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Formal Constitution as a Church

As the group meeting at the Oriole Avenue house grew in numbers and spirit, the question of a Service of Formal Constitution kept coming up with increasing intensity. Finally, after several false starts—largely due to schedule conflicts by Baptist leaders whose presence was considered important — Sunday, July 25, 1954 was chosen.

The organizational meeting was held at the Garfield School at 3:30 P.M. The preacher was Mr. James R. Bryant, Executive Secretary of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Presiding was Dr. M. Jackson White, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon and Moderator of the mount Vernon Baptist Association. Thirty-seven persons are listed on the program as Charter Members. The number had grown to 92 when the Charter Membership was closed in September.

The church had been sponsored by the Annandale Baptist Church. It voted to affiliate with the Mount Vernon Baptist Association, the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Southern Baptist Convention.

By October 1954, attendance at the fledgling church forced the beginning of dual Morning Worship Services, a pattern the church has employed over the years with remarkable effectiveness.

An Early Transition

Rev. Martin was not married when he came, but on August 18, 1951, he and Margaret were married in Memphis, Tennessee. They were appointed missionaries to Nigeria in December 1954 and closed their formal ministry at Springfield. They reported to Oyo, Nigeria in March 1955.

The Martins and their young son came back to the States on furlough in April 1962. In May, Margaret gave birth to triplets. They are the EMB's only parents of MK (missionary kid) triplets — a distinction they still hold.

A New Pastor

Rev. E. Hugh Ragland became pastor in March 1955 just one year after the first public worship. The house on Oriole Avenue was soon overcrowded. Neighbors opened their homes for Sunday School Classes. Despite the hardships, the church continued to grow. Everyone knew that a permanent home for the burgeoning new congregation had to be built.

A Permanent Home

The site at Monticello Boulevard and Gary Street had been held by the Mission Board. It was transferred to the newly organized Springfield Baptist Church. An architect was engaged, fund raising activities untaken and loans were arranged. A Ground-Breaking Service was held on December 4, 1955 at 3:30 PM. Guest speakers were Dr. M. Jackson White, Pastor at Clarendon and Chairman of the New Churches Committee of Mount Vernon Baptist Association and Rev. William J. Cumbie, Pastor at Annandale and Moderator of the Association. Both Youth and Adult choirs sang.

The $130,000 first unit was dedicated and occupied in May 1957. Pastor Hugh Ragland wrote in the Springfield Independent, “The building is designed to inspire both reverence towards God and friendliness toward those you meet there.” It was full on the first day the church began to use its new building. An extensive program was being offered: two morning worship services; an evening service; a Christian Training program for all ages on Sunday evenings; a Wednesday evening Prayer Service; missionary groups and choirs for all ages at various times during the week.

Rev. Ragland resigned in June 1957 to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Dr. Ernest F. Campbell, retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Alexandria, became Interim Pastor. His experienced and substantial leadership enabled the church through the transition of choosing a new pastor.

Dr. Campbell served until the arrival of Rev. Henry B. Land, Jr., who had been a Navy and Air Force Chaplain, began his ministry at Springfield on December 1957. His pastorate ended in 1959.

Rev, Heslip M. Lee became pastor in June 1959. He had been Director of religious Activities (Baptist Campus Minister) at Mercer University, Macon, GA. The church continued to grow and establish itself as a vital part of the Springfield community. Rev. Lee was particularly active with several “Council of Churches” type organizations. His zealous advocacy of racial reconciliation led him into a leadership role in the local expression of the Virginia Council of Human Relations. He resigned in June 1961 and became Executive Director of the Statewide Council.

Rev. J.P. Gulley, retired pastor of the Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, was engaged as Interim Pastor. His steady and experienced leadership saw the Church through transition and helped the Church get ready for its next Pastor.     top



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