Sutallee Baptist Church sits on a 19-acre campus on Knox Bridge Highway—eight miles from the Canton and 7.6 miles from exit 290 on Interstate 75.
It’s in the middle of a rural area of Cherokee County, next to the Bartow County line. Senior pastor Billy Edmondson said the area is poised for growth, thanks to the preparations that were made for a 36,000-home, $3.5 billion development that never materialized.
Meanwhile, church members stay busy with community activities, hosting a voting precinct, neighborhood watch meetings and baseball practices on the ball field. Every year a patriotic "God and Country" celebration honors veterans and public safety workers, and buses are sent out to pick up children for Vacation Bible School. This summer, more than 300 youngsters attended.
When Edmondson joined the Sutallee staff in 1991, the 15 members were meeting in a basement with a tin roof, situated on five acres. Twenty years later, Sunday attendance is more than 200 with 700 members on the role.
The pastor’s Canton roots run deep. His grandfather traveled by horse and buggy from Dawsonville to move here when the Canton Mill opened. His dad started working at the mill at age 13.
Edmonson attended North Canton Elementary and before joining the Marine Corps in 1968. After two years serving in the Vietnam war, he came back to Canton and began working for a railroad company while attending Reinhardt and taking Bible classes offered by the Georgia Baptist Convention. He also took courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Through the Bible classes, Edmondson was preparing himself for ministry work that included teaching Sunday school, serving on committees and volunteering to help others.
Preaching wasn’t part of his plan. Apparently, it was part of God’s plan.
"The heavy hand of the Holy Spirit gets on your life and you realize that you can do anything in the world but you won’t be happy unless you're doing what you're called to do," said the pastor.
Edmondson started as a bi-vocational pastor, continuing his work with the railroad. His first church was Open Door Baptist, a five-member congregation in Jasper. Membership grew, and the church moved from meeting in a community center to its current site during his five years there.
The pastor describes himself as "evangelistic, a soul winner. I love to see people’s lives changed. I feel like a real church is a church that will know you at your worst and love you anyway. It's a church for people who think their lives are off track so bad. We want to help them change their lives."
ABOUT REV. BILLY EDMONDSON
Hobbies: Fishing, golf, working on cars.
Family: Married to wife Sheree for 11 years. Children Kristi, Joseph Bryan and Ray.
ABOUT SUTALLEE BAPTIST
The church’s address is 895 Knox Bridge Hwy. Sunday school is at 9:45 a.m., followed by 10:45 a.m. worship. You can tune in to WLJA 101.1 FM at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sundays to hear recordings of Edmondson’s sermons. For more information, call 770-479-0101 or go to www.sutalleebaptistchurch.com.