The amazing grace of our omnipotent God has allowed Little Piney Grove Baptist Church to experience a rich and miraculous history. The celebration of this 160th anniversary today proves that longevity is a precious commodity given only by God, who never leaves or forsakes us. Historical, records indicate that during the days prior to the Civil War, our forefathers worshipped at the churches of their white masters. Consequently, many of our churches that exist today grew and developed from the efforts of a persistent group of Black worshippers. They had a desire to worship and praise God, freely, in their own sanctuary. They dreamed of a day when they would not be limited to the designated “Black Only” section of the churches of their masters.
Our neighboring brothers and sisters in Christ from Oak Grove Baptist Church, formerly Pungo Baptist Church, have written within their recorded history the story of our ancestors who were members there. But, those faithful parishioners “formed for themselves a church, Little Piney Grove Baptist Church in the 1850s.”
They realized a need for spiritual witnessing in a place to worship of their own. Therefore, a group of bold and concerned Christians assembled together under a bush tent near the site which we now stand in the year of 1856. They were Christians coming out of bondage with the freedom to serve the Lord boldly. They knew that with God, all things were possible. They put their hope in Him and persevered with faith and prayer, trusting that their dreams could come true.
Feeling the immediate need for a spiritual leader in an infant church, a white minister was selected. He was succeeded by Reverend Charles Hodges, who was selected as the first colored minister. Reportedly, some of the first members were:
Sister Jane Munden
Reverend John Archer
Sister Jesse Hill
Brother Charles Williams
Sister Sarah Hill
Brother Joseph Williams
Brother John Thoroughgood
Sister Alfina Hill
Sister Diane Grimstead
Sister Asnet Hill
Brother Issac Williams
Brother Miles Williams
Brother Ned Wright
Sister Jodie Edwards
Sister Gracie Creekmore
Sister Cholie Williams
Brother Miles Williams
Sister Elizabeth Wright
After many years of growing, witnessing, fellowshipping and worshipping, a new church building was built by the members. This building was used several years without being ceiled. But, under the leadership of the Reverend John Archer, this much needed “ceiling” was completed. Three known buildings were used, one in 1884, 1886 and 1906. It is reported that the Senior Choir began to sing during this period of time.
A number of ministers assisted the fledgling Little Piney Grove. Some of the early pastors included the following clergymen:
Reverend Henry Johnson
Reverend J. W. Archer
Reverend J. A. Lamb
Reverend J. A. Fleming
Reverend J. H. Arnold
Reverend A. E. Owens
Reverend Charles Moore
Reverend J. A. Nimmo
Some of these ministers served only six months while others served considerably longer. Many “sons” and ministerial associates of the church carried the torch of leadership during those days of struggle without pastors. Some of those diligent and supportive ministers were Reverend Henry Bell, Reverend E. Reid, Reverend McKinley Morris, Reverend Phillip E. Wright, Reverend Love, Reverend Jesse H. Smith and Reverend Jehu Bright. Sunday services were held once a month. Revivals were held in August and this tradition still holds true today.
In the year of our Lord, 1929, Reverend W. Preston Jones began his Pastorate here with the aid of his outgoing and industrious wife, Jessie Welch Jones. For twenty-seven years he was a renowned and well loved minister and leader. The membership loved his “style” of preaching so much that they would jump up in praise to God and excitedly run and shout to the glory of God in the midst of his sermons. He worked as best he could to lead the church members in spiritual growth and fulfilled many, much needed tasks. One of his most memorable contributions was the development of the beloved Male Chorus which still exists today.
In the year of 1956, Reverend Jones was called to another field of service. At his departure, he was succeeded by Reverend Johnie Williams, who served as acting Pastor. All debt was liquidated during the service of Reverend Williams. The church progressed spiritually and financially.
Sunday worship services advanced from once a month to twice monthly (the first and third Sundays). Eventually, Sunday worship and fellowship grew to every Sunday, except fifth Sunday. On the fifth Sunday, we joined in worship with the now defunct Chesapeake and Virginia Beach Church School Union Number One.
Reverend W. D. Moore of Hertford, North Carolina followed as Pastor. The Church continued to progress spiritually.
Reverend Moore was succeeded by Reverend J. M. Hall of Virginia Beach. His lovely, kind, and caring wife was Isabelle “Belle” Hall. The church was blessed with an increase in membership, spiritual progress and a successful financial program. Reverend Hall spoke characteristically with a “long drawl.” He delivered flowery sermons which often demonstrated his love of poetry. His kind and loving heart was trademark evidence of his love for God. One of his contributions to the church was the development of Choir Number Two.
The Reverend C. M. Edwards of Portsmouth followed as Pastor and served spiritually for a short time.
In September 1972, Reverend Ajack Scott began to serve as acting Pastor. He served in this capacity for four months and in January 1973 was called to full time ministry here. His beautiful wife, Lizabeth “Liz” accompanied him. She was well respected among the church body. Her mild manner and humble spirit made her a joy to know. It was always a pleasure to hear her praise God with her soft soprano voice. Under his leadership, this present sanctuary was rebuilt. During the time of rebuilding, Sunday services were held at Creeds Elementary School. On the first Sunday in January, 1974, the first worship service was conducted in a partially completed building.
Reverend Scott was noted to be quick-witted and humorous. The catchy titles of his sermons he delivered easily caught the attention of the listeners. Because of his style of preaching, it was easy to remember the “Word from God” that he delivered.
Under his administration, a women’s choir was organized, the Little Piney Grove Gospel Choir, which is affectionately referred to today as the L.P.G.’s. Reverend Jesse Franklin Smith began his ministry under Reverend Scott, and after ten months of evangelistic preaching, he was called into the pastorate. Reverend Samuel Baker, Sr. also began his ministry during this time. Today, he is continuing to serve as an associate minister through music and preaching God’s word.
Prior to Reverend Scott’s departure, approximately five additional acres were acquired which attached to the church property line on the north side. This purchase was intended to expand the cemetery.
Reverend Scott remained with us until he was called to shepherd another flock.
On April 10, 1983, Reverend Marion E. Thompkins, along with his loving and Godly wife, Alean, commenced his labors here and continued for nearly twenty years. She was known for her love of young people and music. She enjoyed playing the organ and the piano for the Youth Chior and the Prayer Band. She was a praying woman. She unequivocally supported and encouraged her husband. She was an example of the Proverbs 31 woman. Her kindness and love was extended to everyone. His vigorous and dynamic leadership, lofty ideals of excellence, and preaching of the Gospel led the church to heights of prosperity never witnessed before here. Under his leadership, the church entered a new cycle: the builders, the doers, and the strivers. All efforts were designed to make Little Piney Grove a stronger, more diligent, and a more holy people. Reverend Thompkins affectionately referred to Little Piney Grove as, “Holy Ghost Headquarters.” His desire was to see the church membership work and live to the glory of God. He reminded us to, “Enter to worship, but depart to serve.”
Under his administration, a solid financial plan was developed. A benevolence financial mission was organized to assist the poor and those who were struggling monetarily. His goal was not merely providing a needed hand out, but to educate those who were struggling in the organization and preparation of a workable budget, so that they would be able to prosper. Financial programs were set up through a system of checks and balances. He was always the first to demonstrate giving. His theme was, “You Can’t Beat God Giving, No Matter How You Try.” He lived and led others by this belief and encouraged everyone to trust God for the increase.
A school was inaugurated under his leadership, Little Piney Grove Christian Academy, with the purpose of assisting the youth of the church and the community with reading, math, and other related academic problems. Spiritual training and character development was also included in the curriculum. He aspired to advance the music ministry. Thus, he secured the assistance of a music professor from Hampton University to train the voices of the choirs. Both the Unity Choir and the Mass Choir were organized under his administration. He encouraged all choir members to, “Live the life that they sang about.”
An annex was added to the Church which included a multipurpose room, commercial kitchen, a pastor’s study with a full bath, several classrooms, offices, and restrooms. The landscaped, paved parking lot and the purchase of an estimated two-acre parcel of property with a three-bedroom ranch house, adjoining the church property line were also obtained under the administration of Reverend Thompkins. Under this administration, the church became “debt-free.” Many of the visual and beautiful changes still evident today, occurred under the leadership of Reverend Doctor Marion E. Thompkins through the help and grace of God Almighty.
Reverend Thompkins focused on preaching the infallible Word of God to the best of his ability. He encouraged weekly Wednesday Evening Prayer Meetings, and Bible Studies. He loved, and encouraged the Youth to, “Stand Up For Jesus.” Fourth Sundays were especially arranged to allow the young people an opportunity to lead in Christian worship (Youth Sunday). The young people were allowed to “take over” in every aspect of worship on this Sunday. He believed that the church had an obligation to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Additionally, he established a Scholarship program to assist high school graduates with books, tuition or other school necessities as they furthered their education in college.
So inspired by the preached Word of God and the ministerial guidance of Reverend Doctor Thompkins, the following ministers were licensed and ordained: Reverend George Munden and Reverend John Calvin Smith. They are both currently serving as pastors today. Also, licensed under Reverend Thompkins were Reverend Samuel Baker, Jr. and Reverend Donna Munden. Sister Neava Williams returned from Holy Trinity Community Church to resume her ministry here. Additionally, Reverend Edward Lawrence and Reverend Frank Lawrence returned to this ministry. Reverend Willie Smith, Reverend John T. Cherry and Reverend Maurice Fuller joined the ranks of other Little Piney Grove associate ministers to assist Reverend Thompkins.
Reverend Thompkins gave his all and all to the development of the ministry here. He served until his health failed him. Many times he would remind us that he was not going to “rust” out of the work of God, his desire was to “wear” out. He promised God he would “Work for Him until the day was done.” Although his ministerial era ended in death, he will long be remembered here for his financial benevolence, Godly example, stern teaching, wisdom, dedication, and love of God.
During the time of Reverend Thompkins’ illness and ultimate death, Reverend John T. Cherry, Reverend Donna B. Munden, and Reverend Samuel Baker, Sr. along with the official board led the church in staying focused on the promise of God. Together, they continued to do their best to seek God for the betterment of the church.
After a lengthy time of searching, on June 29, 2005, Reverend Joseph A. Turner, Sr. became the new pastor accompanied by his wife, Anastasia. Reverend Turner began his tenure on the first Sunday in July 2005 and remained until July 2012. In 2007 and 2009, Reverend Roderick Jernigan and Reverend Courtney Bullard, respectively, joined the ministry here.
After Reverend Turner’s departure, the church was held together by the grace of God Almighty and a strong and loving Joint Board Ministry. The deacons, trustees and deaconesses endeavored to keep the church unified and encouraged in the Lord. In 2014 and 2015 Reverend Barry Clark and Reverend Tonya Clark joined and assisted the ministry here respectively. They encouraged praise and worship each and every Sunday.
On March 2, 2016, Reverend Rashad D. L. Cartwright was elected as the new pastor of Little Piney Grove Baptist Church. He has the sincere prayers of the congregation that he will be, “a pastor after God’s own heart.” We are anticipating great things under his leadership as he follows Christ.
Little Piney Grove is known as a lover of the community by serving others with a heart of benevolence. We strive to serve others by the use of compassionate outreach ministries such as the Food Ministry, which provides food assistance to families in need. The Youth Ministry supports young people in their time of academic, emotional-social, spiritual or financial need. This ministry also provides recreational opportunities within the church and community for young people. The Benevolence Ministry, Women’s Ministry and Men’s Ministry reaches out to partner with local shelters, the Red Cross, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Departments, local schools and other programs to make the community a better place to live.
Little Piney Grove is affiliated with many organizations. Some of which are as follows: Sharon Baptist Association, Tidewater Metro Baptist Ministers Conference of Virginia Beach, Baptist World Alliance, General Baptist Association, American Red Cross, Baptist Children’s Home of Virginia, Lott Carey Foundation, University of Lynchburg, formerly, Virginia Seminary and College, to name a few.
We thank God for our forefathers who had a mind to serve and trust God. We express sincere gratitude to God for our previous pastors, officers and members who untiringly and unselfishly gave of themselves to pave the way for this 160th year of celebration. Yes, they traveled many rocky roads, but with God by their sides, they endured. Consequently, our pathways have been made smoother to travel due to their efforts.
“To God Be The Glory”