Ivie Funeral Home and its controversial crematory are gone. And now in its place, Gilead Baptist Church and its congregation have found a permanent home at the corner of Booger Hill Road overlooking Hwy. 29, just outside Danielsville.
Pastor Sean Thomas said his church, which previously rented space in the old Brown Funeral Home building, has purchased the property.
The kickoff ceremony for their new building was Sunday, May 1, with more than 200 in attendance, Pastor Thomas said. They also had more than 40 children in children’s church.
Those are pretty good numbers for a church that began in June 2013 in Thomas’s living room with just three families.
Thomas said the church was started for those who had been hurt in their associations with other churches.
“We wanted a place for people to feel safe – we don’t want a museum for Saints, instead we want a hospital for sinners,” Thomas said.
A sign in his office reads “There is a balm in Gilead.”
Thomas said it refers to the verse from Jeremiah 8:22, which reads, in part, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?”
“A balm is like a healing,” Thomas said. “And we want people to find a healing here…we want to be a spiritual hub for a hurting county.”
Thomas said they like to think of it as the Lord brought them out of a “hole” (Brown Funeral Home location) to a hill (Booger Hill Road).
The congregation rented the former Brown Funeral Home from Tom Lord (of Lord and Stephens Funeral Homes) who had purchased it as a foreclosure in late June 2013. By August of that year the church congregation had grown to nine families and signed its official charter.
Thomas said he is grateful to Mr. Lord for allowing them to rent the space but says their new building is much more suitable to their needs.
“There was a lot of history with Brown having been a funeral home for 30 to 40 years, whereas this building was built as a church,” he said.
The building was originally Harvest Church and later Family Worship Center, before becoming Ivie Funeral Home.
Thomas said he was driving home from his full-time job as an outside salesman for the automotive parts industry on Jan. 1 when he saw people he knew standing outside the building. He stopped and they told him that Ivie had closed the funeral home and crematorium and that Family Worship Center was putting the building on the market.
He spoke to his congregation and the church closed the deal on the property on April 8.
“We’ve done a lot of work (such as painting) since then,” Thomas noted. They’ve decorated Sunday School rooms and set up a dedicated youth room in the back.
Thomas grew up in Madison County between the Neese Community and Ila on Hwy. 106 and is a 1995 graduate of Madison County High School. He and his wife, Amy, have two children. The couple spent a decade of their married life ministering and singing all over the Georgia State Prison System. They met when they both attended Trinity Baptist Church, where she was choir director.
His wife also sings in her family gospel group, called “The Reeds,” and she has also sung with gospel singer and pastor Jeremy Duggins.
“The Lord just put this place (Danielsville) on my heart to start a church here,” Thomas said. “We began in a hole and now God’s put us on a hill. This is our home and were very thankful and proud, it’s not a work of our own, but the Lord has put us here and we’re looking for great things to take place.”
Gilead is an independent Baptist church. The assistant pastor is Steven Samples, who is married to Kellie, and the youth pastor is Zach Holtzclaw, who is married to Amanda.
Church services are held each Sunday, beginning with Sunday School at 10 a.m., followed by worship services at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. There is also a prayer meeting service on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m.