Spring Indian Baptist
Every Sunday members of thirty seven different Indian
tribes gather to worship at Spring Indian Baptist Church, where hymns are
still sung in Creek and Seminole and prayers said in English and then translated.
The doors were opened in 1850 and have never been closed, making this the
oldest established Baptist church still in service in the state of
A six-day celebration in June will honor its one
hundred fiftieth anniversary by featuring Native singing, artifacts and photos
that have been collected over the years, Native services by Reverend Richard
Pickup, and homemade food such as Indian fry bread.
Although many Native American traditions remain the
same, the church it self has gone through quite a few changes, over the years.
"When the church was first built, the pews faced each other. The men sat
or one side, and the women sat on the other side. Today all the pews face
the pastor and the men and women sit together, says Head Deacon Lee
Jane McKane, a member for sixty-one years, remembers
going to the church as a young girl. "One of my earliest childhood memories
of the church was how strict the deacons were to the children, If they misbehaved
during the church service, the deacons tapped them on the shoulder with a
cane in order to make hem behave," she says. "Once when my cousin misbehaved,
one of the deacons made him sit up next to the altar in front of the entire
congregation [throughout the service]."
The newest church, a yellow brick, one-room building,
was built in 1936,
Four magnolia trees were planted next to the church
in honor of four members who were killed in action during World War 11. The
trees divide the church from the fellowship hall, where the adult Sunday
school classes are taught entirely in Creek and Seminole. Lunch is served
every Sunday after the service at the camp houses surrounding the church,
which used to house visiting members.
"We have over six hundred members, most of whom live
out of state but still contribute regularly to the church and attend services
whenever possible," says Amy Owings, a member for fifty three
The church does look a bit different than it did
in 1936. The front porch has since been enclosed, making room for Sunday
school classrooms and offices. "Up until the early 1980s, members were baptized
in a pond behind the church; now the baptistery is located inside," says
One thing that hasn't changed much, though, is the
pastor: Spring Indian Baptist church has had only six pastors since its
establishment. The first was John Jumper, great chief of the Seminole Nation
and colonel in the First Regiment of Seminole Mounted Volunteers for the
Confederacy during the Civil War. He retained his pastorate until he died
in 1894. Chief Jumper was succeeded by his son-in-law, John F. Brown, who
was principal chief of the Seminole Nation for thirty-four years and one
of the best known Seminole chiefs. He held the pastorate frorn 1894 to 1919.
Reverend George J. Jesse was the most recent pastor of the church. He served
for thirty six years until his death in 1998. "Over six thousand people attended
George Jesse's funeral," says Jack Cully, member of Spring Indian Baptist
Church. Several of the ministers who spoke at Jesse's funeral referred to
him as a prince. Currently, Lee Puntka is holding up the pastoral duties
until a new pastor is named.
This spiritual staple of central Oklahoma has a lot
of history and culture to share during its anniversary celebration and during
its regular Sunday morning services, where all are welcome.
Source: Priscilla Mohnkern - Oklahoma Today
Spring Indian Baptist Church is located eight and
a half miles east of Highways 99 on Highway 56 near Sasakwa. The 150th
Anniversary celebration will be held June 5-10, 2000.