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Preserving the History of the Black Church National Project

First African Baptist Church is the oldest Black Baptist church in America.

Pastor Thurmond N. TillmanThe National Black Church Initiative is working with the Smithsonian Institute to help preserve and protect the history of the black church. This project will seek to raise funds to preserve the history of First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia. This is our first project. Every year we will select a church to help them preserve the history of their church and important church records. NBCI will hire curators to teach church how to preserve and store records. The main focus of the project is to help preserve documents, photographs, architectural design, help restoring the historic structure through renovation and helping to document the history of the church and the importance of it to church history in general and the black church in particular.

We are working with the Smithsonian to guarantee that hundreds of years from now our grandchildren will know the importance of the black church through this preservation project. They will be able to read the original documents of our church like the constitution of our churches, our hymn books, our sermons, and negro spirituals. This project helped in the continuity in the rich tradition of the black church from one generation to the next.

The written church history has become essentially important to document its history. The black church has a rich and enduring oral tradition. This is an attempt to create that history through documentation. We will use many means to do this; video photography will be one of those new technological concepts and documenting the extraordinary history of the black church. We will also use the latest techniques in photographing and preserving historic documents. Not only is this important for scholars but as we press forth the case of recreation, our church records will become an essential component in securing compensation for the labor of our forefathers. But it also will serve as a living testimony of the black church struggle for freedom, justice, and justice for all.

Most importantly, this project serves as a permanent record of our service and eternal commitment to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. These written testimonies of our walk with Christ will bear witness to our labor to the Gospel and serve as spiritual encouragement for our children's children to live, to preach, and to share the gospel of salvation of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ to their generation and to the lost.

On a breezy December day, God ordained that Thurmond Neill Tillman was born in West Palm Beach, Florida to the Reverend and Mrs. Eugene C. Tillman, Sr. He was reared in Brunswick, GA and graduated from Glynn Academy and Brunswick Junior College. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminal Justice and minor in Business Management from the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

welpic.jpgIn his obedience to the call of God and quest for seminary training, he attended and graduated the Interdenominational Theological Center Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, GA. There he received the Master of Divinity degree with a dual concentration in Bible and Christian Education.

In 1976, he was licensed to preach the Gospel at Shiloh Baptist Church, where Reverend E.C. Tillman, Sr. serves as pastor.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) Once again, Tillman listened to God and married Lawanda Copeland and they have two beautiful daughters; Trenile Nicole and Lauren Christina.

The First African Baptist Church, Franklin Square, Savannah, GA called him to serve as pastor in Savannah, Georgia in 1982. He has been teaching and preaching the Gospel and counting it all joy year after year with the oldest African American congregation.

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