Two years after the end of the Civil War the region surrounding and including York County was desperately trying to rebuild and recover. York County had suffered the highest casualty rate of South Carolina. Everyone had lost family members in the war and knew veterans who had lost limbs as well as widows and orphans who had lost the breadwinner of the family. Reconstruction was in full swing supported by the continued presence of the United States military garrisoned in Yorkville at the site now occupied by the York Place Children’s Home and in Ft. Mill. The rail head at the “rock hill” was quickly developing into a new township and a population boom was taking place as northern speculators leveraged the desperation of the occupied south. Ex-slaves were quickly learning how to negotiate life and the new reality that freedom brought with it. The “old south” was definitely gone and no one knew what the future would look like.
It was out of this dramatic culture shift that the York Baptist Association was born. Those first York Baptists had every reason to be bitter, resentful and angry, but to their credit, they focused on their Calling as followers of Christ and found a way to increase their ability to reach out and embrace their community in the midst of dramatic change.
From the minutes of the first meeting of the York Baptist Association:
On August 10, 1867 a meeting was held at the Yorkville Baptist Church and the “Baptist Union of York” was organized. During this meeting, the decision was made to call a convention of delegates from churches wishing to form a new Baptist Association. The delegates met at the Union Baptist Church in Philbert on the 10th, 11th and 12th of July 1868. The delegates agreed to a first meeting of the York Baptist Association on October 17th 1868 at the Yorkville Baptist Church.
Delegates from Catawba, Enon, Harmony(Chester County), Mill Creek, Pleasant Valley, Sugar Creek(Flint Hill 1906), Union(Philbert), Union(Sandy Plains, NC, 1875) and Yorkville Baptist Churches were recognized and seated as the first body of the York Baptist Association.
The purpose of that original body was, “the union and cooperation of its members for their spiritual growth and the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ by all Gospel means”.
The first action taken by the York Baptist Association was the promotion of and establishment of Sunday Schools in all the churches and the employment of a Missionary. The duty of the missionary was to labor in places where there were no pastors. The first missionary served 11 months. The second missionary was employed full time and was expected to give two Sundays to the Yorkville church, one Sunday to the newly organized Ft. Mill church and one Sunday to Rock Hill where there was no church at the time. His full-time annual salary was $600.00.
The 1870 Annual Report showed that six of the ten churches had Sunday Schools and the total membership of the ten churches was 908 people.
York Baptists are once again confronted with perhaps the most dramatic culture shift since 1867. The Modern Age is waning and the Post-Modern Age is crashing like a tsunami into our current reality!
Today the York Baptist Association consists of over 75 diverse congregations with a total membership exceeding 28,000. Our churches continue to support and cooperate with one another for the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, locally and globally. We have learned from our past failures as well as our victories. Working together, we provide spiritual growth opportunities and resources through weekly Sunday School, Community Groups, training events, retreats, and special events. Our churches are also “On Mission” by providing ministry to the entire York County area as well as mission teams sent across North America and around the world!
We are committed to continue to work together to find ways to more effectively reach out to and embrace our changing community. Our churches continue to be focused on our Calling to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord in this day and in this culture.
Those original “brethren” meeting in Yorkville would be amazed by all that has changed in the decades since they met but, no doubt, they would be gratified to see the fulfillment of their vision for the formation of a “Union of Baptist Churches” that are indeed “unified and cooperating for spiritual growth and the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ by all Gospel means!”
“During the spring of 1867 some brethren in the bounds of York County, feeling the importance of a greater unity among the churches in this part of the country, agreed to organize a union of the churches, which should hold its meetings on the fifth Lord’s Day during each year, commencing on Friday before.”