Our CHURCH'S Story

Frederica Baptist Church

The First ten years
6/25/02 – 7/15/07

On June 25, 2002, a group of 39 interested individuals met with Rev. John Carr, Missionary, Southeast Georgia Baptist Association at the Days Inn on St. Simons Island, Georgia to discuss the feasibility of starting a new Baptist church on the north end of St. Simons Island.

The group met again on July 2, 2002, and the consensus of those present was that God was leading in the establishment of a new church. The decision was made to contact Epworth by the Sea concerning the availability of Lovely Lane Chapel for July 14, 2002, so that we could begin to worship together as a group.

Our congregational life committee, chaired by Patty Gibson, began at the Days Inn on July 7, 2002. This was the first of many covered dish dinners; causing Mike Warren to dub us the Fat Baptist Church. 

On July 28, 2002, we selected our name, Frederica Baptist Church. From the 25 suggested names, the votes for “Frederica Baptist Church” won by a large margin. We also elected the following officers at this meeting: Gary Thorsen, Moderator; Steve Banister, Treasurer; Debbie Gilbert, Secretary. Judy Terry and Janet Mead offered to be responsible for the preschool childcare. Rick Stirewalt agreed to continue directing the music. Ashley Swann was asked to continue playing the piano for our worship services. We established various committees to advertise our existence, secure both temporary and permanent facilities for us, and set up a youth program and an evangelism committee.

On August 11, 2002, Rev. John Carr met with us to offer guidance. He said the Southeast Georgia Baptist Association had some money that was designated for the start of a new church on St. Simons Island.

On August 28, 2002, we voted to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention.

On August 30, 2002, Frederica Baptist Church was incorporated. Ernest Gilbert and Mike Warren were designated trustees.

On September 19, 2002, we met and decided how our church would receive members. Individuals joining between 9/22/02 until 12/31/02 would be considered a charter member.

On September 29, 2002, we moved to Oglethorpe Point Elementary School for our second temporary church home.

In October 2002, we met and recorded the members’ thoughts and convictions regarding the qualifications of a pastor. The consensus was that the membership wanted a pastor who believed that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and would bring strong Bible based messages.

On October 16, 2002, the officers of the church called a special business meeting. The church members voted to accept the nominations for a Pastor Search Committee. 

On October 27, 2002, Dr. Earl L. Boyette was called as the interim pastor of Frederica Baptist Church by an overwhelming majority.

At our November 13, 2002, business meeting, Jim Schriber volunteered to chair our missions committee, and our church committed to a goal of contributing 50 percent of our tithes and offerings to missions. We gave $23,817.89 to missions from July 2002 through December 2002.

In January 2003, we completed our mission and vision statements and our church covenant.

On March 9, 2003, the church empowered the worship and music committee and the youth committee jointly to pursue a music and youth minister.

On April 27, 2003, the church voted to extend a call to Reverend Lon Harbin as Minister of Music and Youth.

On May 4, 2003, the church adopted our constitution and by-laws.

On June 8, 2003, we adopted an official logo for the church.

On August 3, 2003, Reverend James D. Davis was presented to the church for consideration as Senior Pastor. At the close of morning worship, the fellowship voted to call Reverend Davis as Senior Pastor, and he accepted the call.

On September 2, 2003, Reverend Davis began his ministry at Frederica Baptist Church.

On September 7, 2003, Reverend Davis was installed as Senior Pastor and preached his first sermon as pastor.

On Monday, December 1, 2003, Linda Nelson began work as our first Administrative Assistant. Linda came to us from Independence, Missouri where she had worked with Pastor J.D. at Rockwood Baptist Church.

On February 29, 2004, we met for our first yearly conference.

Sunday, April 25, 2004, was a very important day for Frederica Baptist Church. Dr. Boyette, founding pastor, and Reverend John Carr, Southeast Baptist Associational Missionary, joined Pastor Davis as we constituted as Frederica Baptist Church and dedicated ourselves to further the kingdom of God on St. Simons Island, Brunswick, and Glynn County. We elected to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Georgia Baptist Convention, and the Southeast Baptist Association.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004, saw the beginning of our Wednesday Night Fellowship Supper under the leadership of Patty Gibson. “G-Force” for children K-5th grade began as part of our Wednesday night program.

In November 2004, several individuals from our church, led by Frank Mead, traveled to Nicaragua on a mission trip that would be followed by many more mission trips in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

On January 14-15, 2005, Pastor J.D. presented his vision of what he feels is the way to reach the island and fulfill the great commission on St. Simons Island.

Pastor J.D. presented the names of six men who had met all of the qualifications to be a deacon and who had felt God’s call upon their lives to serve our church family. The men who were elected to serve as our first servant deacons were as follows: Frank Mead, Charlie Philips, Jim Schriber, Rick Shelnutt, Richard Stager, and Don Varnadoe.

In the spring of 2005, we blitzed the island with information about Frederica Baptist Church. Members gathered on four Saturday mornings and went into neighborhoods with door hangers and handouts.

On April 9, 2006, the church was called into conference to vote on calling Reverend Whitlow Chapman as Minister of Students. The church voted by an overwhelming majority to call Reverend Chapman.

March 11, 2007, marked the end of Reverend Lon Harbin’s ministry with us. Lon answered a call to Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia.

In May 2007, Dr. J. D. Davis read his letter of resignation indicating that he had been called to First Baptist Church, Sparta, Tennessee. On June 10, 2007, the church had a covered dish farewell dinner for the Davis’. Pastor J.D. ministered to our congregation through strong Biblical preaching.
A pastor search committee was created. The members are as follows: Todd Carlson, Cherie’ Hunnicutt, Bill Newbauer, Ken Sala, Rick Shelnutt, Mary Stager and Mike Warren.
At our church conference on November 4, 2007, the Senior Pastor Search Committee recommended that Reverend Whitlow Edwin Chapman be called as senior pastor. The church body rejoiced in this decision as Whit had faithfully led us while we were without a pastor.

On July 14, 2002, we celebrated our first worship service at Lovely Lane Chapel, Epworth By the Sea. Dr. Earl L. Boyette brought the message. Rick Stirewalt led the congregational singing accompanied by Ashley Swann at the piano. Gary Thorsen read the scripture and Beth Hart prayed the benediction. 

On July 21, 2002, Dalton Tornabene made a profession of faith at our second worship service. Dalton was our very first member!

On August 4, 2002, we shared our first communion service. We would continue to have The Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month.

On August 25, 2002, our first baptismal service was held at Glynn Haven Baptist Church.

September 22, 2002, was designated as membership Sunday. Seventy-five people went forward indicating their desire to be a vital part of this new body of Christ on St. Simons Island.

On September 11, 2002, we had a commemoration service for the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

On December 24, 2002, we shared a very special candlelight Christmas Eve service.

We have had several distinguished ministers, aside from Dr. Boyette, who have filled our pulpit. On October 11, 2002, Reverend Carl Milton was our guest preacher. Reverend John Carr brought the message on November 3, 2002. Dr. David Smith from Brewton Parker preached for us on February 16, 2003, and Dr. Ben Haygood blessed us with his presence and preaching on February 23, 2003.

On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005, the 8:30 am contemporary service began. At church conference on 24, 2005, the church voted unanimously to support this new service.

April 10-13, 2005, Bob Mowery, preaching, and Elmo Mercer, singing, led our first spring revival. Prior to the revival, we had a fellowship at the Varnadoe’s River House to pray for the revival.

The official beginning of our music program was December 1, 2002, when the Ladies Ensemble (Debbie Gilbert, Laurie Gunter, Edith Prescott, Rene’ Shelnutt, Jane Thorsen, Lisa Warren) sang for the first time. Laurie Gunter was named our children’s choir coordinator in December. Our children sang for worship for the first time on December 15, 2002. Gloria Haskins joined us as pianist on January 5, 2003. She was our first staff member. We had our first choir rehearsal in the home of Gary and Jane Thorsen with Janet Mead directing on January 22, 2003. Our choir sang for the first time in a worship service on February 2, 2003.
Reverend Lon Harbin led our music and directed the choir on April 27, 2003, in view of a call as Minister of Music and Youth. We voted that night to call Reverend Harbin, and he began his ministry with us on June 1, 2003.

March 11, 2007, marked the end of Reverend Lon Harbin’s ministry with us. Lon answered a call to Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia. The congregation shared a surprise lunch for Lon at the Jekyll Island Hotel following his final service as Minister of Music.

On August 3, 2008, the church voted unanimously to call Reverend Paul Reed as minister of music. Paul, Debbie, Cameron, and Connor’s first Sunday with us was September 7, 2008. 

On April 19, 2003, we held our first Easter egg hunt.
The week of June 23-27, 2003, we held our first Vacation Bible School “ Son Harvest” at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School with Penny Tornabene and Pam Crosby as co-directors. Fifty children were enrolled and it was a wonderful ‘first’ VBS.

On August 4, 2002, we began our Sunday School program. We met in homes for Sunday School until we moved to Oglethorpe.

Currently we enjoy a very well attended Sunday School program for all age groups.  We are blessed with very dedicated and talented volunteer teachers.

The youth, under the leadership of Lisa Warren as chair of the youth committee, began having fellowship activities almost immediately. Activities included midnight bowling and go-carting. Several youth attended Missionfuge at West Palm Beach, Florida.

Currently we have a strong well attended Youth Program that is very active.

On January 12, 2003, we voted to authorize the facilities committee to put a binder on the property at 1700 Frederica Road to give the church time to evaluate the feasibility of using the building for our home on a temporary basis until we could move to the north end of the island.

On February 2, 2003, in a special called conference, Frederica Baptist Church voted to purchase 1700 Frederica Road for 4.1 million dollars.

On May 7, 2003, after weeks of negotiating, the deal was closed. Mike Warren, Brent Thomas and Billy Gibson were instrumental in securing this property for our church’s use. Larry Bryson provided architectural drawings for the renovation of the space in the building, and Jim Fucetola was the contractor for the work.

On February 13, 2005, we held our annual church conference. At this conference, Mike Warren reported that all units in our building had been rented. He also reported that his committee was looking at the best decision for the church concerning selling the building as a whole unit or selling it as individual condo units. The last item he addressed was the donation of the Sea Island property to Frederica. He had a plat of the land and indicated that we should have the deed in hand soon.

In the fall of 2004, Billy Gibson had approached Bill Jones, III, concerning the possibility of a plot of land. Mr. Jones said that, at that particular time, he did not have land that Sea Island had planned to donate to churches. Billy asked that we make the issue of land a priority in our prayers. Several months later, Mr. Jones told Billy he had identified some land for our church, and it is the present 13 acres on Marshes Edge Lane. We thank God for His answer to our prayers through the generosity of Mr. Bill Jones, III and Sea Island Company. What an absolutely wonderful gift.

At the December 4, 2005, conference, the motion was made and passed giving the officers of Frederica Baptist Church the authority to sign the lease for the property at the north end with Sea Island Company.

In July 2006, a beautiful cross was raised on our property on Marshes Edge Lane. We gathered as a church in the evening of July 14, 2006 to dedicate the land God had provided to his glory and honor.

On August 20, 2006, Frederica Baptist enjoyed a Town Hall Gathering to discuss with the Architectural Design Team, chaired by Dr. Boyette, ideas for our permanent home on the north end.
At the December 17, 2006 church conference, Dr. Larry Boyette, chair of the Architectural Design Committee, reported that the committee had completed visitation to various churches and the committee is moving into the design phase.

At the close of our first year, we had 118 members in our fellowship.

The following are the names of people who, although not members of our congregation, have been especially kind to us during our first year of existence:
Rev. John Carr has been a constant source of information, encouragement and assistance.
Rev. Jim Rush allowed us to worship at Lovely Lane Chapel at Epworth By the Sea and use their preschool building.
Paul Mackenzie with the Glynn County Board of Education and Anne Rogers, principal of Oglethorpe Point Elementary, accommodated us in so many ways by allowing us to use OPES for our second home.
Frankie and Angelyn Mewborn donated our Baptist Hymnals, and we began using these hymnals on September 8, 2002.
Rev. Larry Copley and Glynn Haven Baptist Church have allowed us to use their sanctuary and baptistery for our two baptismal services. They continued to allow us to use their facility in the years to follow.
Jim Williams, Esq., closed the property at 1700 Frederica Road and did not charge attorney’s fees.
Tom Lindsay, realtor with Lindsay Properties, waived his commission for the sale of the building.


July 2007 - September 2012

On July 14-15, 2007, Frederica Baptist Church celebrated five wonderful years of worship and fellowship. God’s provision for His church had been phenomenal, and His church celebrated. With hearts overflowing with love for God and each other, with tables overflowing with scrumptious food, with music to inspire the soul, and with a challenging message from Whit Chapman, our minister to students, we worshiped in spirit and in truth.

September 2012
Frederica Baptist Church celebrated ten years of worship and fellowship. God’s provision for His church has continued to be phenomenal! Again with hearts overflowing with love for God and each other, with tables overflowing with scrumptious food, with music to inspire the soul, and with a challenging message from Whit Chapman, our Senior Pastor, we worshiped in spirit and in truth.

On September 23-24, 2012, Frederica Baptist Church celebrated ten years of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was an exciting time to stop and look back at God's working in and through His people. We celebrated on the Marshes Edge property with great preaching, great singing, great food and great fellowship. With grateful hearts, we praised the One who had led us to this point. 

Once again, as we celebrate our fifteenth (15th) anniversary, we are looking back at God's blessings and looking forward to what He has in store for us. One pivotal event in the life of Frederica Baptist Church took place in the summer of 2013. The church, in conference, formally approved the formation of a long-range planning committee to develop a plan for the relocation of Frederica Baptist Church to the property God has provided for us on the North End of the island. The committee members named were Sidney Bowdoin, Eldridge Cannon, Patty Gibson, Bart Wagner and Margie Varnadoe. Rick Shelnutt and Jane Thorsen joined the committee when Eldridge Cannon and Margie Varnadoe were unable to continue to serve. Rick was selected as chairman. The committee met on a regular basis and consulted with representatives from the Georgia Baptist Convention to look at who we are as a church and what our attributes are, evaluating meeting usage and space planning, and looking at architectural design from 2006 and 2007. With this information, two local architects were contacted and given the most imformation we could on what we need. Steve Newton, Lifeway, was also contacted. Steve came to St. Simons and spent two days. He walked the property, talked with the pastor and the committee about our needs before making his recommendations. 

In April of 2015, the committee agreed that the church should move ahead with clearing the Marshes Edge property. The committee presented to the Administrative Committee a request to fund this next step with funds in the Capital Building Fund. The request was granted and the clearing was completed by the end of the summer of 2015.  R.L. Construction gave us a price of $30,000, but when the work was done, it was under budget. 

At our 2016 Annual Conference, Rick Shelnutt shared with the membership that Steve Newton strongly recommended the church have a Capital Campaign to raise money for the new church building. He also recommended John Burke with ReThink Ministries to guide us through the process. Gary Thorsen, moderator, presented the following motion from the LRPC. He shared with the members present that this was probably one of the most pivotal discussions and votes we have had in our church. He encouraged discussion and there were good questions from several members. After discussion, the vote was taken and approved. 

                      1.  Approval of the Church Building Plans developed by Steve Newton of                                         Cornerstone Collaborative. 
                      2.  Approval of beginning a Capital Campaign for Phase I immediately. 
                      3.  Approval of hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant. 
                      4.  Approval of hiring John Burke with ReThink Ministries to be the Campaign

Pastor Whit shared the names of the people who had agreed to serve the Lord on the Partnership Team for the Capital Campaign. 

                       Partnership Team Leader, Gary Thorsen
                       Foundation Partner, Brenda Clifton
                       Community Partner, Monty Henderson
                       Facilitation Partner, Becky Parker
                       Celebration Partner, Robin Shelnutt

The Partnership Team hit the ground running and the Capital Campaign began in earnest. Each team partner completed their individual teams and many people went to work! Sunday, May 22, 2016 was First Fruits Giving Sunday. Sixty pledges were turned in totaling $602,084.  As of August 27, 2017, one year and three months into the three-year campaign, $354,763 has been given. Of that amount, $42,000 is from non-pledged gifts. 

Upon the recommendation of the Administrative Committee, the Long Range Planning Committee transitioned into a Building Committee and the following names were presented to staff the committee: Rick Shelnutt, Patty Gibson, John Crowley, Don Simpson, Robin Shelnutt and Andy Gwaltney. This committee will exist until all components of the new campus are built. 

The Building Committee met with Steve Newton and Gary Nicholson and plan to recommend using them as the architects for our new church. Their architectural fees will be approximately $14,000. The committee feels we should be able to do the dirt and site prep for about $150,000. Jonathan Roberts, civil engineer, has been hired to pull together the plans and necessary permits to proceed with land preparation. 

As this history is being written, the church is waiting for a decision from the Joint Water and Sewer Commission concerning a sewer tap-in. Once that has been successfully negotiated, site prep will begin in earnest. 

While much work and interest has been focused on moving forward with building plans and selling the building at 1700 Frederica Road, the ministries of the church have continued to grow. 

In the summer of 2014, the church went from two services on Sunday mornings to one blended service.  In the fall, leadership decided to try a new schedule for Sunday worship. Sunday School would begin at 9:15am with worship beginning at 10:30am. When attendance reached 80% of the church capacity, we would return to two services. At the present time, we have not moved to two services although the sanctuary is getting pretty full some Sundays. 

In 2014, Rick Shelnutt, Becky Parker and Don Simpson took on the task of updating and improving a new website. When asked how they knew about FrBC, many of our visitors indicate they found us on the internet. As more and more people rely on the internet to find information, it is important that our presence there is well done. 

At the annual church conference in 2015, Pastor Whit recognized Gary Thorsen for serving ten years as the Business Administrator. He was presented with a beautiful stained glass cross. it was announced Ken Sala had agreed to come on board to fill the administrator position. In the fall of 2016,the paid administrator position was eliminated and Ken Sala, Rick Shelnutt, Don Simpson, and Gary Thorsen agreed to share the responsibilities of the job. 

At our annual church conference in 2017, Pastor Whit presented Janet Mead with a beautiful stained glass cross and a plaque signed by church members. He thanked her for fourteen (14) years of taking exceptional care of our children as Preschool Director. Kathy Sprouse is accepting the job. 

So many good things have happened during the last five years that it would be hard to list them all. The following new ministries were begun: 
                The Sewing Ministry led by Sherry Gwaltney
                Youth Choir began in the fall of 2013
                The church sponsored the Good News Club at J.B. Greer Elementary School and                        began at Frederica Academy this fall. 

Additionally, the church saw growth in many ministries:
                Women's Ministry
                Men's Ministry
                Congregation Life
                Women's Tuesday Morning Bible Study
                Titus 2 Ladies Luncheon
                Pace Setters
                Children's and Youth Ministries
                Inside Out and Vacation Bible School 

The Wednesday night activities grew by leaps and bounds! Our children grew into youth and the Wednesday night attendance for youth was often 25 - 30. The Wednesday night Fellowship Supper flourished with attendance in the 70's and 80's. Bible Study for the adults often reached 40. Since our children were now youth,Inside/Out attendance was less, but the program was strong. Wednesday nights have been a busy, fun, learning time. 

Several of our members have continued to go to the uttermost parts of the world to share Jesus. Marcia Smith, Brenda Clifton, Rick Shelnutt, Bridgett Taylor and Becky Parker traveled to Romania. Brenda Clifton journeyed to China. Nancy Lane and Lara Carlson traveled to Russia with the Jubalheirs. Lisa and Stacey Warren, Rick Shelnutt, and Don Simpson traveled to Honduras and Denise White to Israel. Lara, Rachel and Ashely Carlson traveled to Pittsburg, PA. 

Our music ministry, led by Brother Paul Reed, continues to bless not only those who sing, but those who get to listen every Sunday. The Youth Choir, as mentioned earlier, was formed in 2013 and has really blessed us all. The Adult Choir and Handbell ringers presented a Christmas Concert at the Glynn Place Mall at Christmas and the Adult Choir presented  Christmas music at Marshes Edge Retirement Center. Brother Paul continues to give free guitar lessons as part of the music ministry. 

God has added to our number through salvation with beach baptisms and folks moving their membership to join with us as we seek to find God's perfect will for His congregation. Among the 70 plus, we have been blessed with several young families with new babies, and are praying for more! ! They are the church of the future. We have also been very blessed to have other families join us who are on fire for the Lord and willing to work. We thank God for each person He has brought our way over the past five years. We are blessed by their presence. 

August of 2018 saw our beloved Pastor Whit obey the call of God to leave Frederica Baptist Church and take a new senior pastorate at Covenant Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN. Oh, how our faith has been challenged to grow - both in saying goodbye, with a tinge of sadness and with a joy of faith in knowing God's will is being done in both his life and ours. 

God continues to faithfully lead us. We are blessed by hearing the Word of God faithfully preached with passion every time a new minister stands before us as we continue our search for God's man to fill our pulpit. We await with patience and great expectation for God's choice for us.