Over 2,000 years ago, the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, came into this world in His birth in Bethlehem. After living a sinless life, He died for sinful men on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem that He might redeem all those who would put their faith in Him as Lord and Saviour.
Following His resurrection, He appeared to His followers and instructed them to preach, teach and carry on His work of evangelism so others might also trust Him for salvation. In the New Testament, we read of this Faith being passed from one person to another by the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has kept this Faith alive throughout the centuries by the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word, which the Spirit inspired men to write.
Sharon Baptist Church was begun by our living Lord, His Holy Spirit using the Bible and God-called people to start this work in King William County, Va. It exists unto this present day, because for 229 years, its people have been careful to pass their faith in Christ and His promises, as recorded in Scripture, on to others.
Yes, this church will continue until Christ comes again, provided it remains faithful to Christ, God’s Word and is zealous in spreading the Gospel, knowing that only through Jesus Christ can people be saved from eternal ruin.
This little book tells of the work of some of the people Christ has used in the beginning and growing of this church. Others may have been forgotten by men, but we can be sure that neither them, nor their work has been forgotten or overlooked by Christ and He will reward them when He returns. Many people have worked very hard to bring this book into being, particularly Mr. Stephen A. Colvin. We hope you will find it inspiring and enjoyable.
Originally written by John C. Penny
in August 1975, modified in 2004.
Romans 1: 15, 16
Anyone living in King William County, Virginia during the decade of the 1840’s had a lot to talk about. For the second time in a span of twenty-five years, a great uproar was made over moving the county seat from King William Courthouse to the Village of Aylett’s, on the Mattaponi River. It would take the intervention of the state legislature and a special vote of the people of King William to keep the county seat where it had been since the early eighteenth century. This vote had been taken in 1840, just after the people of King William had borne the expense of making a “handsome new addition” to the old courthouse. By the end of the decade, a sturdy brick wall had been constructed around the courthouse and the other buildings in the court square. And, in 1840, the Virginia general assembly approved the creation of a new voting precinct in the county, at the crossroads village called Mangohick.
These newsworthy events, important as they were, may have been pushed aside as word got around that a group of Baptists “up the county” had purchased a building located in the City of Richmond with the intention of relocating that building to King William County. Indeed, the deacons at Second Baptist Church, located “on the east side of Eleventh Street between D(Main) Street and E(Cary) Street,” in the heart of Richmond, had decided in 1841 or 1842 to sell their “meetinghouse” to a group in King William County. This “meetinghouse” had been constructed twenty years earlier when the deacons at Second Baptist Church had borrowed $2,000 to erect a new building. The “group in King William County” would completely dismantle this expensive brick structure, and move the entire building, “brick, pews, gallery, and window-sashes,” to a piece of land located on what was known as the Newcastle Road. To reach the new location, wagons bearing this precious cargo from the City of Richmond would have to negotiate the Mechanicsville Turnpike and cross the Pamunkey River at the Newcastle Ferry, where a man with “one wagon, four mules, and three servants” had to pay forty cents to get to King William County.
The enormous undertaking of moving the old Second Baptist Church from Richmond to King William had been completed by “the first Sabbath in April” in 1845, when a Sunday School was organized at the new Sharon Baptist Church. In October 1845 the Annual Session of Dover Baptist Association was held at Sharon, attended by representatives from thirty-six churches.
Archee Brown had been elected superintendent of the “Sabbath School” organized at Sharon Church. Archee Brown, a merchant, had acquired a large farm called “North Point,” on the Mattaponi River, which he cultivated with slave labor. Brown was one of a group of men who, like himself, were considered part of the “planter class,” or farmers who tilled large acreages with the help of enslaved African Americans. William Bosher of “Mount Columbia,” Josiah Burruss, who would later build “Queenfield,” Captain Augustus Drewry of “Bellevue,” and Thomas S. Jones of “Marl Hill,” were joined by William Turner, Lawrence Trant, James P. Pollard, and Baylor Hill in the group of men who engineered the construction of the new building. James P. Pollard, probably the youngest of these men, gave the land on which the church had been built. In 1843, the congregation which would rename itself as Sharon Baptist Church two years later was made up of 445 members. Among those included in this number were 279 African Americans, who occupied the church’s gallery, or balcony, during worship services. “Aunt Lizzy Brown,” a servant of Thomas S. Jones, became a member of Sharon Church as a young woman. Lizzy Brown lived near the Cattail Swamp, and at a Homecoming in 1933, she was recognized as the oldest living member of Sharon Church.
Long ago, the Cattail Swamp had given its name to the “Cattail Church,” constructed during the eighteenth century as a chapel of the Church of England. At that time, the County of King William was divided into two parishes, St. David’s and St. John’s. Saint David’s Parish was known as the “upper parish,” and Saint John’s Parish was referred to as the “lower parish.” The Cattail Church had been built as the parish church of Saint David’s Parish. After the Revolutionary War, when the Church of England, or the “Established” Church, lost the tax-supported status which it had enjoyed during the Colonial period, the Church, which had reorganized in 1785 as the Protestant Episcopal Church, became almost non-existent. During the early years of the nineteenth century, the remnants of the Episcopal Church shared Cattail Church with groups, such as the Baptists, who had been dissenters at the time of the American Revolution.
“Dissenter” was a term used to describe anyone who had grown weary of the practices of the Established Church. Everyone living in old Saint David’s Parish, for example, was required to pay a tax in support of the Established Church, and attendance at the parish church was a requirement. Infractions of the rules regarding church attendance or church support were punishable by fines or by time spent in the local jail. Naturally, by the time of the American Revolution, “two-thirds of the (Virginia) population were members of the dissenting churches, mainly of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Quaker denominations.”
In 1775, during this period when Virginians sought religious freedom, a group of twelve people banded together to form the “Upper College Baptist Church.” The name “upper college” derived from a grant of 10,000 acres of land made by King William and Queen Mary when the College of William and Mary had been chartered in 1693. This grant, which lay in Pamunkey Neck, was later part of King William County. Most of the grant lay in the “upper parish,” or Saint David’s Parish, while a small portion of the tract was located in Saint John’s Parish, the “lower parish.” Thus, this new church, built of wood, was located in that portion of the “College Tract” which lay in the “upper parish.” Students of Baptist history claim Upper College Baptist Church as the oldest Baptist Church in King William County, and as one of the oldest Baptist Churches in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1783 Upper College Baptist Church was among a group of churches that organized themselves as the Dover Baptist Association. In a letter to the Association dated January 1790, Upper College reported a membership of 210.
Upper College Baptist Church had been organized through the efforts of Elder John Young, who at the time was pastor of Reedy Church in the lower end of Caroline County. Elder Young was a great preacher, and in 1771 his zeal for delivering sermons without having “Episcopalian Ordination” or being licensed as a dissenting preacher had resulted in a stay of six months in the Caroline County jail. Several members of Elder Young’s congregation at Reedy Church lived in the upper end of King William County.
The first pastor of Upper College Church was Elder John Courtney, who served from 1775 until 1788, when he moved to Richmond to take charge of the congregation that later called itself the First Baptist Church. Elder Courtney was followed by Elder William Breeding, a man of evangelistic fervor who brought about a “great revival” during the years of 1788 and 1789. Elder Breeding’s ministry was cut short by his great zeal, as during a heated sermon, he broke a blood vessel and died. Elder Breeding was succeeded for a short time as pastor by Jacob Levi Abraham . Robert Baylor Semple, an early chronicler of Baptist history, has said that Jacob Levi Abraham was “of Jewish parentage,” and that he may have been “the first Jew in Virginia to be converted to the Baptist faith.” Mr. Abraham, according to Semple, “showed something of the Jew still,” because he “leaned more to the Old Testament” in his preaching. Abraham left King William in 1790 to take charge of Spring Creek Church in Chesterfield County.
John Whitlock followed Jacob Levi Abraham as pastor of Upper College. During Whitlock’s five-year ministry, a group of the Upper College congregation organized themselves as the “Lower College Baptist Church.” As one might guess, the new church was located on “college lands” lying in Saint John’s Parish. At the end of John Whitlock’s ministry, the Upper College congregation had 320 members. Elder William Brame took charge of this congregation in 1795 and enjoyed a ministry of approximately fourteen years. By 1809, Elder Brame had gone to First Baptist Church in Richmond.
On 26 September 1812 Beulah Baptist Church was organized by members of the Fox and Gwathmey families who had previously worshiped at Upper College Church. No records exist from the Upper College Church, but during the first thirty-seven years of the church’s life, the congregation founded two new churches and sent several “son-ministers” to spread the Gospel of Christ. In 1814, two years after the formation of Beulah Church, one Dudley Atkinson became minister at Upper College Church.
Tradition has it that the congregation of Upper College built its own wooden building in 1775, but by 1814 the congregation was sharing worship space with the Episcopal congregation at Cattail Chapel. Upper College continued in its long practice of sending a delegate to meetings of the Dover Association, despite the lack of a building. The ministry of Dudley Atkinson would result in a name change for the church and would cause the church to have a permanent home.
Atkinson was a “Campbellite,” or one who had embraced the teachings of Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell, who were Scottish evangelists. According to one writer, the Campbells’ teachings and pamphlets, “based on the New Testament, had found favor within the Baptist Church” because the Campbells agreed with the Baptists on the subject of immersion. By the 1830’s, a period of “religious strife and restlessness” had been generated by such reformers, and the followers of the Campbells, known by then as the Disciples of Christ, “separated from the Baptist Church to form separate associations.” Dudley Atkinson’s flock at Upper College Church became caught up in the “Campbellite dogma,” and were excluded from the Dover Baptist Association as a result. Lower College Church was tossed out, as well, and after four years of being “in the wilderness,” was allowed to return to the Dover Association as Colosse Baptist Church.
The sentence of soul-searching imposed on Upper College Church lasted for only a year, and in 1834, the church was readmitted to the Dover Association as Rehoboth Baptist Church. Baylor Hill, Archee Brown, and Thomas S. Jones were the first delegates sent by the Rehoboth congregation as delegates to the Dover Association. The church had been reorganized through the efforts of the Reverend Eli Ball, who remained as pastor of Rehoboth Church until 1839. Mr. Ball served the cause of the Gospel for fourteen years after he left Rehoboth, and, near the end of his career, it was said that he had baptized 914 people.
In the year 1836, Martha Brown, daughter of Archee Brown of “North Point,” married the Reverend John O. Turpin, a graduate of the Virginia Baptist Seminary. At the time of his marriage, Mr. Turpin was serving as pastor of Four Mile Creek Church in Henrico County. He also served as pastor at King William County’s Beulah Church, and devoted time to a group of Baptists worshipping in King William’s colonial Acquinton Church. In 1840, Turpin succeeded Eli Ball as pastor of Rehoboth Church, whose congregation continued to share the Cattail Chapel with the faithful remnants of Saint David’s Parish. By 1841, there were 410 Baptists in the Rehoboth group, which included 280 African American members. Cattail Chapel had stood for one hundred years, and its solid brick construction had carried it through the ravages of the American Revolution. But, the building had grown too small for the Baptists, even though the Episcopalians would find it difficult to maintain the building alone. Archee Brown, Thomas S. Jones, Baylor Hill, and other assertive men purchased the old Second Baptist Church in Richmond and had the building moved to a spot in King William where the Newcastle Road forked to form the road to West Point and the road to the Village of Aylett’s and points beyond. Because of its city origins, leading architects never considered Sharon Church a completely rural structure. A brick church “with round top windows” had rarely been seen in a country setting.
After five years at Rehoboth, John O. Turpin became the first pastor of Sharon Baptist Church. Nine years into his ministry, Sharon Church was damaged by fire. Some elderly members living at the time of a 1933 Homecoming recalled that a number of bricks had to be made at nearby “Pine Hill” to repair the church and provide for an addition to the rear of the building. Some of these “old-timers” disagreed on whether the church had merely been damaged by fire or “burned and rebuilt.” They also shared a belief that deep cuts in the old pews had been made by the swords of invading Federal troops during the Civil War.
By 1858, the membership at Sharon Church had grown to 651. In October 1860 one A. E. Dickinson submitted an article called, “A Tour Among the Churches” to the Religious Herald, a well-known Baptist publication. In the article, Dickinson reported on a visit he had made to “the brethren of Sharon Church, King William County.” At Sharon, Dickinson had “spent a few days trying to persuade men to be reconciled to God,” but he had been “compelled to leave at an early stage of the meeting.” Dickinson was writing this in the twentieth year of John O. Turpin’s ministry at Sharon, and commented that the people at Sharon “would not exchange him (Turpin) for any minister on the earth.” Sharon Church, Dickinson said, had “suffered immensely by the demise of Brother Thomas S. Jones, who for years had been very efficient, especially as Deacon and Superintendent of Sunday School.” The death of Thomas S. Jones would be followed six years later by the passing of Archee Brown. When Lawrence Trant slipped away in March 1872, he was the last survivor of the group that provided leadership for Upper College and Rehoboth.
With the conclusion of the Civil War, slavery had come to an end. As a result, the many African Americans who had worshiped at Sharon Church as baptized Christians were faced with building a life apart from their former masters. In 1860, the Episcopalians worshiping in the Cattail Chapel had consecrated a new building, Saint David’s Church, in the Village of Aylett’s. Shortly before the death of Lawrence Trant,
twelve African American members of Sharon’s congregation joined with former slaves who had been part of Beulah Church to form a separate body, using Cattail Chapel as a house of worship. This new “society of Christians” became known as Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.
Nineteenth-century Baptists believed in strong Sunday Schools, or “Sabbath Schools,” because of the “great good effected in the neighborhood through the instrumentality of Sabbath School instruction . . . .” In the back of one of the books used at Rehoboth, someone wrote in 1838, “Rehoboth Sunday School closed last Sabbath in September.” In one of the library books, Union Questions,Volume II, a bored young woman, maybe Mary Evelyn Turpin, Lucy Burruss, or Florence Jones Samuel, communicated to a friend by writing, “I don’t know when she will be back. She sent for her summer bonnet, so I guess she will stay some time yet.” Alice Hill Trant, Emily Trant, Bell Prince, Mary S. Robinson, and Kate N. Roane were part of this class as well. Another pupil, H. W. Brown, used the flyleaf of Question Book on the Acts of the Apostles to report that he had “commenced under William S. Burruss April 20, 1849, and he graduated us in the month.” In another volume of Union Questions, John Henry Pitts, a Sabbath School teacher wrote, “School closed October 11, 1857; class said 25th lesson.” As if writing for posterity, Pitts also recorded the names of his students. A report to the Religious Herald in June 1845 stated that “eight male teachers and twelve female teachers and sixty-eight scholars” had formed the first Sunday School at Sharon Church. After several years of service as superintendent by Archee Brown, Josiah Burruss became superintendent in 1853. Burruss filled the vacancy created by the death of Thomas S. Jones, and served at intervals until 1882. William Henry Turpin, a son of the Reverend John O. Turpin, was superintendent for two years. Young Turpin had served in the Confederate Army, and in April 1865, on a blank page found in Union Questions, Volume VIII, he proudly recorded, “William H. Turpin, Co. D, Fifty-third Virginia Regiment, Stewart’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.” Turpin lived for fifty-two years after Appomattox, and he is buried in the Sharon Church Cemetery.
As a dedicated minister, William Henry Turpin’s father, John O. Turpin, would be a “tough act to follow.” His successor, Hiram Crews, served for only one year. Mr. Crews was followed by Robert Ryland, John R. Moffett, and J. T. Lynch, each. L. Parker Russell spent one year at Colosse Church before coming to Sharon in 1890. Before his departure, Mr. Russell encouraged the congregations at the two churches to share a minister. This worked for a short period, and W. R. Keefe came for one year, followed by one B. C. James, in 1893. During Mr. James’ ministry, the two congregations purchased the old home of Octavius Madison Winston, former Clerk of the Circuit Court of King William County, for use as a parsonage. After short pastorates by Harry J. Goodwin and Frank Lewis Hardy, the congregations of Colosse and Sharon called the Reverend George H. Sheriff, a native of Ohio, as their minister in 1906. Mr. Sheriff kept this position until March 1927. He lived in the old Winston home at King William Courthouse and married Octavius Winston’s granddaughter, Ila Hill Clarke. After Mr. Sheriff left his post, the Winston house was sold, and the two congregations purchased a parsonage close to White Shop.
During Mr. Sheriff’s ministry, improvements were made to the state highway system that served King William County. Sharon Church had been constructed on the Newcastle Road, a major highway that had been important as a post road during colonial days. During the nineteenth century, the Newcastle Road was part of a stage route linking the City of Richmond and the Town of Tappahannock. The stage line kept to a regular schedule, and two days a week mail was delivered to the post office in the Village of Aylett’s. Captain Richard Prince lived near Sharon Church, at a place called “Mulberry Hill.” He allowed stage drivers to stop for fresh horses at his home, which became known to travelers as “Prince’s.” During the last eight years of his life, Captain Prince was a member of Sharon Church. An obituary submitted to the Religious Herald described Captain Prince as a “pious, humble and consistent Christian,” who was “a burning and shining light in the church of Christ.”
After the stage line ceased its operation and the automobile took over the American landscape, dirt paths were no longer sufficient as arteries of transport. In 1924, a macadam road, “U. S. Route 13,” was laid through Broaddus Flats and on to Tappahannock, in an effort to improve travel conditions. At the same time, Route 30, known locally as “Pamunkey Trail,” was improved “north to the Caroline County line and thence to the highway known as the road from Hanover to Bowling Green and thence to Fredericksburg,” known today as Route 301. The nineteenth-century name “Sharonville” was given up for the name “Central Garage” because Sharon Church, or Central Garage, was seen as a halfway point between Bowling Green and West Point, and between Richmond and Tappahannock. The “new road,” Route 13, has since become Route 360, one of the most traveled roads in eastern Virginia.
The Reverend Dr. Emmett Y. Robertson came to King William in 1927 to serve as pastor at Colosse and Sharon for the next five years. Dr. Robertson left to become pastor of Park View Church in Richmond, and the congregations formerly in his charge called the Reverend Dr. Benjamin Riddle. Dr. Riddle came to King William at the height of the Great Depression and stayed until the end of the Second World War. He was fascinated by the history of Sharon Church, and organized a Homecoming in 1933 to honor the surviving members of the congregation of 1845. To commemorate the event, Dr. Riddle prepared a history of Sharon Church, drawn in part from conversations with the church’s oldest living members. In addition to “Aunt” Lizzy Brown, Sharon’s oldest members in 1933 were Nannie Alexander, Anna Earnest (Mrs. William) Edwards, Miss Agnes Taylor, Augustus Drewry Willis, Charles Kelley, Nelson Lipscomb, William Poynter, Catherine Bell (Mrs. William) Poynter, and Betty (Poynter) Prince. Nelson Lipscomb was hailed as the church’s oldest living deacon. Dr. Riddle was succeeded in 1946 by the Reverend John R. Blanchard. During his three years as pastor at Sharon and Colosse, Mr. Blanchard preached at both churches on Sunday mornings, and often had to rush up Route 30 to be on time for the service at Sharon. A filling station and tea room called Bright Star was being operated near Sharon Church, and it has been said that Mr. Blanchard sometimes stopped at Bright Star to purchase aspirin and Coca-Cola to relieve the tension headaches caused by his schedule. During Mr. Blanchard’s ministry, Sharon Church held its first Vacation Bible School with a faculty made up of Mr. Blanchard and his wife, Mary Alice, and Doris Lipscomb, Gladys Skelton Lipscomb, Louise Longest, Kathleen Longest, Ivy Lipscomb Sweet, and Ella Elliott. The Sharon Church Cemetery Association was organized in 1948 through the efforts of Walter and Dora Woody Fox.
A young man called R. Berkley Garnett, who had grown up in Beulahville in upper King William, returned to his native county in June 1950 as pastor of Sharon and Colosse. At Sharon, the recent seminary graduate found a crowded Sunday School. Indeed, on Sunday mornings, the four corners of the church’s sanctuary and balcony, as well as the room behind the baptistery, were occupied by Sunday School classes and their teachers, who kept their voices at a low pitch to avoid disturbing the other study groups. Mr. Garnett encouraged Sharon’s deacons to consider expanding the church’s facility to include Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall. Crawford Skelton and his wife, Daisy Farmer, owned a farm that adjoined Sharon, where Daisy had been a member since the age of five years (since 1896). Mr. and Mrs. Skelton sold the church enough land for the construction of what was called the “Educational Building,” in 1958. The new building allowed the church to expand its programs, and to enlarge its Gospel ministry. Mr. Garnett left King William in 1959 to become pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Gloucester. In a letter penned to Colosse Church thirty-two years later, Mr. Garnett recalled as the most memorable event of his nine years in King William his first meeting with Phyllis Adams, who would become his wife.
The Sharon congregation had almost paid for the educational building by January 1960 when thirty-seven members attending that year’s first quarterly business meeting voted unanimously to call the Reverend Ernest Gene McKay as the church’s next pastor. Mr. McKay, a graduate of California’s Golden Gate Seminary, and fresh out of the military, came to King William with his wife, Kathryn, and their first child, Kevin. A daughter, Candace Karen McKay would arrive two years later, followed by her brother, Colin. This youthful family made an indelible impression on the community, and, as a team, the McKays showed the people of Sharon how to put their new wing to good use. Fellowship suppers were held on Wednesday nights, and after these meals parents would adjourn to business meetings or to choir practice, or meetings of the Women’s Missionary Union, while their children participated in meetings of the Girl’s Auxiliary, the Royal Ambassadors, or other missionary groups. The church’s first softball team was organized in the summer of 1961, at the time Mr. McKay was planning the church’s first Youth Sunday and Thanksgiving Breakfast. This meal, prepared in Sharon’s new kitchen, was served at 6:30 on Thanksgiving morning, followed by Communion or a service of general worship at 8:30. Sometimes the worship service was held at Colosse. Those fortunate people who remember those breakfasts forty years ago will never forget the delicious biscuits made from scratch by Henley Parker. And, veterans of the Wednesday night suppers will remember Doris Lipscomb’s dinner rolls and the pitchers of iced tea she placed on the tables “just for the men.” Doris didn’t think a glass held enough, and, under her watchful care, the tea pitchers were never empty.
Henley Parker had succeeded Doris Lipscomb as church clerk. Henley’s minutes from the 1960’s are a testament to the work of a group of Christians who put God first in their lives and allowed the Holy Spirit to move through them. At the beginning of this decade, Randolph Kelley was chairman of the deacons. Lawrence Lipscomb, Jr. had been serving as treasurer for more than ten years. His father, Lawrence Augustus Lipscomb, dead by that time, had served as Sharon’s church clerk for forty years. George Poynter, a deacon, assisted the treasurer. Ruby Kelley, wife of Randolph, was president of the Women’s Missionary Union for three years prior to 1964, when Gladys Lipscomb assumed this office. Francis Brizendine was a deacon, along with Robert Campbell, Ross Farmer, Alfred Lee Moore, Andrew Beasley, Bill Edwards, and the brothers, Wilbert S. and Emmett Farmer. Emmett Farmer was older than his brother, but Wilbert had always been bigger in stature than Emmett. As a result, the two had been known since childhood as “Bigger Farmer” and “Little Farmer.” Emmett had been church treasurer before 1920, and had served as superintendent of Sunday School during the 1920’s and 1930’s. This group of dedicated people would lead the church through some important decisions.
At a business meeting held in May 1960, the church implemented the rotation of deacons. Each year, two deacons would be retired, and two would be elected for four years. After two years, retired deacons could be considered for re-election. Bigger Farmer and Alfred Lee Moore were the first to be “retired,” followed by Randolph Kelley and Andrew Beasley in 1961, Emmett Farmer and Francis Brizendine in 1962, and George Poynter and George W. Simons in 1963. Clayton Lumpkin and John A. Stone were the first elected under the new system. James Colvin and Ross Farmer were elected in 1962, a year which brought worship services and the Baptist Training Union on Sunday evenings. Emmett Mitchell (Pete) Upshaw succeeded Clayton Lumpkin as Sunday School superintendent in 1962, two years after Pete’s brother, Emory (Pat) Upshaw had been named as Sharon’s first Director of Church Music. Christine Colvin was named to this post in 1962, when she succeeded Patty Jean Upshaw as church organist.
In April 1961 Randolph Kelley initiated a conversation about building a new parsonage for the Sharon congregation. Constant repairs required by the minister’s home at White Shop had become burdensome, and, besides, the Sharon congregation was thinking about going full time. By July 1962 the deacons had approached Crawford Skelton about purchasing six acres of land “between the church and new Route 360.” Mr. Skelton willingly agreed to sell this tract for $5,000, and a building site had been chosen by April 1963. The parsonage was constructed at the cost of $22,000.
In 1961 Ernest Gene McKay and the deacons of Sharon Church fought an ordinance passed by the King William County board of supervisors allowing for the sale of beer on Sunday. Mr. McKay and three church members, including Mildred Edwards, were present when the vote was cast. Mrs. Edwards expressed her belief that Sunday beer sales would mean further desecration of the Lord’s Day. Mr. McKay disagreed with the notion that most of the people of King William favored the ordinance. This was in complete disagreement with the opinion held by the Acquinton District supervisor, who favored off-premise Sunday beer sales as a way of putting local bootleggers out of business. The ordinance was adopted in a 2-1 vote.
In November 1961, R. T. Carlton, a local artist, offered to donate a rendering of a scene from the life of Christ to the congregation of Sharon Church. A committee consisting of Mildred Edwards, Christine Colvin, Emory Upshaw, and Harry Martin was appointed to implement this project. During a Homecoming in July 1966 a study in oils of Christ being baptized in the Jordan River was installed over the Baptistery. Since that time the baptismal pool has been altered, and this painting now hangs in the vestibule of the Educational Building.
In April 1962 Mr. McKay told the deacons that he would be leaving King William to continue his education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisiana. Although the church was saddened by the departure of Mr. McKay and his family, the occasion strengthened the resolve to go full time, and a unanimous vote created this independent status effective September 1, 1966. The McKay family left in August, and on September 15, 1966 the Reverend John Truett Lennon moved to the parsonage with his wife, Olivia, and their teenage children, Larry and Celia. Mr. Lennon was a 1948 graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky. He and Mrs. Lennon worked closely with the Royal Ambassadors and the Girl’s Auxiliary. Under Mrs. Lennon’s leadership, Sharon held it first “G. A. Coronation” in 1967. Yvonne Colvin was crowned queen.
By 1967 it was apparent that the nineteenth-century box pews moved from Second Baptist Church either had to be refinished or replaced. Henley Parker, Christine Colvin, Doris Lipscomb, and Ed Gershowitz were appointed as a committee charged with finding new pews for the church. With the help of a loan from Southside Bank, pews were purchased from a church going through the same process. Installation of most of these newer benches had been completed by August of that year. Many of the old pews were given a coat of white paint and moved to the balcony.
Barbara Simons was appointed church librarian in 1964, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Shirley Gibson. Barbara’s sister, Gloria Simons, served as her assistant. As librarian, Barbara joined Mr. Lennon, Kathleen Longest, and Steve Colvin, on several Saturday mornings spent researching the history of Sharon Church at the library of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society. The Reverend Mr. Lennon held the pastorate of Sharon Church until April 1974, when he was succeeded by the Reverend Dr. William B. Denson, who served as interim for one year prior to the arrival of the Reverend John C. Penny, III, on May 18, 1975. Mr. Penny had attended Bluefield College and the University of Richmond prior to his days at the Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Mr. Penny acquired a deep appreciation of the role played by Sharon Church in the spiritual life of King William County. In 1975 the congregation celebrated its 200th anniversary with a memorable Homecoming. In June of the next year Mr. Penny officiated at a service of Ordination held at Sharon for The Reverend Robert C. Brizendine Bobby had grown up at Sharon, and had earned degrees from the University of Richmond and the Duke Divinity School. In September 1976 he entered Southeastern Baptist Seminary to begin work on a Doctor of Ministry degree.
John Penny was tireless in ministering to the needs of his congregation. In a 1984 Sunday Bulletin, Mr. Penny included as part of his welcome, “We are an old Church with an old Gospel reaching out to this generation with a message for today and tomorrow and eternity. A “Puppet Ministry,” directed by Mr. Penny’s wife, Mary, became a guiding influence in the lives of Sharon’s young people. Mr. Penny was instrumental in presenting Ivy Lipscomb Sweet with a plaque in October 1986 commemorating forty years of providing leadership to Sharon’s Sunbeams, Children in Action, and Girl’s Auxiliary. After a ministry of fourteen years, Mr. Penny left Sharon in August 1989 to become pastor of Ragland Memorial Church in Goochland.
The Reverend R. Berkley Garnett served as interim pastor from October 1989 until April 1991, when the church issued a call to the Reverend Kevin Moen. Kevin still cherishes the memory of the telephone call he received from Annie Moore early in 1991, when she asked Kevin about his possibility of becoming pastor of Sharon Church. Kevin and his family moved to King William in May, and it was at Sharon that his family “saw God do some wonderful things leading us to exercise our faith in many ways.”
On his arrival at Sharon, Kevin “ immediately recognized the mission field across the street at King William High School.” At that time the school’s principal was “a Christian and even a Baptist Deacon from Essex County.” Sharon would be blessed with a “great influx of students that led to the calling of Kimberly Sturgeon McNeil as Director of Youth Ministries and Alice Thomas as Director of Music Ministries.” The church membership expanded, and on April 26, 1992, a second Worship Service was started.
Kevin and his wife bought a home near Aylett, making the parsonage available for use by the church. The “Little Disciple Weekday Education Center” was developed to serve, in Kevin’s words, “as a refuge for hurried families, a place of employment for Christian Caregivers, and a lighthouse to the community.” The daycare center opened its doors on August 29, 1994, to provide care for children ages six weeks to eleven years of age. This non-profit ministry, managed at first by Anita Blake and Alice Thomas, would operate for eight years.
By May 1993 the Sharon congregation had decided to enter into a building program to allow for necessary expansion. A building committee of sixteen people was selected, and a capital campaign, “Together We Build” was launched. Ground was broken for the new construction on May 8, 1994. The additional facilities, completed later in that year, greatly enlarged the opportunities for outreach, including enlarged opportunities for “Little Disciples.” According to Kevin Moen, “one bus driver looked forward to dropping off more than 20 children” who arrived at the end of the school day. Kevin described his years at Sharon as “great days of ministry for a young man who had never been a pastor before.” Under Kevin’s leadership the church held its first “Roses of Sharon” Banquet in the summer of 1996. To become a rose, one must be at least seventy years of age, and a dinner honoring these treasured individuals has been held every year since the event’s inception. Sharon’s “most fully flowered roses” now are Alice Gulasky and Richard Skelton.
In February 1999 two men from Sharon went on a mission trip to Haiti, to provide assistance to Pastor Preval Meritil in constructing a water system and two new churches in Haiti’s mountain communities. These mountain people were conditioned to walking for miles and miles to fetch water at a spring. In a two-week period, a 24,000-gallon cistern was installed, and the spring was prepared for the installation of a pump. In February 2000, Jesse Burch, Emmett White, Dick Stafford, and Leroy Stolins were part of a group of ten men who returned to Haiti to build a power line from the government power line to the spring, install the pump, run the pipe 3000 feet from the spring to the cistern, and construct one of six water stations to supply mountain communities. Sharon’s congregation has supported these endeavors by donating medical supplies, money, and continued prayer.
It was also in February 1999 that Kevin Moen accepted the call to serve as pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Callao. From June 1999 until his resignation in February 2000, the people of Sharon were blessed by the presence of the Reverend Dale Lee, who served as interim pastor. Mr. Lee was in the church office for part of the day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, depending on his hospital and home visitation schedule.
In May 2000 The Reverend R. Steven Via delivered his first sermon as pastor of Sharon Baptist Church. Ordained in 1997, after earning a Master of Divinity degree, Steve Via had gained experience as a full-time pastor and as a part-time minister of evangelism and outreach. He had as the focus of his ministry “To share the gospel of Jesus Christ through word and deed with everyone I can in the most applicable, wholesome and intelligent way possible under the circumstances that occasion the opportunity.” His approach to worship, especially after the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, gradually polarized the congregation, and during the morning worship on Sunday, September 8, 2002, Steve resigned and left the premises, taking his supporters with him. With this group of approximately eighty people, he founded the Rehoboth Baptist Fellowship.
At this critical time, the Sharon congregation was indeed fortunate that William Henley (Buddy) Parker, Jr., a life-long member, was enrolled in the Pastoral Ministries Program of the Southern Baptist Seminary Extension. On September 15, the Sunday following the resignation of Steve Via, Buddy delivered the sermon at the morning service. The church had already cut back to one Sunday morning service, and Buddy continued to preach and assumed all the duties of interim pastor after being asked to do so by the deacons of the church. Like his cousin Robert Brizendine, Buddy was ordained to the Gospel Ministry at Sharon Church, in a service held on June 22, 2003. Under Buddy’s leadership, the church was painted both inside and outside, and, in July 2003, the church’s gravel parking area was paved over. In that year wooden blinds were installed in the sanctuary, and a new bus was purchased. The old bus was donated to Belcher’s Chapel Baptist Church in Pennington Gap.
At some point in 2003 a member of Sharon gave the church an anonymous gift of $10,000 to be applied to the purchase of a new organ. A committee consisting of Jane Burch, LaVerne Abrams, and Christine Colvin investigated several types of instruments and recommended the Rodgers Insignia 557 Organ as suitable to the needs of Sharon’s music program. With additional donations, this organ was installed in February 2004, at a total cost of $13, 482. The church’s old Allen organ was donated to the congregation of Oakland Methodist Church in Farnham.
Ben Munford, a recent member of the church, and a student at the Richmond Baptist Seminary, was asked to assist the church by preaching on the fifth Sundays. Ben was ordained at Sharon on April 25, 2004.
Buddy Parker resigned his duties on June 6, 2004. Since then he has organized the Friendship Baptist Fellowship, which holds regular Sunday services at the American Legion Building on Route 360 between Aylett and Central Garage.
In the month following Buddy’s departure, the Sharon congregation engaged Todd Kube as a supply minister. Todd guided the people of Sharon through a turbulent period, and when Todd moved on in December 2004 the congregation had decided to hire an intentional interim pastor.
The Reverend Edward Johnson, the Durham, North Carolina native who became Sharon’s Intentional Interim Pastor, began his duties on March 6, 2005. Mr. Johnson brought great compassion to the purpose of getting the Sharon congregation back on its feet after the split generated by Pastor Steve Via. “Pastor Ed” stayed with Sharon for two years, and he preached his last sermon on March 18, 2007.
The Sharon congregation was in a healthy state when Ed Johnson returned to Durham. On May 6, 2007 the church elected to call the Reverend Lytle Buckingham as Sharon’s next pastor. Mr. Buckingham, a native of Decatur, Georgia, spent his formative years in Falls Church, Virginia. He began his preparation for the ministry at Princeton University and completed his training at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Before coming to Sharon in June 2007, Mr. Buckingham had held pastorates in Ivor (Southampton County), in the counties of Bedford and Amelia, and in Sterling Park.
God's Word - the Holy Bible is the rock-Solid foundation for all teachings at Sharon Baptist Church.