In addition to a growing membership of approximately 1,500, Pastor Russell also spearheaded the formation of the 14,000 square-foot, 1.2 million dollar Russell Family Life Center, in 1994. Through his vision and under his spiritual guidance, Thankful recorded the album “Happy in My Home” through the music ministry under the leadership of Marvin B. Williams and John Sewell. He appointed the first Youth Pastor to the staff at Thankful Missionary Baptist Church. The Church also participated in the Mission Exchange program and took a youth group on an International Trip to Old East Germany. A house at 212 Grady Avenue in Rome, Georgia was purchased, and many physical improvements were made to the structure. Thankful’s After School Care program, with 501-C (3), status was established in 1998. In 2001, Pastor Russell founded a second location for Thankful Baptist called Thankful Baptist Kennesaw (TBK).During Rev. Russell’s seed planting and under the outstanding coverage of spiritual fatherhood he ordained, 17 “sons” in the gospel and 7 evangelists were called, 12 of which now pastor their own church. Dr. Jamey Colts, the first youth pastor was called to pastor in 1998. Rev. John Harris, who became his successor as youth pastor was later appointed pastor of Thankful Baptist Church Kennesaw in 2003. Rev. Darryl Ellis served as youth pastor, and served as Assistant Pastor. In the mid-2000s Thankful helped establish and house, (for several years), the Hispanic Church, which is now in its own building, and holding services on North Broad Street. Through the visionary leadership of Pastor Russell, Thankful Baptist Church held a campus site for Covington Theological Seminary, which was a vehicle used to meet students where they are in their calling, ministry motivations and addressed their individual goals and needs, by training biblically equipped leaders in both national and international settings. In 2005, Thankful helped with the Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts by being the only shelter location in Rome, Georgia. The shelter not only provided beds, and warm meals, but there was also a laundry facility to wash clothes, and a computer lab.
After the devastating loss of Pastor Nim B. Russell in 2014, Thankful weathered the storm and in 2015, Rev. Dr. H. Bernard Young, Sr. became the 20th pastor of Thankful Baptist Church. Under the leadership of Pastor Young, Thankful continues to build on the foundation of those who have come before, and through expository teaching and preaching Pastor Young is taking Thankful to higher heights and “Excelling in Excellence with W.O.R.D.S.”
Thankful has a rich history of past and present members who have made significant contributions to its heritage. Souls have been saved, lives have been changed, and God has continued to pour out his blessings on the lives of its members and perfected all which concerneth thee. Our church has thrived so that all may see a rich past carefully preserved for future generations to observe and marvel at God’s abiding love to those who are truly Thankful.