• 70°

North Albemarle Baptist set for 100th birthday celebration

By Jo Grey, for the SNAP

Every church in Stanly County has a history tucked away in the memories of the members and woven into the community’s life — and one is ready to celebrate its history this weekend.

A centennial birthday party will take place Sunday at North Albemarle Baptist Church, beginning at 10 a.m. with fellowship. The 10:30 a.m. worship service will celebrate the past and the future, include special music with The Northmen and a message from former pastor Wayne Bennett.

The church will provide lunch afterwards in the Bolin Family Life Center for members and visitors.

Gabrielle Lowder Hatley is coordinating committee efforts. She is a 2012 graduate of Albemarle High School and a middle school teacher in Cabarrus County Schools who doesn’t mind taking on big projects.

“I’ve gone to North for as long as I can remember,” says Hatley. “I see so much of God’s faithfulness and grace abundantly poured out over us. It makes me really excited for all that he is going to do with North in the future, and I feel blessed to be a part of it all.”

The church’s more recent history includes a cluster of stately brick structures on Yadkin Street that used to sit in the shadow of Stanly Memorial Hospital. Only one remains — a former pastorium which is now the Butterfly House Child Advocacy Center.

In 2001, the hospital needed more parking and expansion space and made the church an offer it couldn’t refuse.

In 2004, North Albemarle Baptist Church moved into a multi-building campus on Park Ridge Road.

The church’s new neighborhood is home to Albemarle High School and Spring Arbor Assisted Living facility, but the old neighborhood of mill houses, originally known as New Town, sprang up at a time when textile mills were drawing families from the farms to the cities.

North Albemarle Baptist Church began in that time and place.

A 1928 document from the Baptist Historical Collection at Wake Forest University states that NABC officially organized in a wooded grove on June 8, 1919, although a group of people from New Town was already meeting together for Sunday school in a small store building on North Second Street, possibly Snuggs’ store. Either way, a Baptist church was planted in the Happy Hollow area, complete with a creek for baptizing.

Despite some of the fuzzy details, a ragged, bound book of elegant cursive script supplies a list of 24 charter members present on that late spring day with Stanly County names like Austin, Hatley, Fesperman and Barbee.

The 100-year-old “Convention Church Record” book states that Elder T. F. Rogers called six ordained ministers to meet in North Albemarle for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church, and that inclement weather chased everyone inside a sheltering storeroom — presumably Snuggs’ store.

The Rev. Q. C. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, and other ministers made remarks to the newly-organized church body. After that, four deacons were elected, but they postponed calling a pastor at that time.

At the next church conference in July, the members voted to call Rogers as pastor. Rogers served only a few months and, according to the church record book, he resigned Oct. 5, 1919.

Stanly County native Charles Brantley Reid succeeded Rogers, serving for seven years. The record book reports J. F. Cannon, president of Wiscassett Mills, offered the church a choice between two Yadkin Street lots where a building might be erected.

On Feb. 6, 1921, the people voted unanimously to accept the lot on Third Street, and a few months later they voted to construct a wooden building, rather than brick. A building committee was formed and a plan proposed for a structure which would provide a sanctuary and six Sunday school rooms.

The first service in that building was Nov. 20, 1921. According to Stanly Baptist Association records of that year, the church had 183 members, up from 63 the year before. Reid left for another pastorate after the total construction debt was paid.

The Rev. Dossie Deaton from Troy served from 1926-1928, and he was followed by the Rev. Joel Sepos Tyson.

Current member Jane Deane says her family lived in a house at the corner of Fourth and Yadkin streets where the Medical Pharmacy parking lot is now.

Her mother, Dora Lee Harrington, brought Jane to church in about 1935 when Jane was 5 years old — too young to remember Tyson, but she does remember the “Amen Corner” in the original church where her grandfather, Mose Harrington, sat with the older men.

The list of ministers present at the organizational gathering included the Rev. Wade Broadus Holmes, who was called as pastor late in 1935, and served until 1953, longer than any other NABC pastor. It was in 1949 when the growing church went through a two-year, three-part construction phase to build the education building, sanctuary and pastorium on Yadkin Street.
Robert Stoker, current chairman of the board of deacons, grew up at NABC and can tell stories about church softball games, youth activities and the people who made an impact on his life.

“When I think back, there are so many families contributing to the legacy of the church,” he said. “Some for a short time, others for 20 or 30 years.”

One of Stoker’s best friends during his high school years was David Ferguson, son of Pastor Bill Ferguson (1970-1977).

“Back then, there were many older men I looked up to. Charlie B. Smith and Harold Hudson come to mind. I knew I wanted to be like them,” said Stoker.

He remembers the early ‘90s when the church lost many of the senior members: “There was a funeral almost every month.”

Margaret Hollifield, choir director from 1989 to 2001, says, “When I think back, I see a sea of faces, not just a few outstanding leaders, although they were there. I felt like I knew people as if they were family. We felt acceptance and appreciation.”

These barest of details leave half a century and much untold about the 100-year-old church, and many more memories are waiting to be unveiled.

Jo Grey is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.