I don’t have much information about the Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Texas. But today, as I pulled into the gravel driveway in front of the historic church, I knew that was my own fault. You see, I grew up in this small town, spending my middle school and early high school years as a resident of Fayette County and attending the Fayetteville School. My parents still live in town and even though I moved away almost 40 years ago, we still have family gatherings there and my wife and I are regular visitors. I had a stark reminder of the serious cultural and religious divisions in this country as I drove through town today. I had to honestly admit how little I knew about my old hometown’s churches.
I can tell you a lot about Fayetteville’s Catholic church from my younger years. I remember the old CCD building and the sticky varnish on the old furniture we used for religious education. I remember the old wood-frame church with no air-conditioning, everyone used paper hand-fans that were in the pews next to the missalettes. That church was replaced sometime in the 1970’s with the current modern church. It has great AC. I know because it blew cold all year long. But at that age, the Mount Pilgrim Church would have been completely foreign to me. The congregation was African American and Baptist. In the 1970’s, having moved to the country from inner city Houston, I was probably more familiar with African American families than Baptist families!
But as I thought about those many years in Fayetteville, I realized I had never been inside the Lutheran or Brethren churches either. I passed those churches every day on the way to school. I’d never stepped foot in the Church of Christ on the square, and I couldn’t even recall an image of the Mt. Pilgrim Church. I vaguely recalled the church was there, somewhere along Hwy 159 northeast of the old hometown and I was determined to find it.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the small wooden church just about 1.5 miles from the square. The older portion appears to be in good shape and appears to date from at least the 1930's or 40's, though it may even be older. The 2x4 framing, metal roof, and board and batten siding is typical of utility structures in the area such as barns or storage sheds. The steeple, however, presents a clear image of a church. With louvers on three sides, it is likely the rooftop structure houses a bell or did so in the past. The new addition in the front may be completely new, or may be an enclosed porch. Someone thoughtfully extended a ramp to the front landing. Hand-painted black lettering simply states the congregation’s name, Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, and location, my old hometown, Fayetteville, Texas.
I made a mental note to reach out to the congregation members to arrange a visit and perhaps a time to join them in worship. And I added four other mental notes to do the same for the three other congregations I remembered from my childhood, and the fourth, a newer church, Cedar of Lebanon, Church of God in Christ right next door to Mt. Pilgrim.
Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church is located on Hwy 159 approx. 1.5 miles northeast of the Fayetteville Square.