By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: November 16, 2018 | 3:45 p.m.
WAVERLY – First Baptist Church of Waverly, VA – recognized as the first church in Waverly – will be celebrating its 150th Anniversary on November 17th and 18th. Founded in 1857 by a post-Civil War missionary simply known as Mother Hubbard, it was begun to serve all people, but most specifically newly freed slaves, according to Yvonne Willams, Chairperson pf the Anniversary Committee. And the sharing of the history of the church is just part of the anniversary celebration planned. Asked why the church’s anniversary is particularly significant, Williams shared why its reach has been broad – and historically important to the area.
“There were a lot of these missionaries who went around to various places starting churches,” she explained. “When Mother Hubbard started the church, the first service was held in what they call a Bush Harbor. They met around a bush.”
Historically, during antebellum America, such meeting places, also known as hush harbors, hush arbors, or brush harbors or arbors, were places in the woods where slaves would gather in secret to practice religious traditions. According to the church history, it was through the First Baptist Church that the people of Waverly were first introduced to formalized religion. It also was through the First Baptist Church that Waverly’s newly freed slaves were first educated. In cooperation with the officials of Sussex County, the first public School for Blacks was erected on church property at the site of the present church, and was the sole source of education for Blacks in Waverly well into the 20th Century.
Williams shared that she “Grew up in this church. I was baptized here and have been a member of the church for over 40 years. I’m excited about meeting this milestone, because it’s not often that you’re able to see a church reach 150 years. The first church building was completed in 1882. And I remember in the 1980s when the new church was built. We were so excited! That Sunday we all gathered together from the old church and marched to the new church and had our first service there. It was like one big happy family.”
“I feel like that’s one thing that’s so special about our church,” she continued. “The closeness of the members. I remember growing up here, all of the ladies were Somebody’s mother, and they all looked out for you – and let you know how you were acting, whether they were your own mother or somebody else’s. The people that will be on our banquet program grew up in the church. Maybe once they became adults they moved away and joined other churches, but they are participating in our banquet program.”
Completing the circle, the current (fifteenth) pastor, Reverend Dr. Bridget Wilson, is the first woman since Mother Hubbard to lead First Baptist Church. According to Reverend Wilson, “Today, we the members of First Baptist Church strive to carry on the mission of ‘Mother Hubbard’ to spread the gospel to all people as we go ‘Onward and Upward Together.’ We are the little church beside the railroad tracks where Everybody is Somebody and the Best Is Yet To Come!!!!”
Describing this week-end’s celebration, Williams said, “Saturday our anniversary banquet will be at 3 p.m. at the Jessica Moore Community Center in Waverly. The speaker is a son of the church, Rev. Eldridge Lucas III. In addition to sharing our history, we will have special recognitions and music provided by one of our former members. Then on Sunday at 11 a.m. during our regular service Reverend Pamela McLaughlin, First Lady of Mt Olivet Baptist Church in Petersburg, will deliver the morning message. Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. we’ll have our Anniversary Service, with Rev. Belinda Cosby, also from Petersburg, speaking, and the New community Male Chorus will be providing the music.”
All are welcome to the celebrations at 315 South Church Street, Waverly, VA. Tickets for the Saturday banquet are $35. For tickets to the banquet or further information on the week-end’s anniversary events, call 804-834-2797.