first church

The History of Courtland Baptist Church

On the first Sunday in December, 1845, Jerusalem Baptist church was founded with 11 charter members.  During the Civil War, Jerusalem church was used as a hospital and many confederate soldiers died here and were buried on the banks of the Nottoway River behind the church.

The church continued to grow in spirit and number and in 1905 the Sabbath (Sunday) School was established.  In 1912 the name of the town was changed from Jerusalem to Courtland and the next year the church also changed its name to Courtland Baptist.  In 1918 the original wooden frame church building burned with many of its records.  On May 3, 1920 the congregation dedicated its new brick sanctuary with stained glass windows.   Not long after that, the church added two SS rooms; this was the first of  5 additions.

In 1938, with the congregation growing, there was need for Sunday School space so the back educational wing was added at a cost of $1,850.  Around 1943 the Methodist church located across the street burned, and Courtland Baptist extended them permission to use our building for services.  1947 saw the addition of an electric Hammond Organ.

In 1950 Sunday School rooms, a restroom, pastor’s study, & fellowship area were added on the other side of the sanctuary.  At the same time a new baptistery was added, the sanctuary was remodeled. The center aisle was no longer diagonal with rounded pews, with the pulpit in the corner, but was redesigned with the present layout.  The church met in the High School while work was being completed.

Throughout the years, Courtland has shared pastors & church fields with Smithfield, Sycamore, Sunbeam, Newsome, Holland, Tucker Swamp & Sedley Baptist, with 3 or 4 churches often sharing the same pastor.  In 1956 Courtland called Rev. Bailey to be the first full time pastor with no other churches sharing the field.    As the church continued to grow, a new fellowship hall was needed that included a kitchen, choir room, rest rooms & water fountain. Ground breaking was Nov 20, 1977 and the note was paid off & burned in 1982.

In 1991 the pews were cushioned with a burgundy fabric so the congregation could sit more comfortably in worship.  Playground equipment was added for the children. The church also bought the Poates house & lot adjacent to the church. The house was moved & the property used for parking. Shortly afterwards, the church also purchased the four and a half acre Shands property across the street.   A mission trip to Bland County was conducted in 1993.  The church also began an After School Program.  In 1995 the church celebrated its 150th anniversary.

In 1997, Tommy Speight became the church’s 29th pastor.  Prayer was emphasized to seek the will & direction of God for our church. In 1998 Rev. Hal Whitley was called to be our Music Director.  The church began new ministries and there was new growth, especially with young families.  Hand bells were added to enhance worship.   Chris Thomas came on staff to help direct the choir.

When the Wilson property adjacent to the church became available, the church purchased it for parking.  We did long range planning; Moving Ahead With Purpose and with the addition of many new people, other space would be required.  The church contracted with architect Michael Barns to help design our future church complex.

When our morning worship was full & often overflowing, the church voted to begin a second worship to attract people who would not attend a traditional service.  The service would have casual dress with Praise & Worship music.   Three modular units were purchased over the next few years to be used for Sunday School.  Drew Dunn was added to the staff to help lead the early service.  He felt the call to ministry & was ordained by our church.  A Praise & Worship Team, Unexpected Grace, was created to assist with music in the early, contemporary service.  We were still in our original sanctuary that seated 150 people and the worship service was overflowing.

The service grew till we voted to have three worship services and two Sunday Schools.  This was continued for 5 quarters but staffing two Sunday Schools greatly stressed our SS leadership. We went back to two worships & one Sunday School and would just wait for an additional building, even though we were completely out of space. Rev. John Watson was added to our staff to help with the educational ministry and the number of Deacons was increased from 9 to 12.

By 2004 the average attendance was more three times what it was in 1996.  Two capital stewardship programs were conducted and the church gave sacrificially & generously in 6 years more than one million dollars to build.  Linda Sutton & Me’chele Cutchin were added to work with our choir.

God continued to bless our church in many ways.  In 2009 the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary & fellowship hall across the street from our original site at an estimated cost of $1.9 million dollars.  The building was dedicated in October 2010 with more than 600 in attendance.  The Lord has added  more than 400 people since 1997 with more than half being by profession of faith & baptism. The church complex now sits on both sides of the street.  God continues to work among us in mighty ways.  We are proud of the way God has moved in the past and excited about what He is still doing & will accomplish in the future.