Taken from: The Historical Journal of Divine Baptist Church by Rev. Dr. Tommy P. Smith
THE HISTORICAL JOURNAL
DIVINE BAPTIST CHURCH
This scene depicts Divine Baptist Church of Deep Creek on Galberry Road around 1922.
The two buildings in the foreground were used as school houses for African American pupils.
In 1925, a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation made it possible for a new school to be built.
Thanks to Dr. Hugo Owens for this photo which was sent to “Mark Carey’s Chesapeake.”
DBC Vision: To educate and empower each individual to become devoted Disciples of Christ through Spiritual Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding.
DBC Mission: To spread the Good News of Jesus Christ both locally and globally, minister to the needs of everyone (spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual); to continuously educate and develop Christian leaders while glorifying God in everything we do.
Message from Our Pastor
As Servant-Leader of Divine Baptist Church, and proud member of the Webb family, it is my distinct honor to pay tribute to family and friends during this time-honored family reunion. We greet you with an amazing 154 years of God’s Bountiful Blessings upon Divine Baptist Church. Truly, the Lord has been our Dwelling Place in all generations. In 1863, He was our Dwelling Place in the Bush. In 1945, He was still our Dwelling Place even when our building was destroyed by fire, but His Word stands forever. One hundred years later in 1963, “I Have A Dream” and He was still our Dwelling Place. Here we are 154 years later: a new century, a new millennium, a new age in which the “Dream” is realized and we believe “Yes We Can” because the Lord has brought us from a mighty long way.
“Giving Thanks to All Generations—Past and Present!” We became a united family of believers 154 years ago and we will continue to work together to accomplish all that God has placed before us. God has a purpose for each and every one of us so let us continue to face the future with faith. Sometimes, we look behind and are amazed as we reflect on how far God has brought us. We are encouraged by God’s blessings from the former days, and are assured from our biblical teachings that our future will be greater than our past. “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former” (Haggai 2:6).
“Giving Thanks to All Generations—Past and Present!” We commend those spiritual warriors and passionate pioneers who had an enormous impact on the establishment and sustainment of this Beautiful Branch of Zion. It is evident that God moved by the Power of His Holy Spirit to work through these great men and women to bring us to the place where we are able to celebrate 154 years of uncommon, undeniable, unequivocal and unforgettable Blessings in 2017 and “The Best Is Yet To Come!”
“Lord, Thou has been our Dwelling Place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1)
Giving Thanks to All Generations
Honoring the Past—Giving Thanks for the Present—Praising in Advance for the Future Church History (1863-Present)
In 1863, our Church was built in the bush and disguised with trees and grass to hide its identity. Slavery was still in existence so we were not allowed the freedom to assemble and worship. However, through God’s inspiration, a group of believers organized a church and named it Divine Baptist Church. As time passed and situations improved, Mr. George Corprew, being aware that the organizers needed property, donated the site on which our building now stands.
Divine Baptist Church’s first pastor was Reverend Charles Hodges. Its first deacons were Owen Harper, Lewis Butts, Isaiah Kenny, Lewis Kenny, Lewis Jackson, George Sawyer, and Isaiah Benton. As membership began to increase, a larger building was constructed and the older building became a community public school. Under the pastorate of Reverend J. S. Arnold, structural improvements were made. As growth continued, the following deacons were called: John Halstead, Randall Bell, Joseph Cassell, John Miller, Lewis Griffin, Afikey Silvers, Henry Rountree, William Butts, Robert Hinton and Junious Smith. Also, during this period, the first church school was organized. The Reverend D. H. Harper was the first Superintendent. The first missionary society was established and led by Sister Emma Jane Bolt. The choir was led by organist Elisabeth Edwards. Additionally, D. H. Harper chaired the BYPU.
Divine Baptist Church, being one of the oldest established churches in Norfolk County, grew and gave spiritual birth to new congregations. In 1892, members of Divine living in the Gilmerton and New Mill Creek communities applied for a charter from the Church. This charter was granted in 1893 to both communities. At that time, First Baptist Church-Gilmerton and New Light Baptist Church were both organized in their respective communities. In 1917, Saint Julien Creek Chapel in the Saint Julien Creek community applied for and received a charter from Divine. Saint Julien Creek Chapel is now known as New Hope Baptist Church. We are proud of their growth and development as we thank God for our continued fellowship.
Our Church, through the years, continued to grow and prosper and in 1941, our sanctuary was remodeled. The women of Divine Baptist Church, both past and present, played a vital part in the spiritual and financial growth of the Church. Unfortunately, on April 14, 1945, a fire was started when lightning struck the steeple. The edifice was completely destroyed by fire.
Everything burned except the Holy Bible. Due to this unfortunate mishap, our regular services were held at Deep Creek Elementary School and funerals were held at Rehoboth AME Church. Notwithstanding, “To God Be The Glory” because on August 12, 1951 at 3:00 p.m., a mortgage burning ceremony was held. Reverend R. L. Harris, First Baptist Church-Campostella, with his choir and congregation, were our guests. Pastor John R. Briggs, along with officers and members of Divine Baptist Church, conducted the mortgage rites for the occasion.
In our new edifice, new auxiliaries were formed and many willing workers sponsored rallies and fundraisers to supply the needs of our Church. In 1961, we initiated plans to build a Sunday School Annex. We needed additional land and space. Mr. George Wilson and family sold the church one acre and donated one-fourth acre of land. We give honor to God and the vision of John Creekmur (Architect), William White, Sr. (General Supervisor of Construction), Charles Brabble, Charles Benny Creekmur, Roy Demby, Jr., Theodore Griffin, Isaiah Hinton, Vincent Hinton, Leneave Riddick and James H. Westray for diligently leading the building effort. The officers and members pooled their gifts and talents to complete the education annex (1965-1967). It was dedicated by Reverend Briggs on May 16, 1971. The annex was named for Pastor-Emeritus John R. Briggs in January 1998. As a community service organization, our Church began a Food Bank service in 1982. Deacon John Creekmur and Trustee Dennis Cuffee completed the paperwork for this endeavor. Sisters Constance Griffin and Laverne Spruill issued the food with a smile for many years. Later, Deacon Waverly Cassell and Sister Hurley Gwynn took over the reins. These services have been a blessing to our community; however, our benevolent hands reach far beyond the community. We support missions in Haiti and Kenya. The late Reverend Joseph Wigfall was our representative for Haiti and Brother Aundrae Cassell continues to represent us for Kenya. Organizational support for Haiti is through Equator Faith Mission, and Kenya is supported through the Ambassador Fellowship Mission. Locally, we serve with the Meals-on-Wheels Program and serve as a support church for Feeding-The-Homeless. Our services also include: special recognition to the veterans—those who serve(d)—active, guard, reserve, and retired.
Our Church is currently affiliated with the Portsmouth-Chesapeake Sunday School Union; Baptist General Association; Tidewater Baptist Association; Twilight Sunday School Fellowship; NAACP; Tidewater Missionary Association; United Negro College Fund; and scholarship programs for our college students.
God has richly blessed us for 154 years. Our 154 years portray the dedication, love, loyalty and hard work our members have endured. Reverend John R. Briggs, our pastor for more than 46 years, retired on October 27, 1996. From November 1996 to November 1997, we were in search of a new Under-Shepherd. Deacon Theodore Griffin organized a Pastoral Search Committee and brought in Dr. Geoffrey Guns to get us started. Deacon Henderson Jackson chaired the Committee. During this search, our spiritual leadership was conducted by the Deacon Ministry: Roger Rountree (Chairman), Theodore Griffin, John Creekmur, Henderson Jackson, Waverly Cassell, Wilbur Thomas and Colbert Taylor.
The Divine Baptist Church membership prayed without ceasing and on Sunday, November 16, 1997, we selected Reverend Kelvin McDonald, Sr. as our new pastor. As we approached the 21st Century, we looked forward to his leadership and God’s guidance for all of us through Christ Jesus. Pastor McDonald served our church and community for three and one-half years. He was supportive of the ministries of our Church, and was very instrumental in implementing an after-school tutorial program in our Church and community. We provided transportation and snacks to the students at no cost to parents. Volunteers successfully supported the program for three years. Pastor McDonald transitioned to another pastorate position (North Carolina) in April 2001 and continues to serve God’s people as Pastor.
During our pulpit vacancy, the Deacons requested and assigned one of our members, Reverend Frank Worrell to preach and conduct Bible Study. In the meantime, Deacon Theodore Griffin led a Pastoral Search Committee to secure an Under-Shepherd for Divine Baptist Church.
Thanks be to God, on February 16, 2003, the membership of Divine Baptist Church elected Reverend James A. Simmons to be its next pastor. Reverend Simmons served our church very well during his tenure. He focused on prayer and taught two Bible Study classes. He began a "Back-to-Basics" Bible Study class and assigned two teachers to the Teenage Bible Study class. We had four Bible Study classes at that time. Pastor Simmons also began the Couples for Christ Ministry and the Singles Ministry became very active. After the death of Pastor Simmons' father, he relocated to Maryland to continue his father’s legacy and pastor at his home church.
We were again in search for an Under-Shepherd led by Deacon John Creekmur and a selected number of members for the Pastoral Search Committee. In the meantime, the deacons called various ministers to conduct pastoral duties until the Search Committee presented several candidates to our membership during the selection process.
At the divinely appointed time, God sent Rev. Dr. Tommy P. Smith as our next pastor. “And I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). He came to us from a local church and has proven to be a teacher, preacher, servant, and dynamic leader of this flock. He brought a “New” perspective for DIVINE: Divinely Illuminated Vision Inspiring New Expectations! New Expectations for New Opportunities for a New Season! “Behold, I will do a NEW thing…” (Isaiah 43:19a).
We honor our history while praising God for the present as this great church embarks upon its next chapter to fulfill its future for God’s Glorious Kingdom. “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1).