Bonnie Windle
Photo courtesy of Pickens Baptist Association

New history of Pickens County Baptists highlights longtime church life in West Alabama

A new history of Pickens County Baptists is available, thanks in part to the work of late Pickens Baptist Association Director of Missions Gary Farley.

The book, “Studies in the History of the Pickens Baptist Association of West Alabama,” includes Farley’s writings about Baptist work in the region, said Bonnie Windle, a writer and editor who compiled the collection.

“This work was too valuable to lose,” said Windle, who was Farley’s administrative assistant at the association office from 2011 to 2016.

In addition to her other duties, Windle helped write the association’s monthly newsletter, so she knew about Farley’s notes, which he kept in a notebook he titled “PBA History.”

Windle said she tried to convince Farley to publish his notes before his death in 2020. When that didn’t happen, she worked with Farley’s wife, Jacque, to publish his collection posthumously.

“I think Dr. Farley would say, ‘Well, y’all finally got your way,’” Windle told The Pickens County Herald.

26 churches represented

The book contains 26 church histories written by Farley, plus information about the more than two centuries of Baptist work in the area, including rules of decorum, articles of faith and the missions heritage of the association.

The result is a 275-page resource for Pickens County Baptists and associations like Cahaba (now part of West Central Baptist Association), Bigbee, Sipsey and Tuscaloosa that border Pickens County. The book also includes information about other denominations in the region, Pickens Association’s ministry to the federal prison in Aliceville, the beginnings of Sunday School at area churches and the split between missionary Baptists and primitive Baptists in the early 1800s, Windle said. Anyone interested in church history, especially rural church history, will enjoy reading the compilation.

“I think this book will tell [those in Pickens County] something about their origins and [others] about the development of the churches and what the churches stood for at that time,” she said.

Janet Estis, Woman’s Missionary Union director for Pickens Association, is happy to see Farley’s notes published.

“Praise the Lord for Dr. Farley’s love of history and his desire to preserve it for future generations,” she said.

Storyteller

Another fellow church member and friend of Farley, Joe Irwin, said the book is tangible evidence of many of Farley’s gifts.

“While he was a recognized historian and teacher, I think of him as a storyteller — one of the finest. He had the uncanny ability to completely captivate anyone regardless of age, education, background or station.”

Farley served as director of missions for Pickens Association from 1997 until his retirement in 2018. He had previously served as rural church specialist with the North American Mission Board and brought years of experience to his ministry in West Alabama. His life mission, Windle said, was to serve rural churches and reach people for Jesus Christ.

“Studies in the History of the Pickens Baptist Association of West Alabama” is one way Farley’s legacy will live on, she added.

The book are available in paperback ($39 plus $5 shipping) and hardcover ($52 plus $5 shipping). To purchase, send a check and shipping information to Bonnie Windle, 1971 Spring Hill Road, Carrollton, AL 35447. (Reporting by Donna Bain of the Pickens County Herald, TAB Media contributed)