In 1942, in a small community called “Honeytown,” New Hope Free Will Baptist Church was organized. The church will celebrate its 70th anniversary this Sunday.
New Hope Free Will Baptist Church is located at 105 Blewitt Ave., Rockingham.
“Cottage prayer meetings were being held at neighbors’ homes,” said Linda Smith, 64, church member. “This one particular evening, prayer meeting was being held at Pat and Luella Hudson’s home. Pat had come home from work to eat supper. he did not clean up before he sat down at the kitchen table. Luella told him to wash up and Pat got so upset with the folks at his home that he told them to go start a church, and that is just what they did.”
“Charlie Rogers made the stone blocks and laid the foundation for the church,” continued Smith. “Rogers was the first pastor for New Hope Free Will Baptist Church.”
Lila King is the only remaining relative of the original pastor’s family. King will be 88 years old soon.
“She plans to be at New Hope Sunday morning worship to celebrate the 70th year,” said Smith. ” We will be having a dinner in honor of Mrs. King and our present pastor.”
The current pastor, Allen Hudson, is the grandson of the founders of the church. He said his grandfather worked in scrap metal and his grandmother was Native American. He described the neighborhood and those that prayed together as “not prosperous” and said they made their own blocks for the foundations, which they baked in the sun.
“I’m the 14th pastor of the church,” said Hudson. “The church came to fruition sometime in late October, we’re not sure of the date, so that’s why we have our anniversary now. Back then the church had a coal heater. It’s evolved since then. It’s all electric now and has carpet. It’s still not a large church but it’s a strong one. We’ve had some very spiritual things go through our church.”
Hudson said more than one person has been healed of cancer at the church, and one person said they saw an angel near the ceiling. Hudson said that if a newcomer were to attend a Sunday worship service, “someone would come up to you and hug your neck and tell you they love you.”
The congregation on any given Sunday wears anything from blue jeans to suits, “but it’s not about that,” said Hudson, who said the church is full of love. The fellowship hall, where lunch will be served at 12:15 on Sunday, was a house that was given to the church.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.