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Posted: April 28, 2012 5:31 p.m.

Social Circle’s rich spiritual heritage

I love a chapter from "The Prophet" where Prophet Kahlil Gibran speaks of religion: "Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations? Who can spread his hours before him saying, ‘This for God and this for myself; this is for my soul, and this other for my body?'" For me, this suggests that the way we live expresses our deepest faith. I thought about that in recognizing how important our churches have been in supporting our community. For example, at our recent city-wide cleanup, almost all of our churches showed up to help.

We have been particularly fortunate in having some "start-up" churches that have taken an active role in our community events. One of these churches, The Trail to Christ Worship Center, is not really a "start-up" - it actually had its beginnings at the Pony Express auction barn on Hwy. 11 at Hwy. 142 in Newton County. A breakdown of the HVAC systems at that location led to a move by the church to our downtown area where it sits happily among the retail and business establishments.

Pastor Tim Partlow said he was called to the ministry a long time ago and he considers himself an old fashioned holiness preacher. An avid musician since he was six years old, he believes that music opened doors for him to further his preaching vocation. His piano music is in the style of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, rock'n'roll artist Jerry Lee Lewis and country music pianist Floyd Cramer, and music and preaching are both an integral part of the services.

According to Evangelical Outreach Preacher Dan Corner (www.egangelicaloutreach.org), the most powerful holiness preacher who ever lived was the Lord Jesus. "Real holiness preaching will boldly denounce sin and call sinners to repentance, as clearly shown by the Lord Jesus and John (the Baptist)." Pastor Partlow aptly demonstrated his holiness style of preaching at our annual community-wide Sunrise Easter Service in Social Circle where his sermon, according to many members who attended, was the most animated, forceful and really "attention-getting" of all the others on the program.

Pastor Partlow described his worship services as being very simple, rather than a more ritualistic or structured form of worship. He wants people to feel comfortable attending the services, without having to dress up in their "Sunday best." His mission is to get people to come and develop a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. "Let Jesus guide them in their everyday life, and inspire them to live up to his expectations." The church is reaching out in the community and hopes to initiate a youth program in the near future.

Worship services at the Trail to Christ Worship Center are held at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings. A concert at the church is held on the third Saturday of each month at 6 p.m., where local church musical groups are invited to perform.

Trail to Christ is a strong supporter of the Social Circle Better Hometown Program and recently hosted one of our monthly BHTP Merchant Coffee Meet and Greet gatherings at the church.

The Church at the Grove is another church that has become a very active player in the life of our community, providing volunteer services far beyond the call of duty at community events. I learned that church members served literally as the "right hand man" of Better Hometown Program Manager Mike Miller in helping with our annual Friendship Festival last fall. Social Circle volunteer Mary Cross stated that, "There was literally nothing they (the members) wouldn't do when it came to taking on the hard jobs in setting up for the Festival."
The Church also provided sausage biscuits and other refreshments at our annual city-wide cleanup events.

When I spoke with Pastor Nathan Boyd about the origins of the church, I learned that about 20 years ago, the First Baptist Church of Social Circle helped to establish the Summit Baptist Church in Loganville. The Summit Church was then instrumental in establishing the Church at the Grove in Walnut Grove. The Church at the Grove has very recently initiated a second campus in Social Circle.

According to Pastor Boyd, the goal of the church is not to build a mega-church, but to begin a movement wherein people are sent out to serve the communities they are in. Recent studies on church attendance have suggested that new churches reach people faster than more established churches. Learning about God's word in a smaller, less intimidating environment is a much more fulfilling and enduring experience for many people who cannot relate to a more formal structure of worship. The Church is targeting people of all ages and hopes to lead them to Christ.

While pursuing a business degree at the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Pastor Boyd heard a spiritual calling to the Christian ministry and transferred to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in ministry with a concentration in biblical studies and began work with the Church at the Grove in 2007 as a youth pastor. He currently works full time as the Executive Pastor of Church at the Grove and Pastor of the Social Circle campus.

Sunday worship services at the Church at the Grove are offered at 10:30 a.m. at both the Walnut Grove and Social Circle locations, led by Lead Pastor Russ Butcher and Executive Pastor Boyd alternating between the two locations. Access to their sermons is also available on the Church's website at www.churchatthegrove.com.

Our local Church at the Grove campus church meets in the Social Circle Middle School. Throughout the week, members meet in community groups in order to study scripture together and build relationships with one another. This is an opportunity for members to get to know each other, discuss their spiritual concerns and interact with church leaders on an informal basis.

This article is the first of a planned series to cover our other non-traditional and established churches, focusing particularly on their involvement in the community. We have a rich spiritual heritage here in Social Circle which many of us are proud to proclaim.

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