In 1956, nineteen members of Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church living in Sandy Springs met with a representative of Second Ponce at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Brock to discuss their vision to plant a church in the rural community northwest of downtown. Prayer services were held to discern the Lord’s leading. Within a few months, Mount Vernon Chapel was founded.
On July 11, 1956, Second Ponce purchased a 21-acre tract of land for the construction of the future Mount Vernon Chapel. On October 14, the first service of Mount Vernon was held in the James L. Riley School (now part of Holy Innocents School). Dr. Monroe Swilley, Senior Pastor of Second Ponce, conducted the service at which thirty-two persons presented themselves for membership in the newly organized mission. It was clear within the first year that the Lord was raising up a church.
Mount Vernon Chapel called its first pastor, the Reverend Forrest Garrard, Jr. who served with a shepherd’s heart, on November 1, 1957. By this time the membership had grown to 83 members. And for the next 21 years, Mount Vernon experienced the fruit of being shepherded by one pastor until March 31, 1976 when Forrest Garrard, Jr. resigned.
On October 11, 1959, Mount Vernon Chapel was constituted as Mount Vernon Baptist Church with 232 charter members adopting a Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and governing Bylaws. Second Ponce deeded the land and gave $50,000 to the church for the future construction of the first building. The initial building was occupied and dedicated on October 13, 1963. At her conception, Mount Vernon Baptist Church has been committed to conservative, evangelical doctrine as articulated in the Statement of Faith and a robust holy living as found in our Church Covenant. Both are characteristics as of today and an indicator of the Lord’s faithfulness is preserving his church.
Growth and Change
Following the resignation of Reverend Garrard, Dr. James Dwiggins was called as Mount Vernon’s Senior Pastor on October 26, 1976. He was a committed teacher-pastor and used his gifted teaching to equip members to teach. This commitment to train and equip members to teach and do the ministry is still the goal of our staff. By this time membership had grown to 680 and was about experience more significant growth, as the rural area of Sandy Springs became a growing suburban community.
In the summer of 1985, Reverend Jim Wood was called as pastor. A gifted preacher and dynamic church leader, he brought vitality to the church resulting in spiritual and numerical growth. To accommodate such growth, the current sanctuary and additional Sunday School space was built.
Reverend Wood also encouraged and led Mount Vernon to take a strong stand on some essential cultural issues. He actively took a stand in the Pro-Life Movement and served as a trustee of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Contrary to popular trends, Jim Wood resigned at the peak of his ministry in 1991 to start a ministry for families in crisis. It was also under Jim Wood’s leadership that our current Associate Pastors Bryan Pillsbury and David Carnes were called to come on staff.
Beginning a New Century
Reverend Sam Boyd served as Senior Pastor from September 1992 until November 2002. Early in Sam’s ministry, he challenged the church to eliminate some outstanding debt allowing her to immediately increase missions giving. This increased commitment to missions allowed Mount Vernon to be strategic partners in several church plants and develop mission partnerships from Atlanta to the ends of the earth. Our missions’ commitments and partnerships are continued today under the leadership of Bryan Pillsbury.
Dr. John Bryan was called to be the Senior Pastor in December 2004, two years after Sam’s resignation. He was dedicated to building relationships with the church staff, members, and other area churches. With the introduction of our Foundations Campaign initiative, Pastor John outlined specific areas of needed improvement to better reach our community and to better equip and mobilize our membership. In November 2007, after three years at Mount Vernon, Pastor John was led to pursue a speaking, writing, and broadcast ministry and has started a new journey called KeyWord Ministry.
A Senior Pastor Search Team was immediately formed and worked hard at seeking God's direction and leadership for Mount Vernon’s next Senior Pastor. In God's faithfulness, he provided a pastor within a few months. The church called Dr. Aaron Menikoff to be the seventh pastor on April 13, 2008. In his short tenure, he has shown an unrelenting confidence in the authority and power of preaching God's word and commitment to knowing and equipping members to share the gospel.