The Old McCanaan Missionary Baptist Church of Burke County was organized on June 6, 1875, by Reverend Frank Cooper and the following members: Reverend Paul Cooper, Isiah Cooper, E. Davis and Peter Jones. The deacon board was composed of Alex Roberts, H. Roberts, F.C. Cooper and M.B. Oliver.
One hundred forty-five years have now passed since this church was organized and it has had 12 pastors. Namely: Reverend Paul Cooper, Reverend Josh Thomas, Reverend Peter Frederick, Reverend G.I Johnson, Reverend D.J. Jenkins, Reverend H.D. Cooper, Reverend M.B. Oliver, Reverend S.M. McKelton, Reverend J.H. Edwards, Reverend Ronald Wrice, Reverend Walter Dukes Sr., and Reverend Willie Callaway, Jr. our present pastor.
The first pastor, Reverend Paul Cooper, was very strong in Christ and many souls were added under his leadership. He led us for twelve years and was called from labor to reward. The church mourned his passing. After one year, Reverend Josh Thomas was called. He pastored for one year and resigned. In 1890, the Reverend Peter Frederick was called. Many souls were saved and many members were added to the church under his strong leadership. After two years, death claimed him.
At that time, the old building was destroyed by fire. The members were able to erect another building to use as a prayer house. It was also necessary to call a leader. The Reverend G.I. Johnson was called on the first Saturday in January 1894. Being a very strong and devout leader, Reverend Johnson pastored this church for 36 years. The church grew rapidly under his great leadership. It was necessary to erect a larger building. The members, with their leader put on a rally to raise money to build. In 1912, the new building, the one we are worshipping in today, was erected. In 1919, the Temple Star Lodge #189 laid the cornerstone. Hubert Roberts was ordained as a deacon under his leadership. Reverend Johnson, after many years of service, was called from labor to reward. He left his flock in much sorrow. In June 1930, the Reverend D.J. Jenkins was appointed to serve as pastor. Reverend Jenkins added many souls to the church. Under his pastorate, our church was covered with metal, cement steps were built, and the choir was improved. Also, Reverend M.B. Oliver was ordained to preach. Three deacons were ordained, namely: Jessie Oliver, Myles Taylor, and Isaiah Williams. Reverend Jenkins organized a junior church in 1938 and appointed Brother Joseph Taylor a junior deacon in May 1939. Reverend Jenkins later resigned and left the church without a pastor.
In 1942, the Reverend H.C. Cooper, was called and he served successfully for 10 months. Under his pastorate, Brother Jonathan Edwards was licensed to preach. Reverend Cooper left us because of his work being too heavy. Reverend M.B. Oliver, a son of the church, served faithfully as pastor for nine months and in 1945 Reverend S.M. McKelton was called. He served successfully and faithfully for 11 years. Under his leadership, the church was improved with lights, chairs were placed in the pulpit, and the church was filled with pews. He also ordained two new deacons. They were T.J. Edwards and Leroy Roberts. Reverend McKelton served faithfully until death in 1955. We loved him, but Jesus loved him best.
In January 1957, Reverend Jonathan Edwards was called. Being very strong in Christ, he served us successfully for 34 years. During his pastorate, a piano, a lamp, pulpit suit and pews were purchased. The building was underpinned, restrooms were added, central heat and air conditioning system was installed, and the interior and exterior of the church was painted. Improvements made to the front of the church were begun under his leadership. In 1981 the heirs of the Cooper estate donated one acre of land to the church. Reverend Edwards ordained two deacons, namely: Artis Cleveland and Wallace Chance. Reverend Edwards departed this life March 16, 1991.
The church suffered a tremendous loss in 1991, probably the greatest in its history in one year. In addition to Reverend Edwards, we lost two deacons by death: Deacon Hubert Roberts, chairman of the deacon board and Deacon Artis Cleveland.
The church was without a pastor and an active deacon board. The Mount Zion Association, under the leadership of the moderator, the Reverend A.D. King ordained Wilbert Roberts, Clinton Roberts and Lenwood Roberts as deacons on September 1, 1991.
As the church prayed for a new pastor, Reverend James Clark agreed to serve as an intern pastor. He served faithfully for 18 months. In January of 1994, Reverend Ronald Wrice was called. He was installed as pastor on the first Sunday in March 1994. Reverend Wrice was a great inspiration to our church and the church family. In his short tenure, he added five new members, one by letter and four by baptism. Reverend Wrice began an education program which included bible study and workshops, and he activated a number of church auxiliaries. Through Reverend Wrice’s leadership additional property was acquired, a fellowship hall erected, a public address system installed in the sanctuary. In addition, a tape outreach ministry, a children’s church, and a scholarship fund for members attending college or vocational school was begun. Under his leadership, we moved toward higher heights in spiritual growth and understanding. After five years of dedicated service Wrice relocated to Lorton, Virginia.
As the church again prayed for a pastor, we were blessed with the devout leadership of Rev. Rex E. Wright, who served us for fifteen months as interim pastor. Rev. Wright baptized one, ordained Louie Bolds to the office of deacon, led us in bi-monthly Bible study and dedicated the picnic area. His inspirational sermons, the concern that he showed for the membership and the community, and the example that he set as a God-fearing servant led us to greater heights in the Lord. Rev. Wright resigned as interim pastor in September 2001.
In June 2001, the church was added to the State of Georgia National Registry of Historic Places. It was placed on the registry in recognition of its architectural and historical significance.
In August 2001 we were saddened by the passing of Wallace Chance. Deacon Chance was a dedicated member for many years. He was quiet in manner but strong in his commitment to serve whenever and wherever the church needed him. “Servant of God well done.”
We mourn the loss of the Mother of our Church, Sister Clara Chance, who passed away February 2005. Her Christ-like spirit served as a shining light to all.
In January 2002, Rev. Walter Dukes, Sr. was called as the eleventh pastor of our church. He was installed on the fourth Sunday in April, 2002. We feel that this calling is a manifestation of God’s bountiful blessings. Rev. Dukes’ visionary leadership has allowed us to experience new heights in our church growth. Adopting the motto of “Preaching and Teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Reverend Dukes enriched the church through his visionary leadership. Bi-monthly bible sessions were renewed to study God’s word in order to better proclaim and exclaim it. The church erected a lighted sign which serves as a beacon to openly encourage community involvement and participation in all of its ministries. A new roof was placed on the church, the interior and exterior were painted, stained glass windows were restored and new flooring was installed in the fellowship hall. In addition, access to the internet was made available to the youth, and a food ministry was developed to provide food for the needy during the Christmas holidays. Workshops and excursions were made available for personal and spiritual growth for the church membership and the community. Last, but not least, Rev. Dukes baptized fifteen, accepted seven by Christian experience and ordained Anthony Cancer to the office of deacon. After eight years of dedicated service, Rev. Dukes resigned (April 2010). He relocated to Atlanta, Georgia.
On April 10, 2011, Rev. Willie Callaway, Jr. was called as our twelfth pastor. He was installed on May 29, 2011. We embrace his leadership as we move forward. He provides unselfish service to the church through uplifting sermons, teaching Bible Study, and emphasizing a strong Sunday School. He has baptized one. Under his leadership, the church has launched a website. Monitors have been installed to display hymns, scriptures, and other media and the senior and prayer ministries have been activated.
On March 11, 2020, contractors completed the renovation of the entrance to the church and the Fellowship Hall. Designed by Mr. Frank D’Arcangelo, Principal Architecture of Statesboro, Georgia, the new entrance features brick steps with metal handrails, a cement porch and ramp with handrails, all covered by a metal roof with vinyl underpinnings. The ramp connects the church to the Fellowship Hall. the changes allow for easy access to both the church and the Fellowship Hall.
On March 25, 2020, a time capsule was uncovered at McCanaan when contractors moved the cornerstone during renovation. While repositioning the cornerstone from the left pillar to the right front pillar at the entrance of the church, contractors uncovered the capsule. It was situated between the cornerstone and the lowest beam. Contents included United States coins dating back from 1885-1919, adornments , and other interesting artifacts. Traditionally, the Masonic Lodge placed a time capsule in a cornerstone when it was laid, so it is evident that the same was done at McCanaan. The contents of the capsule have now been placed in the church’s archives.
In 2019, the Buildings and Grounds Committee of McCannan began improvements on the church’s cemetery. Landscaping work was done and several unmarked graves were identified. Subsequently, family members of those interred and anonymous church members had headstones erected for the unmarked graves to build dignity and honor to the beloved.
On May 2, 2015, we were saddened by the loss of a dedicated member, Sis. Mary Bell Ingram. She had served faithfully on the usher board for many years.
The church family suffered another significant loss of two faithful members in 2017, namely :
Sister Luetricia Oliver– June 29, 2017
Brother Christopher Turner Roberts– December 26, 2017
Sister Oliver worked willingly wherever she was needed, contributed unselfishly of her tithes and talents, and worshipped devoutly in church services.
Brother Roberts served in the church with a spirit of enthusiasm and humbleness. His faith in God was seen through his service and interaction with youths and adults. He sang in the youth choir, served on the usher board, played his saxophone on church programs and actively participated in various youth activities.
On July 12, 2019, Sis. Gloria Simmons Roberts departed this life. She had a quiet spirit and served in any capacity of the church when or wherever she was needed. She was a faithful member of the choir and worked with the food ministry. She is greatly missed.
In 2020, the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic affected our nation and the world. It shut down houses of worship, including First McCanaan.
After March 1, 2020, in-person service was canceled at McCanaan but God’s work continued. The 145th in-person church anniversary was replaced with a virtual celebration. Coordinated by the church’s leadership team, the church family and friends greeted each other via a pre-recorded video and Pastor Callaway delivered the message through Facebook Live.
Also on January 24, 2021, Deacon Louie Bolds delivered his initial sermon virtually, followed by the presentation of his ministry license by Pastor Callaway. The church family wished him the best.
During the pause in church services, Pastor Callaway continued spiritual guidance through Facebook Live for Wednesday Night Bible Study and for regular Sunday church services, and the Deacon Board maintained contact with the members through postal mailings, phone calls, and social media. Following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the pastor, along with the deacons, visited the homes of members for Holy Sacrament on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
The Building and Grounds Committee continued overseeing improvements in the cemetery during the pandemic. Sunken graves were resurfaced and covered with cement slabs, some graves were enclosed by borders, and a retaining wall was built along a stretch of sloping area in the cemetery. Benefactors funded the project, which was completed by Contractor Curtis Roberts, Hiltonia, Georgia.
Presently, the deacon board includes: Deacon Clinton Roberts, Deacon Louie Bolds, Deacon Lenwood Roberts, Deacon Anthony Cancer, and Deacon Wilbert Roberts.
On January 19, 2021, the church mourned the loss of associate member, Sister Gertrude Roberts Walker. She supported the church financially and attended faithfully. Servant of God, well done.
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is the new creation, by spirit and the word;
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.