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Historical Sketch Of New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church

The New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1866 by the late Reverend Alfred Saunders, who also served as the first pastor of the church.  Others instrumental in the organization of the church were Reverend Speight and the Reverend Washington Boone.  This church branched off from the white Middle Swamp Baptist Church when the late Mr. Wiley Riddick, a white neighbor of Gates County, gave the Negroes an acre of land on which to build a Baptist church.  The first church was a log building covered with boards.  The late Kater Goodman hauled the first load of timber for this church.  Deacons at this time were Brothers John B. Knight, Sr., Henry Saunders, Chance Goodman, J.K. Smith, Moses Lassiter, and Joe Haslett.

The second pastor was called Father Hayes.  The third pastor was the late Reverend Capps.  The fourth pastor was the late Reverend George Lee who served about five years.  The fifth pastor was the late Reverend S.P. Knight who served about five years.  The sixth pastor was the late Reverend J.W. Archie who served as pastor for a period of five years.  The seventh pastor was the late Reverend J.C. Saunders who served as pastor for about thirty-eight years.  The first frame building was built under Reverend J. C. Saunders’ administration.

In 1910, the present edifice was built under the leadership of the Reverend J. C. Saunders.  During his pastorate, the following deacons were added: Brothers George Goodman, Timothy Benton, Kater Goodman, G.T. Ralph, Thomas Wiggins, James A. Riddick, Moses Saunders, Louis Saunders, and Joshua Lee.  About the year 1925 a pool was built in the church.  The eighth pastor was the late Reverend W.P. Jones, who was called to this church in 1930.  He served for fourteen years.  The following deacons were added: Brothers M.H. Gary, Willie Barnes, W.T. Riddick, Ross Riddick, and Perry Baker.  In 1932, Professor W.N. Douglas assisted Reverend Jones in organizing the first choir in the history of the church.  A choir stand was built.  In 1937 two new vestibules and a bell tower were erected.  In 1941, a new choir stand was built over the pool.  The Usher Board gave the church its first piano. 

In an attempt to assist the church with its heavy financial obligations, Mrs. Isabella Vann, a member of the church, conceived the idea of organizing what is now called “Women’ s Day”.  Since 1941, the Women’s Day activity has remained one of the annual outstanding days of the year. 

In 1943, the Reverend W.P. Jones resigned from the church, leaving the church treasury in good condition and the church clear of all debts.
The Reverend Chester A. Hart came to pastor this church in 1945.  He served as pastor for seventeen years, resigning in 1961.  During his administration, the church house and total life of the church received considerable attention.

An entirely new end was built to the church which houses new toilet facilities.  The church and the adjacent buildings received a paint job inside and outside.  The church top was covered, electric lights were installed, and an electronic organ was purchased.

A group known as the “Virginia Group” was organized under Reverend Hart’s leadership.  This group meant much to the total life of the church in that it maintained a Christian fellowship among church members living in nearby Virginia cities. 

 More deacons were added under Reverend Hart’s administration.  In 1953, Brothers Charlie A. Jones, Smith N. Knight, Monroe Wiggins, James E. Riddick, and Thomas Otha Hardie were ordained.  Later, Brothers Vernon Gary, Vernon Riddick, and Charlie Jones were added.

The New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church enjoys the honor of being the mother of six churches which branched off from her.  These churches are: New Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church (Drum Hill), New Piney Grove Baptist Church (Gates), Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church (Corapeake), Saint Paul Baptist Church (Sunbury), Union Branch Baptist Church (Corapeake), and Mineral Spring Baptist Church (Whaleyville, Virginia).

The Reverend Andrew Jackson Cherry assumed the pastorate of this church in 1963 serving as its tenth pastor.  The church underwent several major improvements which included a new outlook on the upkeep of the church’s cemetery.

In civic affairs, Reverend Cherry kept the church in the forefront in stimulating action to improve the Negro’s lot.

The first deacons ordained under Reverend Cherry were: Brothers Joseph S. Riddick, Cicero Hinton, James T. Beamon, and William Earl Spruill.

In 1973, the church building was bricked.  In 1975, the outdoor bulletin board was installed and given as a gift by the Senior Usher Board.  In 1976, support rails were installed on the front and side steps.  This project was sponsored by the Virginia Group.  Also, in 1976, work began on the annex of the church building which became known as the Fellowship Hall.  The annex includes classroom, kitchen, a meeting room, choir room, and pastor’s study.  These new additions were dedicated on June 11, 1978.

In 1981, the sanctuary underwent the renovation of its interior which included relocation and installation of a new baptistery and wall-to-wall carpet.  The Hinton Family donated and had installed a public address system in memory of the late Mr. Stephen Hinton, Mrs. Mattie Hinton, and Mr. Cicero Hinton.  The Hinton Family was recognized by the church for this outstanding contribution during Homecoming Services in August, 1981.

New deacons were ordained in 1983: Brothers James S. Gary, Richard Goodman, William H. Jones, Charles Lamb, and James L. Dildy. 

Many Sons of the church went into the Christian Ministry.  Some of these were:  Reverend S.P. Knight, Reverend J.C. Saunders, Reverend I.S. Riddick, Reverend Alfred Saunders, Reverend P.O. Wolfrey, Reverend S.R. Hill, Reverend James M. Wiggins, Reverend J.L. Bazemore, Reverend Moses Bazemore, Reverend William Herbert Riddick, Reverend J.C. Baker, Reverend John Wiggins, Reverend Alex Parker, Reverend Willard Baker, Reverend W.S. Baker, Reverend Garrison Saunders, Reverend Shadrick Riddick, Reverend Willie E. Riddick, Reverend Hal Saunders, Reverend James Baker, Reverend Ronald Riddick, Reverend Jonathan L. Knight, Reverend Roger Wendell Baker, Reverend Wesley J. Boone, Reverend Henry L. Jordan, Reverend John C. Wolfrey and Reverend J. Earl Norfleet. 

In 1987, modern revitalization of the church building next door was begun.  The walls were paneled, floors carpeted, bathrooms installed, and a kitchenette was provided.  The exterior was covered with vinyl siding.  Dedication services were held on Sunday, April 14, 1991.  The building was named “NEW MIDDLE SWAMP COMMUNITY CENTER”.  In 1992, church pews were cushioned and modern lights installed.
In January, 1988, under the leadership of Reverend A. J. Cherry, The Gospel Choir was organized by Darlene Baker Savage.The choir sang God’s praises for the first time on the second Sunday, January, 1989.
On July 6, 1992, Pastor Andrew J. Cherry departed this life; therefore, this pasture of sheep was left without an under shepherd.  In January 1993, the New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church family rejoiced in knowing that God had looked favorably upon us and sent the Reverend Dr. Claude M. Odom to become the eleventh pastor of this church.

Reverend Odom ordained his first deacons in 1993: Brothers Albert Bond, Roosevelt Eure, Dale Saunders, Sr., Joel Savage, and John C. Wolfrey.  More deacons were added between 1996 and 2005:  Brothers Wesley J. Boone, Henry L. Jordan, Whedbee Bond, Haywood Norman, Winfred Ralph and the re-ordination of William E. Spruill.  In 2011 Victor Scales was added to the roster of deacons.  

Under Reverend Odom’s pastorate, the church and its grounds have undergone several major improvements.  In 1994, the churchyard was paved, the church cemetery was revitalized, the front of the church was renovated in 2000, the pastor’s study was built and a brick marque was erected.  

In 1995, Deacon Albert Bond, was inspired by God with a vision to organize a male chorus. Reverend Dr. Odom gave his approval, and the New Middle Swamp Baptist Church Male Chorus was organized.  During the same year, Vacation Bible School was re-organized, the New Year’s Eve joint service with New Hope Baptist Church began, Sunday Youth Worship period was instituted, the New Members Class was established, and the first Monthly Newsletter and Calendar of Events was published.  

In 1997, the church began having worship services four Sundays in the month, and Saturday Morning Prayer Breakfast was initiated.  

Mrs. Bettina Odom, the First Lady of the church, had the vision to organize single individuals for spiritual fellowship. In 1999, the Singles Ministry was formed.  During this same year, renovations to the church’s front entrance were made which include: a new steeple, additional bathrooms, and a handicap ramp.  Reverend Odom made Health Education and the well-being of senior members of the congregation a vital part of the church ministry.  In June of 1999, the church presented its first Health Fair. 

Deaconess Mary Bond was inspired with the idea of church women coming together in fellowship in order to encourage each other, share wisdom, and form a spiritual sisterhood.  Subsequently, the Women’s Fellowship Ministry was established in 2000 under the leadership of Bettina Odom.  

In 2001, the Down East Nursing Home Ministry began as a means to provide the good news of Jesus Christ to its residents.  The Christian Education Committee was formed in 2002 with the purpose of planning activities that provide knowledge, skills, and active participation by youth in church life.  In 2004, Fifth Sunday morning worship service began.

The abundance of God’s grace is so apparent in strong pastoral leadership and the dedicated service of deacons at New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church.  God has equally blessed this branch of Zion with devoted associate ministers.  For the first time in the church’s recorded history, Reverend Dr. Claude Odom named five Associate Ministers:  Reverend Wesley J. Boone in 2004, Reverend Dr. Henry L. Jordan, in 2005, Reverend Dr. Donald Holley in 2006, Reverend Ronald Holley in 2009, Reverend John C. Wolfrey in 2010 and Reverend Dr. J. Earl Norfleet in 2013.  Rev. Wesley J. Boone became Assistant Pastor in June, 2013.  

In 2008, Mrs. Avis Holley conceived the idea for a Youth Church after being inspired by the Holy Spirit.  After presenting a proposal to Reverend Dr. Odom and the official board, the Youth Church began in September of that same year.  In 2008, the pulpit was updated with new furniture and in 2009 the church’s fellowship hall was also updated with new tables and chairs.  
In 2011, Rev. Odom instituted Senior Day and set aside the third Saturday in May as a day to give honor and appreciation to the senior congregation.  

The installation of an Audio and Visual System with PowerPoint Presentation and additional system capabilities for recording church services and activities was completed in November, 2011.  

In order to engage the young women in an additional worship experience Liturgical Praise Dance Ministry was started in 2015.  

Under the exceptional leadership of Reverend Dr. Claude M. Odom, New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church remains current in the civic affairs of the community and nation.  We are proud of this man for his great spiritual power, gift of relating effectively to all people, and his ability to keep the church alive during these crucial times.  He is dedicated to service of God and man.    

Former Pastors of New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church

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