The beginning of Terry Grove Missionary Baptist Church is a unique story passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition which has been reverenced as gospel truth. In 1865 starting a church or having a church meeting was a difficult endeavor to say the least. It could be said that it was the best of time and the worst of times. During this time African Americans were not able to worship freely. Large gatherings of African Americans were forbidden by Plantation owners.
Terry Grove Missionary Baptist Church grew out of a vision of Reverend Marion Dunbar, founder. Although court records, land tracts, and certain historical events indicate that he and his six followers organized the first church around 1865, the church origin can actually be traced to events growing out of and before the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras. Before and during the Civil War, African Americans were forced to have church service in a hush harbor, a place where slaves would gather in secret to practice religious traditions. Religion grew to become a highly respected part of slave life. It offered the enslaved hope and reassurance that brighter days were to come. Slaves in Mississippi and yes in the areas around Terry were forced to organize and conduct Church meetings in secret. These meetings were held after dark, and carried on late into the night. The locations would vary so getting caught was less likely. With a decisive victory in 1865 over Southern secessionists in the Civil War, the 13th amendment was ratified in December. The American Civil War ended in 1865, and Reverend Dunbar founded the church within the same year.
Reverend Dunbar and his six followers erected the first structure called a Brush Arbor. A Brush Arbor was a temporary structure made of nothing but tree limbs bound together and covered with brushes and bushes. Chicken wire was used to help hold the structure together. The land belonged to a white family (believed to be named Conway) and they deeded the members of Terry Grove the land. Soon after receiving the deed the first wooden structure was built. The church was built on a strong foundation of faith and prayer. Reverend Marion Dunbar served the church faithfully until his death in 1892. Terry Grove Church was and still is recognized as the “Mother Church” of African American in the Terry and surrounding areas.
During the next decades, the church experienced changes in leadership. Our second pastor was Rev. Aaron Reed, who served from 1892-1922. During his 30-year tenure the church was rebuilt. Between 1922 and 1948 Reverend A. J. Bradley, Rev. S. J. Griffin, Rev. Frank Williams, and Rev. John Taylor severed as pastors. Rev. E.C. Grier was elected as the seventh pastor on October 30, 1948, followed by Rev. G.W. Miles. In 1951 Rev. W. T. Guice was elected as the 9th Pastor. On September 21, 1958, Rev. Guice resigned and on September 30, 1958, Rev. E. W. Cornelius was elected as the 10th pastor of Terry Grove and served 13 years. Rev. Willie Brown was elected as the 11th pastor on March 25, 1971. Rev. Willie A. White was elected on December 10, 1975 and served 21 and ½ years. Rev. Lonnie D. Wesley was elected November 29, 1997.Under his leadership the congregation grew and expanded. Rev. Wesley, in his role as pastor inspired the church to purchase land to rebuild the church. Rev. Timothy Taylor served as interim pastor from December 2004 to December 2005. Rev. Zavean Woodard elected in 2005 and was installed on February 19, 2006. On February 2010, our present pastor, Dr. Dion F. Porter was elected to become our shepherd. Under his leadership our church has experienced a new life. Under his leadership the church was rebuilt in 2012. The first service was held in December 2012 and the church was dedicated in January 2013.
Under our present pastor, Dr. Dion F. Porter, over 20 ministries have been established. Our vision statement: “Seeking God’s Grace, Favor and Presence” (Ruth 1:16-17) is a true testament of Dr. Porter’s leadership. Under his direction these ministries have actively engaged the members to seek and to serve the Town of Terry as well as the surrounding communities.
Terry Grove Missionary Baptist Church