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Beth Carr celebrates 170 years of history Sunday

SoVaNow.com / October 16, 2013
On Sunday, Oct. 20 Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax will be celebrating 170 years of history. Fred Anderson will be the guest speaker for the occasion followed by a luncheon in the Mary Barksdale Assembly Hall. Worship will begin at 11 a.m.

Dr. Fred Anderson is executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society and the executive director of the Center for Baptist Heritage and Studies. The Society operates a research library and helps churches preserve their historical records. The Heritage Center is an educational ministry to teach Baptist heritage.

Anderson writes a heritage column for the Religious Herald. He has written over 1,000 of Herald columns and gathered 100 of his favorites in a book entitled Playing Favorites and Getting Personal which is one of twelve books written by him.

He especially enjoys putting on a costume and portraying a character out of Baptist history. He will portray Dr. William E. Hatcher, a prominent minister, public speaker and writer at Beth Car on Homecoming Sunday.

Prior to 1843 the church was not named and was referred to as the “religious society called Baptists worshiping at the Halifax Courthouse” or simply the “Church at the Courthouse.” It is assumed that the church was named in the first year of its existence when a small group of Baptists approximately 40 in number decided to build a house of worship and to call a pastor. It is thought that the name Beth Car came from the one place in the Bible that it is mentioned in 1st Samuel 7:11. Scholars translate the Hebrew words to mean “House of the Lamb.” From a deed, dated September 9, 1843 and a stated consideration of $335.00 cash a parcel of land in the village of Halifax Courthouse was conveyed to Abram M. Poindexter, Anthony Younger, Nathaniel S. Poindexter, and John C. McDearman, Trustees of the church. This parcel of land is across from the present church. A description of this place of worship is not known.

The Reverend Dr. Abram Maer Poindexter served as the first pastor of Beth Car. He would be followed by 22 other men who served in this capacity. Beth Car has had three ministers to serve and then return to the Halifax Church—The Reverend William Allen Tyree, The Reverend Julian Marcelus Luck, and the Reverend James Rayfield Rowles Jr. The Reverend Robert Werner Bagwell; whose tenure from 1918 to 1936, makes him the longest serving minister of Beth Car. Several ministers of the church served in the Confederate Army prior to entering the ministry. The Reverend Dr. George William Beale, who served Beth Car from 1878 to 1884 is the author of the book, “A Lieutenant of Cavalry in Lee’s Army” which reveals much of the life and character of Beale as well as the life of the Confederate soldier. Beale was with J.E.B. Stuart as he made his famous dash around McClellan’s Army. The Reverend William Jordan Shipman and his family were the first to occupy the new parsonage which was built in 1888 on Maple Avenue. During Shipman’s pastorate the present day church was built in 1893 on a parcel of land across the street from the 1843 house of worship. Judge William Randolph Barksdale was the driving force of Beth Car for some 50 years. He along with Trustees T.T. Carter and Robert A. East obtained the lot on which Beth Car now stands. Barksdale’s devotion to Beth Car included 50 years as a deacon and 56 years as superintendent of Beth Car Sunday School. Three of Judge Barksdale’s daughter Louise (Watkins), Helen (Martin), and Mary followed in their father’s footsteps as leaders in the church. Louise organized the choirs and arranged the flowers, Helen took care of the nursery, and Mary was the Sunday School Superintendent.

In 1953 the frame church of 1893 was bricked with the addition of a vestibule and Sunday School rooms. Dr. Raymond Bryan Brown was the pastor during this period of construction as well as the first full time pastor of Beth Car. In 1967 a much needed educational building was constructed which was connected to the existing building by an arcade thus completing the church building as it now stands. The Rev. Dr. John Michael Parnell is the present pastor of Beth Car.


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