Anniversary services stir memories at church

The Rev. Harold Brown, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, stands outside the church at the corner of Church and Prospect Streets in Front Royal. The church is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Banners, posters and a wealth of record and prayer books deck the front of Mount Vernon Baptist Church as part of a 150th anniversary exhibit for the church’s series of services and celebrations.

Parishioner and church treasurer Betty Roberts led the effort to collect research on the church for organization and presentation after volunteer committees began to form in January.

The exhibit showcases mementos from various points in the church’s history, including minute books passed down from church clerks dating back to 1918. A slideshow of more than 200 congregation and church photos, collected from various members past and present, will accompany the anniversary services.

Mount Vernon debuted the exhibit and held an “Old Fashion Singing” event on June 13, a new event that featured a cappella vocal talents from around the area. Roberts said the program was well received.

“We were quite pleased with the way it went,” she said. “We had no idea what it would be like because we’d never had a program like that before.”

Pearl Jordan, of Front Royal, left, and Betty Roberts, right, look over an old photo album on display as part of Mount Vernon Baptist Church's 150th anniversary. Jordan, at 92, is the oldest member of the church and Roberts serves as treasurer, pianist and organist. Rich Cooley/Daily

The church begam its annual revival services on Wednesday and it continues tonight, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Former members of the I Am His (I.A.H.) youth organization will reunite at Mount Vernon on Saturday. Two singing groups of former I.A.H. members will provide music at the 3 p.m. service.

Two anniversary services will be held on Sunday. The Rev. Alfred Woods, who served as Mount Vernon’s pastor from 1991 to 2011, will lead the 11 a.m. service. The Rev. Dr. Jewel Simmons, of Providence Baptist Church in Orlean, will lead the 3 p.m. service.

Although Mount Vernon Baptist Church first formed in November 1865 under the Rev. George Taylor, the congregation had to meet in various buildings until members built the first log church in 1885 using money loaned from the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York.

A growing congregation prompted the need for a larger church, which was built in 1903 under Mount Vernon’s second pastor, the Rev. G.C. Bannister. Since then, various additions have expanded and enriched the church over time.

A total of six pastors have led Mount Vernon Baptist in its 150 years, with the Rev. Harold Brown Sr. beginning his service to the church in July 2013.

Brown had visited and preached at Mount Vernon before his installation, and said he has known many of the older members since boyhood.

“The vision, as far as I’m concerned, is that we can get the community to come together and also get those who have left to come back,” he said.

A fond memory to many, the I.A.H. club formed as a youth ministry group in 1954 and reorganized in 1964 as Youth Unlimited, according to the Rev. Brevetta Jordan and church clerk Dodie Adams. Jordan and Adams grew up within the church and were members of the I.A.H.

Jordan now leads Mount Vernon as one of four associate ministers.

Although no longer active, the group included youth from multiple Front Royal area churches and had a roster of more than 200 members over its history.

“They’ve grown up and we haven’t had the youth to replace them,” Jordan said. “We’re hoping that this reunion will spark something in the adults to show that how being involved as a youth can impact them in their adult Christian life.”

She said the yearly homecomings bring friends and family back together in delight, and the church is looking forward during this hallmark anniversary.

“The mission was really to collect and gather as much memory as we had preserved and to pass it on, to stir us up for something new,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or