The Oldest Continuous Baptist District in The Nation
Among the long list of unsung heroes and untold stories which are a part of African American Baptist heritage, perhaps none have been quite so unheard of as that of the history and contributions of the Wood River Baptist District association of Illinois.
Among the many publicized works of American Church history, one often finds no mention of this story at all. In the accounts of most American Baptist church histories published during this century, one occasionally finds brief sketches, or perhaps a paragraph here or there, and sometimes even a few pages about African American church history.
Often, however there is no mention of one of the most important movements of African American Baptist history, and that is the Wood River Baptist District Association movement. Most of these general histories of Baptists in America, spend much of their time dealing with Negro Baptists, or Black Baptists, in terms of their relationship to the particular Baptist body to which the historian belongs, or is writing about; but they do not go into enough detail about African American Baptist history to even mention the Wood River Baptist District Association story.
In a few of these general volumes of Baptist history (especially those published since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and 1970's), one occasionally finds a whole section, or even a brief chapter on African American Baptists; but, again, nothing, or only a few lines on one of the most important stories of the African Baptist Church, the story of Wood River.
In most instances, therefore, one who is searching for any good account of the Wood River Baptist District Association is forced to go directly to African American Baptist histories that are written by African Americans. In spite of its inadequate treatment in history, Wood River Baptist District Association of Illinois is the oldest continuous African American Baptist Association in the country today; and it has continually influenced the religion and lives of numerous African Americans from the nineteenth century antebellum period to the present. It may even be the oldest African American Baptist Association in the world.
As of 2012, the association has existed for more than one hundred and seventy three years following the date of the publication, "The History of Wood River Baptist District Association", published and copy written in 1996 by Wood River Baptist District Association. Dr. Orville B. Jones, Jr. served through the 173rd Annual Session which closed out at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Moline, Il..
2014 will mark 175 years of continuous service and will celebrate this occasion in Alton, Il, July 2014. Dr. Joseph Williamson, III now serves as Moderator.
The Primary writer for this historic publication was authored by The Reverend Dr. Eddie Mabry, PhD, currently 2202 North Main, Decatur, Illinois 62526