By Amanda Wolkin

Wieuca Road Baptist Church will celebrate its 56th anniversary on July 11 with a keynote speech from the church’s founding pastor, Dr. J.T. Ford.

Ford said he will speak on the text “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” and how it relates to building a church.

“That text is like a formula,” Ford said. “In order to form a church, you must have people—all kinds of people—people with heart, soul and depth, brains and the willingness to act and work.”

The Wieuca Road Baptist Church held its first service in 1954. Ford left his position as the pastor of a church in Birmingham, Ala., to become the first minister at the Wieuca Road church in 1955.

The church began with 325 members and grew to about 5,500 members at its peak. Ford was the pastor there for nine years before relocating to the Washington, D.C., area.

Now 90, Ford and his wife, Mary Helen, live in Buckhead and are once again heavily involved with Wieuca Road Baptist Church, where he has been named Pastor Emeritus.