Forest Hill Baptist Church
By Andrew Pouncey
On August 9, 1910, services were held to adopt the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith and a church covenant following the organization of the presbytery with the aid of Rev. J.W. Lee of Batesville, MS, and Rev. J. C. Greenoe.
The Forest Hill Baptist Church was organized with ten charter members: Mrs. C.M. Scott, Mrs. W.P. (Bessie H.) Jefferies, Mr. and Mr. and Mrs. Will T. Scott, Mrs. Sallie Scott. Miss Mal Scott. Mrs. E. Downs, Mrs. E. J. Cocke, and Mrs. and Mrs. E.E. Strong. Their letters were received from Germantown Baptist Church and Collierville Baptist Church. The Germantown Baptist Church, at that time, was a great distance from where many people in the Forest Hill community lived.
Rev. Greenoe was the first pastor of the church. W.T. Scott and E.E. Strong were elected deacons and C.M. Scott was elected as church clerk. All the members were related except Mrs. Jefferies, Mrs. Cocke, and Mrs. Downs (grandmother of Anella Downs Fussell of the present congregation).
The first church building was located at 9051 Poplar Pike (southeast corner of Forest Hill/Poplar Pike, south of the railroad). The charter members asked, and the Shelby County School Board gave permission for the people of the community to hold services in this structure that had become a schoolhouse. People of all denominations sat at school desks. The school moved out of this structure to another building on Forest Hill-Irene Road used by the fire station and now the Germantown Community Theatre.
The church purchased its first building from the Shelby County Board of Education for $650 in 1913. They raised money by serving meals at the Mid-South Fair, giving “Ice Cream Socials”, and “White Elephant Parties”. They even gave a play on the front porch of a house in the neighborhood. Heat came from a big black stove, and there were no comforts such as running water, electricity, or air-conditioning. New converts were baptized in the Wolf River.
The building was remodeled to more adequately serve the church’s needs. The first wedding in the church was that of Connie and Dick Hobson. At first, there was only one service each month; but in 1919, a committee solicited money to pay the minister for two services a month.
The church began to outgrow its space and decided to sell and relocate. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Wright then bought this building at 9051 Poplar Pike, turned it around, made additions, and made it their own home through 1979. Mrs. Wright became the first church bus driver, as she used her school bus to bring people to church.
In 1925 the brick structure at 3048 Forest Hill-Irene Road (at Village Shops drive) was erected under the leadership of Rev. W.L. Smith. The building sanctuary seated 100 people, 8 classrooms, a baptistery, and running water. Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Scott donated their land for a new brick building, plus a lot between that and their own home, hoping that a parsonage would be placed there.
The members had raised enough money, that by the time the $12,000 building was dedicated, all except $3,500 had been paid. A hot air furnace in the basement kept it warm when it was cold. In the summertime, cooling was mainly a human effort thanks to the funeral home or dairy hand-held fans. A ceiling fan was installed when electricity came and life in the summer was much better. The windows at that time were always open. There was no parking space, so the cars parked on the roadside.
A point of fascination to many members was the “hidden baptistery” in the building. The site of baptisms was discreetly located beneath the pulpit and choir staging area at the front of the church. When it was time for a baptism, the deacons prepared this area of the church, and the pastor would help the person step down into the baptistery beneath.
Flower arrangements came from different members’ yards. Members remember Miss Clara Skinner sitting on the church steps early on Sunday morning arranging flowers. She also taught the young girls’ Sunday School class and served as church treasurer. The Raymond Skinner family started the organ fund and a Skinner grandson, Vernon N. Short, was the first church organist.
The church building was used for the first time in February 1925, but the formal dedication was not held until November 30, 1930. The Collierville Herald (12.05.30) stated that “as the last bit of smoke from the ashes of the $5,000 mortgage on the Forest Hill Baptist Church curled skyward last Sunday afternoon, it signaled the beginning of a new era for this church which has grown from a membership of ten to a membership of one hundred.” Mrs. Tom Wright was paid to drive a wagonette for the services.
Other early leaders included the Cartwrights, the Skinners, the Cockrofts, the Dewberrys, the Downs, the Johnsons, Laniers, Jones, Carters, Tarrances, Clarks, Scotts, and others. The parsonage (pastorium) was built in 1952 at the cost of $11,000.00. Rev. W. H. Pitts was the first pastor to live there and planted the seed for an educational annex.
In September 1954, the church voted to buy two acres north of the church from Mr. Gurganus. His hopes were that the area would be turned into a playground for the entire community – Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Church of Christ members, and all other denominations of the area. Saturday afternoon ballgames and Thursday night play nights were happy occasions. In August 1955, the group voted to place army barracks on church property as temporary Sunday School rooms. They were primarily used for additional nursery, primary grades, and kitchen space.
The church celebrated its 50th Anniversary on August 7, 1960. In the spring of 1962, the membership decided to put in a new floor, buy new church furniture for the sanctuary and install central heating and air-conditioning.
The church started their “Together We Build” program in 1970 in which they raised money to build the Education Annex. W.W. Construction Company built the annex from plans drawn by Robert Hall Associates. Permanent corner markers were selected by Joe Rape and his committee. The army buildings were removed to give room for one continuous drive and additional parking spaces. The dedication of this building was held in 1976. A second story on the annex was added in 1980, and a steeple was added when the facilities were later remodeled.
In 1999, Forest Hill Baptist Church (FHBC) relocated to a white-steepled structure on the northwest corner of Winchester and Forest Hill-Irene Roads (3645 Forest Hill-Irene Road). Keeping with the firm foundation of the Church, a bible was placed under the pulpit in the main sanctuary. A custom-designed free-standing-stained glass panel was commissioned to recognize the Church mantra – “Where Love Flows from the Heart…the heart of God.”
In the fall of 2013, Forest Hill was faced with decisions about its future. With a traditional style worship as well as an aging congregation, the church became unable to attract younger families. Without the capacity to move and build new, and without selling the property, the answer came through a friend of Pastor Don Marston, who knew of Forest Hill’s desire. Marston met with Kennon Vaughan, the founder, and leader of a non-denominational Christian discipleship organization called “Downline.” He was looking for a place to launch a new church, placing an emphasis on the discipleship principles that Downline had been teaching for years. Forest Hill Baptist agreed and voted to ask Harvest to form a partnership. The commitment would allow Forest Hill Baptist to leave a legacy of helping to launch a Christ-centered, Gospel-driven, discipleship-oriented church. For FHBC, this was about building the Kingdom of God.
In September of 2014, a core group of about 150 members remodeled the Forest Hill gymnasium into a beautiful worship center. Harvest officially launched in October and drew about 500 people. In November 2015, Forest Hill and Harvest agreed to a transfer of property, allowing Forest Hill to remain in the current facility without any debt or responsibility for the upkeep of the property. Forest Hill then began to support mission efforts in addition to the continual support of Southern Baptist mission efforts.
Forest Hill remains a small, but strong church with an emphasis on ministering to and through older adults.
Contact www.foresthillbc.com for more information.
Files of the Forest Hill Baptist Church, Germantown Regional History & Genealogical Center
Founding member and former historian, Mrs. Dorothy Short
“Through The Years” (1910-1995) by Jean Tindall
Forest Hill Baptist Church website, www.foresthillbc.com, copyright 2017
Pastors of Forest Hill Church
|Rev. J.C. Greenoe||1910|
|Rev. W.H. Bruton||1911|
|Rev. S.B. Myers||1917|
|Rev. Mr. Thomas||1919|
|Rev. Roswald Davis||1922|
|Rev. W.L. Smith||1923|
|Rev. S.P. Poag||1927|
|Rev. R. Blaylock||1929|
|Rev. Sibley Burnett||1930|
|Rev. Henry Carter (Interim)||1932|
|Rev. Rush McDonald||1937|
|Rev. James Riley||1939|
|Rev. Charles Milliken||1941|
|Rev. Calvin Meacham||1942|
|Erev. L.G. Cannon||1944|
|Rev. C.R. Harwood||1949|
|Rev. J.W. Bramlett||1950|
|Rev. H.R. Higdon||1951|
|Rev. W.H. Pitt||1952|
|Rev. Mark Fairless||1955|
|Rev. Thomas Drake||1959|
|Rev. James E. Humphreys||1965|
|Dr. D.M. Renick (Interim)||1976|
|Dr. Lloyd O. Barker||1977|
|Dr. Lowell Adams (Interim)||1987|
|Dr. Wesley Ellis||1988|
|Rev. Jeff Taylor||1992|
|Rev. Wally Owens|
|Rev. Don Marston|
1st Church Building (Formerly Shelby County School), 9051 Poplar Pike
Rev. R.J. Greenoe, First Pastor
Forest Hill Baptist Church, Established August 9, 1910
3048 Forest Hill-Irene Road
Stained Glass inside now, Harvest Church, “Where Love Flows From the Heart…the heart of God.”, Forest Hill Baptist Church, Est 1910
3645 Forest Hill-Irene Road
3645 Forest Hill-Irene Road