Church marks 265 years

Published 9:11 pm Friday, May 4, 2012

Holy Neck Christian Church has been a beacon for the Holland area for 265 years.

Tomorrow, it will celebrate its anniversary at 10:30 a.m. with a service, history presentation, meal and giveaways to members and guests.

“I am excited about being able to be the pastor of this church at such a benchmark in its life,” said Drew Mountcastle, pastor. “It’s just a real exciting time.”

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The church was formed in 1747, when the vestry of Upper Parish of Nansemond County decided to buy land and build a chapel there, according to a history of the church written for the occasion. The site had been called Holy Neck because of tradition that said when European settlers reached the area, American Indians used the neck of land between two swamps as a place of worship.

The 1747 chapel was built on land obtained from Hardy Rawls. It was 50 feet long and 26 feet wide. It was replaced by a larger building in 1835, which in turn was replaced by an even larger building in 1888.

The present-day sanctuary was built in 1916 at a cost of $16,000. The east wing was added in 1949, and the west wing in 1963. Parts of the foundations of the previous buildings are still under the current building.

The building has had many improvements in creature comfort since 1916. Electricity came in the early 1940s, and indoor plumbing was installed later that decade. A paved parking lot and central air conditioning were installed in the 1980s.

But more importantly, the church has had considerable impact on the community. Holy Neck has planted at least seven area churches — Bethany, Franklin, Berea, Damascus (in Gates County) and Hebron, now Holland Christian Church.

The first black Christian elder in the area, Justin Copeland, was ordained from the church and organized nearby Corinth Chapel and Laurel Hill Christian churches, which still meet in the area.

On one occasion in 1848, ministers from three races — white, black and American Indian — preached on the grounds the same day at a revival service.

These days, the church has more than 250 members.

“There is a tremendous amount of history in Holy Neck Church,” Mountcastle said. “There are few other churches in the area that have that kind of age to them.”

Each member and guest at Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. service will receive a special history booklet, mug and church pen. Children will get a “Jesus is the Light” flashlight.

Lunch will follow the service.

“The community is invited to come out to a worship experience with the congregation that acknowledges its history but also acknowledges that it’s got a future,” Mountcastle said.

The church is located at 4400 Holy Neck Road.