SOUTHSIDE — Members of the Harmony Baptist Church recently celebrated 200 years of their church, which reportedly came together in 1812.
It was reported that more than 100 people attended the church’s celebration. Following the morning service, and a luncheon served by the women of the church, those present also opened a time capsule from the church’s 175th Anniversary. It was reported the time capsule contained over forty messages, many of which were received by the writer’s children and grandchildren.
According to church members, Harmony Baptist Church is one of the earliest churches organized west of the Allegheny Mountains, with the first sermon having been preached by Reverend William George around 1811, at the mouth of Five Mile Creek. The church was then organized the following year in a building on the south side of the Kanawha River, near the mouth of Little Sixteen Creek. That year, it was reported that there were sixteen charter members.
It was reported that the present church building was constructed during the ministry of R. W. Davis, who served as the pastor from 1860-1893. The church was built on land donated by George Long, with wild cucumber lumber, which is native of the mountains of West Virginia, and was donated by George Maupin. The building was dedicated on the second Sunday in Oct. 1860.
Church members also stated that the early church imposed strict discipline on its members, establishing strict rules and any member who disregarded the rules was first admonished, and if the member didn’t conform, they were excluded from the fellowship. Some of the infractions for which a member could be denied membership were drunkenness, swearing, fighting, gambling, immorality, working on Sunday, and for frequent absences from church attendance. One resolution, passed in Dec. 1867 stated that three months would be the limited time for a member to be absent from church services.
It was also stated that women were liberated early at the church, with Kate Crouch becoming a member of the Board of Trustees in 1907, and five years later, Eva B. Hannis was elected as the church clerk. Only women have held the office of church clerk since that time, and at the present, women are eligible for election to any office.
In addition to women holding offices in the church, it was also stated the church’s first Women’ s Mission Society was organized in 1898, but then later renamed the Ladies Aid. Fundraising projects of the Ladies Aid provided money for most of the improvements made at the church in the 1930’s. The current women’s group is known as American Baptist Women with twelve active members. The current group stated they do not encourage fundraising projects; rather, they support the work of the church with tithes and offerings.
Church members also stated through several restorations and additions over the years, the church’s facilities have changed from one room to a formidable church complex. Three Sunday school rooms were added to the original structure in 1940, and eight years later, the original building was raised to add a basement, as well as a furnace replacing the old pot-bellied stove.
The appearance of the church also changed dramatically in 1960 when a vestibule and a belfry were added, making it a notable landmark in the Kanawha Valley, according to church members. After a two-year construction period, on May 4, 2003, the church dedicated a activities building, known as the Annex.
The current pastor of the church is Reverend David Radcliff. Officers serving the church for 2012 are as follows:
Clerk, Nina Bowles; Treasurer, Brea Durst; Financial Secretary, Kay Kelsey; Deacons, Rodney Hill, Ruth Ellen Sommer, William Stover, Clifford Jeffers, Doreen Meadows, Rod Brown, Nina Bowles, Justin Dill, Sara Roach; Trustees, Chariman-Clifford Jeffers, Allen Jeffers, William Stover; Youth Directors, Sara and Michael Roach.