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Neck church marks 200th anniversary page 2
About 150 people help Popes Creek Baptist Church in Westmoreland celebrate its 200th anniversary

 The Rev. Richard Headley jokingly invited folks to join his congregation for 'seagull' that tastes like fried chicken.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 7/30/2012

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Rickenbaker told the crowd that "no institution is more clearly defined by its history than the church."

And Popes Creek clearly defined its historic moments in a 36-page booklet. Copies were passed out before the service, along with souvenir pens, postcards and chocolate bars with a drawing of the church on the cover.

From 1788 to 1812, Baptists in Westmoreland and Richmond counties belonged to Nomini Baptist Church. But members lived so far away, they couldn't attend services regularly and met in homes and barns or under arbors.

In 1812, 40 members branched out from Nomini to start a new church. The group worshipped first in the old Popes Creek Episcopal Church, where George Washington attended services as a boy.

Members eventually built a church, but it was destroyed in the 1860s by a fire, one of many that would do damage at Popes Creek Baptist Church.

On Sunday, member Liz Heatwole reminded the congregation that its ancestors had been tested not just by fire, but by war.

When the church first organized, its members heard British guns during the War of 1812. When its second building was completed in the 1860s, its members had lived through the cannons of the Civil War.

The congregation suffered another loss in the 1930s, when fire again ravaged the church. A new brick building was dedicated in April 1941, with a cornerstone laid by members of Masonic lodges in Colonial Beach and Warsaw.

That building has been added onto and renovated over the years, with beautiful stained-glass windows and electronic pipe organs dedicated in memory of loved ones.

There's a special glow about the church, not from its lighting, but from the warmth of the people, said member Bob Heatwole.

"I pray that this church will always have a place in our community," he said.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com


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