The founders of Christ Memorial Baptist Church would see today a church that had grown from an initial membership of 26 congregants to one that now measures 118 and still heard the same gospel message of salvation preached 50 years ago.
Pastor Jeff Collins and Director of Worship Woody Curtis said the church had maintained a conservative stance toward the Bible as the ultimate church authority as opposed to other segments of mainline Protestantism that had leaned toward more progressive views over the years.
"This church was founded to be a witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in Dover," Collins said. "It continues to do that today. A lot of churches have changed their theology. Our theology is solidly a biblical theology. It has been so since its inception."
Curtis added that the church had also maintained its long history of volunteerism and service to the community, including a food pantry in the church basement, periodic blanket drives for the homeless and even some home construction for the needy.
Among the changes church founders might see today is the more casual dress, power point presentations during worship services, weekly emails from the pastor and the contemporary worship service with more upbeat music with guitar and drums, Collins said.
But, from time to time, the Dover church, a part of the American Baptists segment, had evaluated itself to ensure what it was doing and was biblically based, Collins said. And a few years ago, church fathers finally wrote up an article of faith, he added.
Collins and Curtis have been researching the history of Christ Memorial Baptist Church in anticipation of the church's 50th anniversary celebration set for this weekend.
An ice cream night social on Friday night kicks off the golden anniversary celebration, followed by a catered banquet on Saturday night and special worship services on Sunday, the actual anniversary date, Collins said.
A pastor by the name of Howard Stewart and a local farmer named Frank Richardson led the movement to found Christ Memorial Baptist Church in the early 1960s as the need for a church in South Dover was realized given the way the area was quickly growing, Curtis said. Richardson donated the land required to build the church in 1962.
The initial church was housed in a small house called the South Dover Chapel where worship services were held in the garage, Sunday school was held in the basement and the pastor lived in the house, Curtis said. Pastor Amos Pepper was officially installed as the first church pastor on March 3, 1963.
Pepper led the flock until the arrival of Pastor Claude Fulks in June 1964, Curtis said. Fulks proceeded to have an integral role in shaping the church in the early going as church membership increased from 26 in July 1964 to 64 the following December, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - The current church building was actually built between March 1968 and November 1969 under the leadership of Herman Myers, Curtis said.
In April 2002, the church broke ground on a 44-foot by 92-foot, two-story addition to the existing building and dedicated the addition in May 2003, he said. Advanced Construction built the exterior shell while a labor force from the church and Kingdom Builders installed the drywall, ceilings and floor, among other things.
Collins said one of the interesting parts of the anniversary celebration this weekend would be the opening of a time capsule that was left in cornerstone of the church completed in 1969. The cement from that stone has been cut away to reveal the time capsule.
He said that after the old one was revealed, a new time capsule would be resealed into the cornerstone for perhaps the 100th anniversary.
ABOUT THE CHURCH
WORSHIP SERVICES Traditional service at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, contemporary worship at 11 a.m. Sunday
SUNDAY SCHOOL 9:45 a.m. Sunday
WEEKLY DINNER 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
INFO (302) 697-7924, firstname.lastname@example.org, christmemorialbaptistchurch.com