Our History – Chapter I: The Mission (1957-1959)

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Through the vision of the Rev. George Kissinger and the Peninsula Baptist Association, Dr. Herman T. Stevens was appointed to head up the new mission work at Gloucester Point. Several meetings were held in homes in the community until sufficient interest was found to warrant securing a suitable meeting place. On March 3, 1957, the first meeting was held in the building formerly known as Pine Grove Inn. The purpose of this gathering was to begin the actual organization of Gloucester Point Baptist Mission. About one-hundred forty persons were present. A follow-up meeting was called for the last Sunday in March, at which time the Sunday School was organized, and Mr. Fred Kimsey was elected Sunday School Superintendent. On April 7, 1957, the first worship service was held at Pine Grove Inn, 1528 George Washington Memorial Highway, Gloucester Point, Virginia.

The Peninsula Baptist Association gave financial aid in securing the Pine Grove Inn property and, also, some further support until we were able to assume full financial responsibility. Considerable monetary support came also from the Virginia Baptist General Board. Union Baptist Church served as “mother church”, holding our members on roll and title to the property until we grew to the status of a self-sustaining church.

GPBC 1957-1959 UnionDr. Stevens served as the pastor until June, 1957. He was instrumental in convincing the mission to hold Daily Vacation Bible School that very first June (for children ages three to sixteen years). Dr. Stevens said that the best way to get a church started was to have Vacation Bible School. The Gloucester Point congregation took his words to heart; seventy participated that June, and we have conducted Vacation Bible School every summer since then!

The Peninsula Baptist Association provided able leadership in the person of Thomas Frank. During his pastorate, Wednesday evening prayer services, Sunday evening worship and a Church Training Union were begun. Rev. Frank’s ministry here was very brief, because he was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he resumed full-time studies there in the fall of 1957.

On November 11, 1957, the Rev. Richard Stennett, Jr., became our pastor. He had earned a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1955 from Southeastern Seminary and served as pastor for a Baptist mission in South Carolina before accepting our call.

Mr. Stennett acquired a wonderful “assistant”, Bernard Walton, mission treasurer, to introduce him to the community. Mr. Walton and his wife, Lucille, worked tirelessly in the new fellowship. The early church suppers were held in the basement of their home.

During Dick Stennett’s pastorate, the mission experienced significant growth. Additional space was added to the facilities: three classrooms and an assembly room, with much of the work being done by the congregation under the leadership of Walden Carmine and Bernard Walton. The fellowship consisted largely of young couples, and stories abound of the fun they had working together. One incident involved Dora Williams painting herself into a corner! She remembers painting a hallway with a roller in each hand. This addition was completed by January 4, 1959.

The church building, Pine Grove Inn, had formerly been a restaurant. Walter Oliver recollects being an usher one Sunday morning when two women drove up fifteen minutes before the end of the worship hour and asked to be seated. They said they had “been here before.” They must have been surprised when they were served a sermon instead of lunch!

The year 1958 brought more outreach programs to the mission. In May the membership voted to sponsor Boy Scout Troop 110; under the capable leadership of Bill Altemus and later Bill Breeden and Tom Riley, this troop provided guidance and youth activities until 1979.

The Women’s Missionary Union was organized in October of 1958. Helena Oliver was the first president. They met monthly at the church. A night circle was established while Dick Stennett was pastor; it met in homes. A day circle formed several years later. Both were named after missionaries. The night circle is known as Annie Armstrong Circle. The day group was first called Bessie Conner Circle but later changed its name to Annette Acree Circle to honor a local Baptist missionary.

The W.M.U. has played a most significant role in our church mission work, both from the standpoint of teaching Baptist missions to adults and young people and of supporting Baptist missionaries in Tidewater, within the State of Virginia, in the United States, and around the world. These ladies have worked diligently to meet needs. Their Rainy Day Fund pennies bought the church’s first silverware. Recently, their Piano Fund bought a piano for the new Fellowship Hall. As Sarah Starkey, longtime officer, says: “W.M.U. is all about missions — learning about, praying for, giving to and doing missions. We are laborers together with and for God.”

Gloucester Point Baptist Mission determined, at its quarterly business meeting on July 1, 1959, that they were ready to organize as a church. The Extension Committee of the Peninsula Baptist Association concurred. In preparation, the membership elected three trustees: William Conner, Jr., Harry Midgett, and Paul Scott. The trustees were authorized to assume responsibility for church property titles. A Church Constitution, Church Covenant, and Twenty Articles of Faith (See Appendix A ) were drawn up and adopted at their October 21st business meeting. The Service for Organization of Gloucester Point Baptist Church took place on October 25, 1959, at 3:00 p.m. Leading the service were local clergy: Rev. George Kissinger, Dr. Furman Kenney, Rev. Loyal Prior, Rev. Walter Martin and Rev. Chester Brown. Dr. William Denson, head of the Department of Evangelism and State Missions for Virginia Baptists, delivered the sermon. It was a time of great rejoicing for the ninety-three charter members. (See Appendix B).

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