Abba has been one of my favorite places since I began rambling the backroads near my hometown twenty years ago. I have always loved this church, with its asymmetrical steeples, and its place at the edge of some of the most beautiful farmland in South Georgia. Its cemetery is one of the most peaceful places I know. A few of my ancestors are buried here. (An interesting geographical note- though the congregation is exclusively associated with Irwin County, the church building itself is actually located in Ben Hill County, due to boundary changes in 1906).
Abba Baptist Church, 1960s, Photo Courtesy Mike Kitchens
This shows Abba Church when there were two doorways at the base of each steeple and a Gothic window in the center.
Photo Courtesy Mike Kitchens
This shows Abba Church in 1970, around the time it was modified. Notice that the doorways at the base of the steeples have been closed off, and the Gothic window in the center has been replaced by a new entryway. The church looks the same today, as you can see in my own photographs, with one exception: the bell tower on the left has been closed.
I was grateful to get these vintage photographs and a great history of the church from Mike Kitchens. His father, Howard, served as pastor of Abba for 40 years.
The church began as Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in 1889, with M. L. Stone as first pastor, and O. D. Mulky as his assistant. Soon thereafter, Reverend Mulky changed the name to New Mt. Zion at Abba. In 1904, the original structure, a simple frame building, was moved across the road toward the railroad track and used as the Abba School for some time. In 1907, the present structure was built during the pastorate of J. R. Ballenger on land donated by J. M. Bussell. In 1955, the name of the church was changed to Abba Missionary Baptist Church. By this time, the village of Abba was in danger of disappearing from the map, so the new name was christened to ensure it would live through the ages. At some point, Missionary was dropped and it became simply Abba Baptist Church. (This history was compiled by longtime church secretary Mrs. J. W. C. Brown.)
I’ve always been told the name Abba originates from the Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic, or A. B. & A Railroad, which ran through the area and made whistlestops there in the late 1800s, though an interesting alternative would be the biblical term abba, which was a transliteration of the old Aramaic for father. I’d love to know for sure…
Many thanks again to Mike Kitchens for sharing this fascinating story.