MAXWELL HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
The history of Maxwell Hill Baptist Church is rich in memories from its rural beginning in 1941 until now, when Beckley is standing ready to burst at the seams in growth. The story of the church is one of people who loved the Lord and dedicated themselves to build a central place of worship as dictated by the needs of the community. Throughout the 58-year history, the church has had six pastors, and the community has transformed from a small rural setting to a modern, well-developed suburb of a small city. The history of the church reveals its adaptability to change and growth, as well as its resolve to remain steadfast in God’s principles. As an entire generation of people has passed and many changes have taken place, the one thing that has not changed is the message of the church. This message has always been the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those of us who have been privileged to be a part of this history, it has been a wonderful experience. The following are the highlights of our story.
The idea for a church was born in 1941 when Maxwell Hill was nothing more than twenty-five homes on two dirt streets – Teel Road and Forest Road – sitting on top of a mountain overlooking Beckley. The connecting road to Beckley – Maxwell Hill Road – was not even paved, and the rest of the community as we know it today was fields and forests. World War II had brought many of the men in the area away from home, and little transportation existed, as there were only a few cars in the community. Our Lord used this background to plant the seed
God used the women of the community to become the founders of the church. Predicated by the need for a central place of worship and a desire to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the idea was born in the mind of a new community member, Mrs. Henry Broughman. Mrs. Broughman, along with Mrs. J.L. Allen and Mrs. Julius Miller, soughadvice from a local minister named Earl Grose. He encouraged them to first survey the community to see if enough interested existed for form a church. Services were planned for the following Sunday, September 28, 1941, at the homes of Broughman and Miller to test the response. Amazingly, fifty people attended and this grew to sixty-nine by the third Sunday. The services had to be moved on the fourth Sunday to the basement of the grocery store owned by Mr. & Mrs. Dover Daniels (which later became Turner Store and still exists today as the first home on the right at the intersection of Teel & Maxwell Hill Roads).
The Maxwell Hill Baptist Church was officially organized on February 22, 1942, by a council representing the Raleigh Baptist Association. The association received the church into full fellowship later that year. There were twelve charter members: Mrs. George Cline, Mrs. J.L. Allen, Mrs. Henry Broughman, Betty Jane Shultz Broughman, Ferrell Jo Dixon Worrell, Mrs. Mildred Dixon, W.G. Hughort, Henry Kent, George Cline, Mrs. Earnest Broughman, and Rev. & Mrs. Harry L. Stevens. (We currently have two members of the original church with us – Gladys Anglin and her daughter Mary Williams.)
Construction on a new church building began on July 25, 1942, as Dale Dixon plowed the first furrow with a horse owned by Herb Tolley. The building was not fully completed until December 1947, because the war created financial difficulties and many of the needed building supplies were not available. The basement was completed, though, and the first services were held on December 24, 1942.
The church had three different pastors in the first three years. Aden Brown was the first, followed by Harry L. Stevens, and then succeeded by Henry Smith in 1945. Henry Smith pastored until 1950 when Landon W. Stanley came.
Landon Stanley pastored until 1964. During his pastorate, the church debt was retired. On June 26, 1955, a special service was held to commemorate that event. The congregation ranged from 80 to 100.
Then 1960s brought rapid development to Maxwell Hill as new housing developments were springing up everywhere. These developments brought new opportunity for the church. In 1964, C.G. Walker replaced Landon Stanley as an interim pastor, agreeing to a one-year term.
A new era began in November 1965, as Clarence Griffith, Sr., a resident of Shady Spring, West Virginia, was selected to be the new full-time pastor. The church began to grow so rapidly that a new facility was needed. Plans were made in 1967 to construct a new building, but financing became a problem since the church did not want to use pledges to secure the loan, and banks required them. God solved this problem through a Christian banker and loan officer, Sam McClean of the National Bank of Summers. He understood the method of tithing and convinced his bank to loan $100,000 to construct the new facility. This money was quickly absorbed as the building progressed and more money was needed for completion. God again supplied the need. An anonymous donor approached Sam McLean and loaned the church an additional $40,000 to complete the construction. This donor still remains anonymous. The new building was completed and services began in the fall of 1968. Reluctantly the old facility was torn down.
Other highlights occurred during Clarence Griffith’s pastorate. In 1969, the church broke its ties with the American Baptist Association of Churches and voted to become independent. Our church began a tape ministry in 1976, a short time after a radio ministry had begun on station WJLS. Tapes were furnished free upon request to listeners of the radio broadcasts, and that continues to be true. The radio ministry was expanded in 1986 to station WGFC, in Floyd, Virginia.
In March of 1977, the church voted to build a gymnasium, and construction was completed in July 1978 at a cost of $150,000. The church considered an active sports program to be an outreach to the community, and basketball and volleyball leagues were formed and housed in the gym. Participation also took place in local softball leagues for both men and women. Other activities that were born and still exist today are the traditional chicken barbecue held on Labor Day and our annual Christmas dinner.
The attendance grew to an average of 275 in 1985, which led to the addition of a fellowship hall and kitchen adjacent to the gymnasium at a cost of $186,200. Another special date to remember was November 23, 1988. A special service was held to celebrate the canceling of the debt on the buildings. The service was entitled, “Thanksgiving Jubilee,” and was a service of praise to the Lord for the redemption of our debt
In the early part of 1991, Clarence Griffith asked the deacon board to begin the search for a new pastor as his health had deteriorated. The search led us to God’s man in the person of Kenneth Killen of Pound River, Virginia. Pastor Ken began serving in June of 1991 and continues today as our Senior Pastor.
Under Pastor Ken’s ministry, the church building was expanded by enlarging the sanctuary and adding several new classrooms in 1994. The construction began in February and was completed in July at a cost of $228,568. One of the many highlights of Ken’s ministry includes amissions trip to Utah.
After a series of meetings with the deacon board in 1997 and 1998, a vision and a purpose statement were established for our church. The purpose statement for the Maxwell Hill Baptist Church is as follows:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18-19).
Our purpose is to honor and glorify God by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and bydiscipling those that God saves for the work of the ministry.
The vision statement is what we desire to be:
Diligent in the Word, Delighted in Our Worship, and Determined in our Walk
The church felt that there was an importance of the lives of our young people. In 1995, the addition of another member of the pastoral staff was made when Bruce Dick came as the Youth Pastor. Bruce currently oversees the youth group, also known as Teens RevolvingAround Christ (TRAC). He also serves as the coordinator for the Fellowship Center.
A crucial event took place during the winter of 1998, when several snowstorms dumped approximately four feet of snow around the Beckley area – notably on the top of the gymnasium and fellowship hall. On February 13, 1998, the metal building collapsed under the stress. Betty Clay, along with some grandchildren and friends, just barely escaped as Pastor Ken, Harry Smith, and Lowell Cawley were at the church, noticed the stress on the building, and warned them to get out just in time. God’s hand was evident in their protection.
The insurance settlement was also an answer to prayer, as the $761,000 allowed us to construct a better facility. Tear-down and re-construction began in March 1998, by the building crew of Robby Callaway. When the building collapsed only one interior wall was left standing. Visible for all to see was this inscription – To God Be the Glory. This wall was photographed by the local media and a copy of it even made it to a Baltimore, Maryland, newspaper. This became a wonderful testimony of our church.
Construction was completed, and a dedication service for the new Fellowship Center was held on May 22, 1999. It houses a new gymnasium, locker rooms, classrooms, shuffleboard floor, and the TRAC Room. The fellowship hall also had updated facilities in its sound and lighting equipment, as well as a full-functioning kitchen, ready to handle the dinners and events held there. An addition of a third floor was made to the new facility, where the children’s programs are held. This area also has classrooms (one of which overlooks the gymnasium), a craft room, and additional restrooms. The Lord truly blessed with the reconstruction of this building.
Many volumes could be written concerning other aspects of the church’s history — weddings, dinners, fellowships, loved ones who have passed on or moved away, and many other events — but one thing stands out in the history of our church. If things are done according to the principles of His Word, the scriptural way, blessings flow. The message has always been consistent even though God has used different methods of ministry. It has been a wonderful experience to watch God’s work and to see the accomplishments He has granted. We thank Him for our existence.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!