Sep. 7—Known for his expertise and perspective on all things Alabama, historian and author Wayne Flynt has shared his skill and talent locally by writing a book about Parker Memorial Baptist Church, his home church when he was an Anniston teenager.
A professor emeritus of history from Auburn University, Flynt, who will turn 82 in October,will speak at 11 a.m. Sunday at the church in connection with its 135th anniversary.
"I love that church more than I can say," Flynt said. "It is where I grew up spiritually. I had felt a call to preach while in Dothan, but I was extremely immature."
Flynt said he remembers his family's decision to settle in Anniston when he was 14. They chose to attend Parker, and the experience there was formative. He credits its minister, the Rev. B. Locke Davis, with "managing the spark that became a meaningful flame," Flynt said.
Flynt's flame led him to choose not the ministry, but a career as a teacher and scholar at first Samford University (then Howard College) and later at Auburn University, from which he retired. While at Samford, he taught Sunday school at Vestavia Baptist Church, and began teaching Sunday school at Auburn Baptist Church, which he continues until today.
"His book 'Growing up Baptist in Anniston' is about Parker," said Jake Mathews, a longtime member of the church who serves as the chair of the history committee. "I could not think of a more knowledgeable person of our history or being a Baptist, in general."
Parker was built in 1888 and was, even in its earliest days, instrumental in supporting local and foreign missionaries. One of the earliest missions was in China, and Flynt's book, "Taking Christianity to China," records the involvement of the Southeastern states in China missions. One of the first foreign missionaries from Parker was Dr. T.W. Ayers, who, at age 40, traveled to China to teach the gospel and establish a hospital.
Flynt said the church's influence stands even today. In his 115-member Sunday school class in Auburn, several of the graduate college students from the Nigerian Baptist Seminary in Ogbomosho, Nigeria.
"They did not know that the seminary they are from is a legacy of the Parker Memorial Church," Flynt said. "The Rev. Christy Poole was our missionary from Parker and was sent there to establish the Nigerian Baptist mission. These students are Poole's spiritual descendants. The legacy of Parker church extends far beyond Anniston."