In December of 2008 the congregation of Forest Heights Baptist Church celebrated 62 years of ministry to the Athens community and in January of 2009 we celebrated 25 years at the current location. Below is a brief recollection of the history of the Lord’s church.
In order to accurately retrace the history of Forest Heights Baptist Church one must recall an event that occurred almost ten years prior to its founding. The year was 1939 and evangelist Jesse Hendley came to Athens at the invitation of the Business Men’s Evangelistic Club and conducted a city-wide evangelistic campaign that lasted six weeks. This may have been one of the greatest evangelistic meetings ever experienced in Athens and many were saved.
During the years that followed, the spiritual impact of this campaign could not be forgotten. There was an ever increasing desire in the hearts of a select group to form a church that would not only proclaim the Gospel but also the impending return of Christ as King. Thus, in December of 1948, a devout group of twelve believers organized the Boulevard Baptist Church. Services began in a building on the corner of Chase Street and Boulevard known as the former Boulevard Methodist Church and was then owned by the Georgia Bible Institute.
In March 1949 the church had grown to 65 in membership under the leadership of the Rev. Max James, a student at Bob Jones University and our first pastor. In June of 1950 Rev. James resigned the position of pastor because he and his wife, Wanda, felt a calling to become missionaries to Japan. The church later agreed to send sixty percent of its missions giving to assist them in their calling.
Rev. H.E. Wright was called as pastor from Rome, Georgia in February of 1951. Under his leadership the church moved to a new location at 1253 Prince Avenue and renamed the church Talmadge Heights Baptist Church in keeping with its new community. During Rev. Wright’s ministry the church became a member of the Sarepta Baptist Association and the Southern Baptist Convention. Rev. Wright resigned the position of pastor in July of 1953.
Rev. Melvin Wise was called as pastor in August of 1953. The church continued to grow under his leadership and built a 3 story building on the property that was dedicated November 4, 1956. The church adopted a constitution and by-laws under Rev. Wise leadership and the Sunday School more than doubled in enrollment with 470 members on roll. Rev. Wise resigned as pastor in January of 1960 to follow a calling into full time evangelism.
Rev. E. Gene Payne became pastor in April of 1960 and the membership grew to 550, but when he resigned in July of 1962, 125 member withdrew from the church to form an independent Baptist church in the city of Athens.
Rev. John Davidson assumed the role of pastor in November of 1962 and held the position until his resignation in June of 1970. Rev. Jerry L. Price became pastor in October of 1970. Under Rev. Price’s leadership the church reduced its indebtedness and purchased property for a change of location at the corner of Vaughn Rd. and Tallassee Rd. The Lord closed the door on that property location at the end of Rev. Price’s service in 1978. In May of 1979 Dr. Johnny Curry was called as pastor, and under his leadership the church purchased the land at 1155 Oglethorpe Avenue and constructed the now Forest Heights Baptist Church. The first service was held on January 29, 1984. Dr. Curry remained pastor until the fall of 1986. Rev. Andy Scott was called as pastor in March of 1987 and served until his calling to church in Florida in 1996.
Dr. C. Mike Purdy was called as pastor in October of 1996. Pastor Mike’s desire is for Forest Heights Baptist Church to fulfill the vision of becoming the New Testament Church it needs to be in all areas of service. We are praying for God to raise up new leaders in these areas, so that we might fulfill the Great Commission in our community, our state, our country, and our world.