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Pilgrim Rest Baptist celebrating 135th anniversary

| Randy Dickson
Christian recording artist Steve Green released one of his best loved songs, “Find us Faithful,” in 1988. One hundred years earlier, in 1888, a group of men and women got together to form Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Baker.
Geoff Prows has been pastor at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Baker since December of 2013.

Green could have been singing about Pilgrim Rest with these words found in the first verse, “But as those who’ve gone before us, let us leave to those behind us, the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.”

The exact date the church incorporated has been lost to time. The date isn’t as important as the fact the men and women of Pilgrim Rest have been faithful to pass along the heritage of godly lives through the generations that have followed.

The church will celebrate its 135-year anniversary at the annual Homecoming Sunday, April 30. There will be one worship service at 10 a.m., followed by a church family meal. Former associate pastor Darren Williams, who twice served at Pilgrim Rest, first as the Youth Pastor and then as the Children’s and Worship Pastor, will return to help lead the Sunday morning service.

Pilgrim Rest Pastor Geoff Prows said the men and women throughout the generations of the church have been faithful.

“I don’t know what the vision of those pioneers planting Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church,” the pastor said. “I would love to tell them, ‘Job well done,’ because they had a vision bigger than themselves and that’s why we are here today.”

Prows said it is his understanding that Pilgrim Rest is the third oldest Southern Baptist church in north Okaloosa County and is one of the oldest churches in the area of any denomination.

The only two SBC churches older than Pilgrim Rest are First Baptist Milligan, which was established in 1864, and First Baptist Holt, which was established a few months prior to PRBC.

The church first held services outside and sat on rough wooden benches split from logs of trees the men of the church had harvested.

“They sacrificed to have this church,” Prows said.

Prows, who began his ministry at Pilgrim Rest in December of 2013, is the 28th pastor of the church. Wiley Martin was the first pastor. Church records indicate that Donald Smith was the longest tenured pastor, serving the church from 1980-2004.

Under the leadership of Prows the church has seen its greatest growth.

Pilgrim Rest broke ground on its current worship center in October 2014. Earlier this month the church officially launched the Pilgrim Rest in Crestview.

The church is on mission around the world supporting missionaries and going on mission trips. It’s also active in the Baker community.

Prows is quick to credit his predecessor, Dr. Gerald Haley, who served from 2004-2013, for the groundwork he laid to make possible the growth the church enjoys today.

“He’s the one that God used as a catalyst to set the church up for our new worship center,” Prows said. “I remember in January 2014 I shared with the church that my goal was to have a building plan (for the worship center) by the end of the year.
“I didn’t know that we would be breaking ground in October 2014,” he added. “I didn’t know the plans were literally drawn up and just needed a little tweaking. That’s because of the vision of Gerald Haley.”

Like most Christians, Prows believes Jesus will return before another 135 years have passed. But under his leadership, Pilgrim Rest Baptist will continue to strive and light the way for future generations.

“I’m excited because I can tell you we’re going to continue to be missional,” Prows said. “We’re going to continue to try to reach our community, the surrounding community and the world for Jesus.
“We want to embrace all that has happened over the last 135 years and the great command of the Word to love the Lord with our heart, mind, soul and strength. We will love our neighbors as ourselves. We will truly embrace the Great Commission (passage found in Matt. 28:19-20) to reach the hurting for Jesus.”

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