Let’s visit the oldest city in Georgia: Savannah. When Georgia was His Majesty’s colony, Savannah was the capital. It’s a port city, and it would go on to play a strategic role in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. It’s a charming city that is full of history, horse-drawn carriages, architectural features, and churches. Let’s talk about the church history of Savannah.
We start with John Wesley. Wesley set sail for Georgia on October 14, 1735. He reached Savannah on February 8, 1736, and he would leave on December 22, 1737. Savannah has twenty-two squares throughout the town, and one of them, Reynold’s Square, has a monument statue of John Wesley. On it are these words: “My heart’s desire for this place is, not that it may be a famous or a rich, but that it may be a religious colony. And then I am sure it cannot fail of the blessing of God.” Alas, Wesley did not fare so well himself in the fair city of Savannah. He considered his time there a failure, and there was the matter of a very complicated court case that ended in a mistrial. Oh, the drama!
George Whitefield fared much better in Savannah. He arrived in Savannah the first time on May 7, 1738. In 1740, he opened an orphanage just south of Savannah called “The Bethesda Orphan House.” Another one of those twenty-two squares is Whitefield Square. It’s beautiful, and it has a gazebo. I’m sure that if Whitefield were alive today, he’d be preaching in that gazebo.
We have Wesley and Whitefield, and we also have many churches in Savannah. There’s Christ Church, established by James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia in 1733. This is where Wesley and Whitefield would have preached. There’s also the First African Baptist Church. It dates back to 1774. This church has pews made by slaves, who marked the pews with words that were from an African dialect. This church was also part of the Underground Railroad.
Then, there’s Independent Presbyterian Church. It was established in 1755 by a charter of King George II. A fire destroyed the church building in 1889, but it was rebuilt as closely as possible to its original design. The marble baptismal font survived the fire and is still there in the church. The church has a magnificent, striking, breathtaking, pulpit made of mahogany. Also breathtaking are the tall federal windows, the granite floors, and the Corinthian columns. Woodrow Wilson married a minister’s daughter in this church in 1885.
Of course, Independent Presbyterian Church also has its famous steeple, which towers over the city. If you can’t make it to Savannah, you can simply watch the opening scenes of Forrest Gump. A feather dances around the steeple as it slowly descends upon the tree-lined streets of Savannah and lands right at the feet of Tom Hanks’ character, Forrest Gump, as he sits on a bench in Chippewa Square. That is one of the charming churches of the city of Savannah.