Gloucester Point Baptist to celebrate 60th anniversary

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Sep 04, 2019 - 12:56 PM

Photo: Gloucester Point resident Tommy Ashe, a charter member of the church, and a member of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee, is shown standing in the sanctuary. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Gloucester Point resident Tommy Ashe, a charter member of the church, and a member of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee, is shown standing in the sanctuary. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Photo: Gloucester Point Baptist Church, located on Terrapin Cove Road, will hold its 60th anniversary in October. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Gloucester Point Baptist Church, located on Terrapin Cove Road, will hold its 60th anniversary in October. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Photo: The church’s first welcome message was printed on table placemats, given that the original church building had housed a restaurant, the Pine Grove Inn. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

The church’s first welcome message was printed on table placemats, given that the original church building had housed a restaurant, the Pine Grove Inn. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Church members and volunteers are getting geared up to celebrate a milestone in the history of Gloucester Point Baptist Church this fall. Though still young compared to some of the churches in the county that have been in existence for centuries, Gloucester Point Baptist’s history is rich and full of dedication and love.

Gloucester Point resident Tommy Ashe is on the planning committee for the church’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, which is scheduled for Oct. 27, and is also one of the charter members of the church. Looking back over the past six decades, Ashe was quick to say the best thing about the church has been its people.

“There’s no question about it—it’s the people that make this church,” Ashe said. “We’ve got a great pastor and we all work together like a family.”

Ashe is one of 30 charter members who are still living and one of three that still attend the church. He said the church, which began its first worship services inside a restaurant at Gloucester Point, had 93 original members.

According to Ashe, GPB came about as the result of mission work from Union Baptist Church at Achilles. Union’s pastor at the time, the Rev. George Kissinger, along with the Peninsula Baptist Association, headed up the mission work.

Several meetings were held in homes in the community until there were enough members to secure a permanent location in the spring of 1957, which was formerly known as the Pine Grove Inn. That building is currently known as the Gloucester Point Office Building, and is located on Route 17 southbound heading toward the Coleman Bridge.

Ashe said it didn’t take long before activities of the church took off, including the establishment of Sunday school and the first Vacation Bible School in the summer of 1957. The Rev. Richard Stennett Jr. became the church’s first full-time pastor in the fall of that year.

In 1971, the church purchased a four-acre tract of land on Terrapin Cove Road for $20,000, which is the property where the current church sits. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was held in 1973 and the building, which included a sanctuary to seat 350, 12 classrooms, a kitchen, office and more, cost $237,000.

In 1978, the church’s longest serving pastor, Dr. Paul Garber, began serving the church. GPBC hired his wife as its first part-time Minister of Music. It was during his time in the 1980s that that the “World’s Longest Banana Split” originated during a Vacation Bible School. That concept, which is still used today, was recently featured in a food article in the Gazette-Journal.

It was also during the 1980s that the church hosted a radio program on WDDY (now WXGM). Later in that decade, as the church continued to grow, Ashe said that there was an increasing need for more space.

In 1995, the church’s new educational wing was completed. The 4,800-square-foot space included five classrooms, several bathrooms, a modern kitchen and a large fellowship hall.

Also in the 1990s, the church’s hallmark Fall Festival began. Though it started small, Ashe said that more recently, there have been upwards of 500 people attend the community outreach.

In 2008, the church’s current pastor, Bud Goude Jr. was called, just in time to begin planning for the church’s 50th celebration in 2009. The church’s outreach programs have grown exponentially since that time, and the church enjoyed the addition of a new van to help transport members to and from services without transportation and to utilize for youth functions.

Looking ahead, Ashe said the church is in the process of considering another addition, to further expand the fellowship hall that was built in 1995. The plans would also include the addition of showers to help serve the needs of Gloucester’s United Emergency Shelter Team, which utilizes the church on a rotating basis.

As for the special celebration Oct. 27, Ashe said it will include a full day of events, including a special Sunday school hour at 9:30 a.m. and a special worship service at 11 o’clock featuring Dr. John V. Upton Jr., executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

The day will continue with a Homecoming covered-dish dinner at 12:15, featuring display centers relating to the church’s past, present and future.

An afternoon program celebrating with music and member testimonials will begin at 2 o’clock. Two of the featured performers will be Brett and Jeff Cahoon, members of the popular local band Good Shot Judy, who attended the church growing up.

Those who are interested in attending the celebration are asked to RSVP by Oct. 1 by calling the church office at 804-642-2555.