Established in 1824, the Porterdale Baptist Church began outside the village across Ga. Highway 81 from the Baptist Cemetery. Noah Phillips donated land to the church with the understanding that if it ceased to be a church, it would revert back to the Phillips family. When the Porterdale Mills were established, the church moved to the village and the property went back to the Phillips family.
"It was amusing to read the old handwritten records," said the Rev. Dickie Johnson, pastor of Porterdale Baptist Church. "They used to kick folks out of the church for dancing, having parties in their home and cursing in public."
During the time when the mill was in operation, Porterdale Baptist was home to 600 people who lived in Porterdale and walked to church. Now, with less than 10 percent of the congregation living in Porterdale, the 150 who attend regularly drive from Covington, Conyers and Mansfield.
"We have a traditional church because I am an old fashioned preacher having grown up in a Baptist pastor's home and having been in the pastorate for 43 years," said Johnson.
PBC offers Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. with morning and evening worship at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Former pastor, J.S. Brown leads a mid week Bible study on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Prayer meeting and the children's Bible club follow at 7 p.m.
"We have an excellent Sunday school with good teachers," said the Rev. Johnson. "We were devastated when we lost Cindy Savage. Her daughter Marie Webb is our music director, and she is doing an excellent job."
Porterdale Baptist, a church that always meets their goals for foreign, home and state missions, continues to be a lighthouse on the corner, reaching out to the community.
"We have a group of people who are compassionate and love the church," said the pastor. "During December, our Brotherhood Organization delivered 55 new bicycles to the Georgia Baptist Children's Home. The Women on Missions are the mission consciousness of the church."
Joyce Fincher, outreach director who periodically delivers their donated hand knitted and crocheted blankets to Newton Medical's Birthcare Center, regards her pastor as a supporter, confidant and comforter to every family in the congregation.
"Dickie exemplifies what it truly means to be a Christian and the shepherd of the flock," said Fincher.
The church contributes to Operation Sandbox and Relay for Life. A newly purchased case displays eight Relay for Life trophies from 2003 forward, noting last year's award for being the largest contributing church raising $14,520.
Johnson recalled his salvation experience back in 1952 when he was eight years old.
"My dad, W.D. (Dick) Johnson and I were baptized the same night," he said.
Johnson was licensed to preach at age 16 and ordained at age 19 at the Sterling Baptist Church. Johnson attended Brewton Parker College at Mount Vernon and graduated from Georgia Southern with a B.A. in English and a minor in political science and speech.
Born in Statesboro, Johnson's family moved to Polk City, Fla., where he met his wife Polly while attending high school. Polly is employed as a purchasing clerk in the business office at the Newton County Board of Education. Johnson describes his wife as a blessing and servant to the church.
"Most of the churches that I have pastored have made it clear that I could go any time I wanted to, but they would keep Polly," said Johnson as he smiled at his ministry partner.
Their daughter and son-in-law, Rene´ and Daniel Seals have a son Jared and live in Covington.
The Johnsons have served at Sardis Baptist Church in Wheeler County, Olive Branch Baptist Church in Bryan County, Helena Baptist in Taliaferro County, New Bethel Baptist Church and Montrose Baptist Church in Laurens County, Alapaha Baptist Church and Odum Baptist Church in South Georgia and twice in Porterdale - from 1981 to 1985 and from 1990 to present. Johnson received a certificate from Governor Joe Frank Harris for serving as chaplain for the day in the U.S. State Senate on Jan. 11, 1983.
The double doors of the Porterdale Baptist Church open to a welcome mat that reinforces their message to the community.
"I do want everyone to know we have an open door policy," said the pastor. "We love the Lord and love the people and want to grow."
For more information, call (770) 786-2650.