Archived Story

Church to celebrate 180 years

Published 10:56pm Friday, May 17, 2013

Great Fork Baptist Church will celebrate its 180th anniversary tomorrow and dedicate the stained-glass window restoration project at the same time.

Services begin at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. Historical artifacts and photos will be on display at the church throughout the day, and former pastors also will be in attendance.

“The essence of this is just remembering the roots from which we have grown,” Pastor Donald Jones said. “It’s a remembrance of those who have gone before us and established the church and those who have supported the church down through the years.”

The church’s longevity may be partially due to its solid foundation. It was constituted on May 3, 1833, by John Harrell, the first pastor, and Simon Murfee, who along with 32 members of Middle Swamp Baptist Church in Gates County, N.C., left to form the new church.

The name “Great Fork” was derived from the fork of the two colonial trails leading to Elizabeth City and Edenton, N.C., and Great Fork Road was later named after the church.

In the early years, worship services were held on Saturdays, and the start time varied with the seasons. In 1849, the pastor received a salary of $49.43, according to a church history. The pastor preached only once a month in a rotation with other churches. In 1915, the pastor’s salary was increased to $400 per year, and he was given a parsonage to live in.

The new church building was built for $4,346 in 1911, and the old building was sold for $83. The building got electricity in 1926. In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel knocked two large oak trees onto the church, and the roof had to be replaced. In 2007, a new steeple was placed on the church.

Sunday’s anniversary service will take place from 10:45 a.m. to noon, and all are welcome to attend, Jones said. The Rev. Raymond Bunn of Boykins Baptist Church will bring the morning message.

A reservations-only luncheon will be held from noon to 2 p.m., and another service to dedicate the stained-glass windows will take place at 2. Epiphany Studios of Front Royal has spent nearly two years restoring the windows.

A commemorative cookbook also has been published to commemorate the church’s 180th anniversary. It contains cherished recipes of deceased and current members, along with color photographs of the renovated windows.

The cookbook is available for $15. Call 986-4185 or email office@greatforkbaptistchurch.com to order.

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