Visit Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta Georgia - Established in 1885, it is Augusta’s largest black congregation and a church with a national reputation. Stay and Play in GA!
Tabernacle Baptist Church 1885 - 2008
Its founder and first pastor, Charles T. Walker (1858-1921), was well known for his powerful preaching and for bringing the Walker Baptist Institute to Augusta Georgia in 1898.
Tabernacle Baptist Church was formed by members of the Central Baptist Church, which at that time was led by Reverend Walker. The congregation bought a lot on Ellis Street and constructed a two-story brick building with an auditorium that held 800.
The expanding congregation outgrew the Ellis Street Church. Property was then secured at the corner of Harrison and Gwinnett Streets (Laney—Walker Boulevard) that better suited the congregation’s needs, and a new church was constructed by 1915. The impressive sanctuary with its two towers was designed with Italian Renaissance influences and has educational facilities on the first floor with an auditorium above that can seat more than 2,000. At this location, Tabernacle Baptist quickly grew into the largest church for African Americans in Augusta Georgia.
Reverend Walker’s speaking abilities brought prominent visitors from around the country to worship. Many important individuals attended services at the church such as Booker T. Washington, John D. Rockefeller, and President William Howard Taft. Reverend Walker instituted a wide variety of educational offerings at the church including cooking; sewing; automobile, business, and night schools; a laundering department; a library; and a reading room. Long after his death, Tabernacle Baptist continued to play an important role in the community and served as a base for the Civil Rights Movement in Augusta Georgia in the 1960s.
Beginning in early 2001, Tabernacle Baptist spent five months and $550,000 to rehabilitate the historic church. Now inside, shiny brass railings reflect the new crimson colored carpet, and the old pews have been refurbished, along with three paintings from 1910 that adorn the sanctuary.
The church stands as a landmark in the Laney—Walker North Historic District neighborhood.
Reverend Charles Thomas Walker and the Tabernacle Baptist Church
The Tabernacle Baptist Church was formally organized as the Beulah Baptist Church on Friday, August 21, 1885, in the Union Baptist Church.
The organizational leader for the church was the Reverend Charles Thomas Walker. At the request of Reverend Walker, the name of the church was changed, by unanimous vote, to Tabernacle Baptist Church. This was done a special meeting on Sunday, August 23, 1885. The enrolled membership of the new church was 310.
The young pastor and his congregation made immediate plans to secure a permanent place of worship. Construction of a church edifice began on September 1, 1885. The building was located on Ellis Street, between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets. The church building was formally dedicated on December 13, 1885.
4 years later Tabernacle Baptist Church grew rapidly and became a leader in local, national, and international religious and community circles. By 1889, the membership of the church was 2000.
On August 25, 1886 the first National Baptist Convention of Negro Baptists met at Second Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Walker was one of only three delegates from Georgia who attended that convention. He became one of the leaders of the National Baptist Convention; in 1889, the convention was held in Indianapolis. Walker preached an arousing sermon, and Rev. Dr. William J. Simmons, D.D., President of the National Baptist Convention and President of the State University of Kentucky, told him, "You have won your D.D., and I’ll see that you get it."
In the summer of 1890 the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on Reverend Charles T. Walker. Later Dr. Walker served as Treasurer of the National Baptist Convention for three years. The book entitled, Life of Charles T. Walker, which was written by Dr. Silas Xavier Floyd in the early 1900s revealed other pertinent information about Walker and the history of Tabernacle.
In June of 1898 President William McKinley selected Walker from a list of 500 applicants to become the appointed Chaplain of the Ninth Immune Infantry in Cuba. According to the author of Walker’s autobiography, “He secured a leave of absence from his Augusta Church.”
Walker joined the predominantly African American regiment in the middle of November 1898 in San Luis, about thirty five miles away from Santiago, Cuba. Dr. Walker worked as a Chaplain in the United States Volunteers under President McKinley with the rank of captain for nearly two months.
Also during the late 18th century, the International Sunday School Convention was the leading “Sunday School organization in the world.” The constituency exceeded 23,000,000. Dr. Walker served as one of its five Vice Presidents.
Dr. Walker resigned from Tabernacle in 1899, to accept the pastorate of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in New York City. Reverend Silas Xavier Floyd succeeded him at Tabernacle.
One year after Dr. Walker left Tabernacle to serve as pastor of Mount Olivet. He led a five-week revival and 408 people gave their souls to Christ.
2 years later, Dr. Walker was called again to serve as pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church of Augusta Georgia in June 1901. The twenty years that would follow would become a glowing period in the church’s history. During the following decades Walker became a world-renowned pulpiteer.
He was also the first African American theologian post slavery to take a three- month sabbatical to the Holy Land. The predominantly African American congregation of Tabernacle paid for this extensive international trip.
A powerful preacher, Dr. Walker became internationally known as “The Black Spurgeon.” How did he acquire this propitious title? Well, during the last 18th century, Dr. Charles H. Spurgeon of London, England was a British minister who was known about the globe for preaching great sermons. Spurgeon invited Walker to preach at his famous church in England (Metropolitan Baptist Church) historical accounts read that Dr. Charles T. Walker shocked the predominantly White British audience. His intellect, Biblical knowledge and theology engaged the audience, left the people speechless, awestruck, and impressed.
It was during this time that Dr. Walker became known around the glove as the “Black Spurgeon.”
During the “Walker Years” Booker T. Washington, John D. Rockefeller, and President William Howard Taft visited Tabernacle Baptist Church.
In 1913, Tabernacle sold the Ellis Street property and purchased the site where the Lamar Hospital had been located at the corner of Harrison and Gwinnett Street (Laney-Walker Boulevard). The church edifice on Laney-Walker Boulevard became a historic Augusta Georgia landmark. The towering twin sanctuary was designed to accommodate 2300 people. The building design, a physical manifestation of Dr. Walker’s vision, also included plans to house a cooking school, a sewing school, an automobile school, a laundry department, and a library.
Dr. Walker died on July 29, 1921, and was buried in the shadow of the magnificent church spires.
Succeeding pastors assumed the cause of completing the edifice, ministering the church and the community. Included in the early years: Dr. Silas X. Floyd, Dr. W. R. Mack, Dr. D. F. Thompson, and Reverend I. J. Yancey. In 1934, Reverend Leander A. Pinkston was called as pastor.
Hours & Fees
Tours are by appointment only. To arrange, call 706-724-1230. Free admission.