Sixty Years of Lakeside Baptist Church
Lakeside Baptist Chapel, a mission of Hatcher Memorial Baptist Church, held its first Sunday School and worship service March 13, 1949, on Woodman Road in a five-room white bungalow that had been vacant for almost two years. Thirty-two people attended, including 10 workers from Hatcher, led by Julian F. Gary, chairman of Hatcher’s chapel committee. The first day’s offering totaled $27.25. Six members joined that Sunday. Rev. Leland H. Waters of the Richmond Baptist Council and students from the University of Richmond supplied the pulpit until June, when Rev. George W. Bowman III, a student at the university and later at Union Theological Seminary, became student pastor. As a charter member recalled later, Rev. Bowman “walked the streets visiting families.”
In June the Hatcher chapel committee voted to buy the 6.3-acre site, including the bungalow. Of the $10,500 total cost Hatcher gave $7,500 with Richmond Baptist Council (soon to become Richmond Baptist Association) providing the remainder. The Hatcher committee set “boundary lines” for the chapel’s reach as Hilliard Road north to Rocky Branch and Washington Highway No. 1 west to the railroad.
The chapel held its first Vacation Bible School in a tent in July 1949 with 54 enrolled. On Sept. 26 the chapel’s first Woman’s Missionary Society organized. The first baptismal service for the chapel was held at Hatcher in November 1950. In January 1951 members chose Lakeside as name for the congregation from among suggested names.
Lakeside Baptist Church was constituted in a service the afternoon of March 11, 1951, with 76 charter members. Rev. Bowman became pastor of the new church April 12. Total church budget for 1951 was $10,500, almost half of that for the building fund. Until the church could erect its first brick building, additions of rooms and rearrangement of the interior of the white building provided additional space. The church adopted its first constitution and by-laws in March 1951, among other provisions calling for a Board of Deacons and Deaconesses (seven deacons and four deaconesses) and including the Church Covenant. In April Lakeside Baptist with 80 members was received into Richmond Baptist Association.
Vergil L. Hudson became Lakeside’s first full-time pastor in January 1953. In April the church voted to observe the Lord’s Supper at the 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. worship services the first Sunday of each month. The church voted in July to survey for a new building, including possibility of locating a parsonage on the property. Because the church had outgrown available space, in the fall of 1953 adults began meeting at Hermitage High School (now Moody Middle School), renting space for $10 a Sunday ($16 if heat was needed); children and youth met in the white building. Training Union began Sunday night Oct. 4, 1953. A contract for $45,314 was awarded to erect the first unit of Lakeside church. It was the only church facility the construction company ever built, and the low bid contributed to its going out of business later. To help the builder, one member even suggested that the church could do without the imported marble in the baptistry. Members dedicated the new building in October 1954. J. Stafford Efford, a trustee of Lakeside 1957-2006, was architect for all three portions of the current building.
Continued church growth made necessary dual worship services in 1955, and in October dual Sunday School sessions began as well. That same month members voted officially to refer to its original home as “the chapel,” rather than “the old building.” The original structure provided space for youth activities and other events over the years. At one time it was used as a Henrico County polling precinct, but the church discontinued this use in early 1956. Members were reluctant to dispose of the bungalow because of its history until 1985, when church custodian Raymond Jones Sr. was allowed to remove the building. He used it to form the core of his home on Chamberlayne Avenue. In July 1956 the church voted to participate with Lakeside Council of Churches. Minutes from October 1957 note that the church planned to level and seed part of the lot “heretofore under cultivation.”
Business meetings at Lakeside were held frequently in the early years. Open discussion has been a Lakeside tradition. Many a motion “died” for lack of a second. Some proposals, such as one in 1956 to begin a Boy Scout program at the church, were defeated. Often clerks faithfully recorded that there was “a considerable amount of discussion,” or items “were discussed and explained at length.” Members established a Flower Committee in 1956 because “many times there were no flowers here and at other times there was confusion when several brought them.”
In January 1957 members voted to establish a Harvest Home Offering for a new building fund, to be taken on the anniversary of entering the chapel building. The next building program, a two-story addition, cost $102,543 and provided numerous classrooms, plus a small fellowship hall and kitchen. Dedication was Feb. 3, 1963. Rev. Floy W. Cox Jr. became pastor in June 1960, serving until December 1964. Morning worship services in April 1961 were broadcast over WRVA radio. The church held its first G.A. coronation in May 1962 and renewed the Royal Ambassador program the next year.
The church in 1964 sold its parsonage on Pershing Avenue and in 1965 constructed a new parsonage on Lourdes Road at a cost of $28,257. The church discontinued providing a parsonage in 1989, selling the Lourdes Road property to pastor Ron Crawford for $96,500.
Under guidance of Rev. Robert L. Mobley, pastor from July 1965 until July 1971, the nursery and multi-purpose wing was built. To finance construction, church members subscribed a $275,000 bond issue. The building was dedicated in September 1968, and Sunday morning worship was moved from the chapel to the new fellowship hall, where it continued for eight years. During this era Sunday School enrolment topped out at 715 in 1967, Vacation Bible School enrolment reached 286, and total church membership climbed to its highest point – 790 at the end of 1970.
Rev. Bewey M. Shaver Sr. served as pastor from February 1972 until January 1975. While Dr. Dennis W. Knight was pastor, from November 1976 until February 1983, the church paid off the building loan and held a note-burning service July 6, 1980. Lakeside Baptist Day Care center opened in February 1982 and was licensed and incorporated in 1984. Lakeside Ramblers, the church’s senior citizens group, began in January 1980. The church purchased a new organ in March 1983. Twenty-five years later, in 2008, with a bequest from Reggie and Jean Baker, the church bought a new Rodgers organ and Yamaha piano for use in the chapel.
Dr. Ronald W. Crawford began his ministry at Lakeside in June 1984, continuing until April 1995. In September 1985 worship services returned again to the fellowship hall in hope of spurring growth, and attendance increased 10 percent over 1984. Children’s sermons began to be included in morning worship in 1985. The church bought its first computer that year. In March 1987 the church returned to two Sunday morning worship services in the chapel at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. In 2005 the church reverted to one Sunday morning worship service at 10:30 a.m. Rev. Robert J. Lewis served as pastor from April 1996 to June 2010, his 14-year tenure becoming the longest in the church’s history.
Over the years the church has made changes to its facilities and operations as needed. Gifts from members allowed purchase of hand bells in January 1993. In 2001 existing facilities near the chapel were remodeled into a handicapped-accessible rest room. In 2003 the church began using the back page of the Religious Herald, the state Baptist periodical, to distribute its newsletter. The position of building superintendent was created in 2004 to provide oversight for building and grounds, with Bob Jones accepting the position. The original steeple on the chapel building was replaced in 2008 with a maintenance-free fiberglass steeple.
In addition to leadership by its pastors and other staff members, Lakeside has been blessed by interim pastors – Herbert R. Carlton, Oscar E. Northen, J. Roy Clifford, Elmer S. West, Becky Gunter – who have spanned the gaps between pastors with wise and spiritually perceptive ministry. Over the years Lakeside has employed a cadre of talented and dedicated staff members, including vocal and instrumental musicians, secretaries, youth workers, outreach leaders, educators and custodians, who provided countless hours of preparation and service. Of special note are the more than 25 years of service each provided by Dorothy M. Taylor, secretary, and Raymond Jones Sr., custodian.
From its first years Lakeside has joined with fellow Baptists in a larger outreach, aligning with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Association of Virginia and Richmond Baptist Association. It currently also helps support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
A variety of mission efforts have formed a vital part of activities at Lakeside Baptist. In 1961 Rev. and Mrs. L.C. Quarles, retired missionaries to South America, began a Spanish-language Bible class in their home that later was moved to the church every third Sunday afternoon. This came at a time of influx of refugees from Cuba. In January 1963 Lakeside welcomed the Miguel Diaz family from Cuba, helping them become established in this country. In the 1970s Lakeside again offered a helping hand to refugee families from Vietnam and Cambodia. In 2003 church members helped a young minister, Joe Reeves, bring his family from Liberia to Richmond, where they still reside. The church has licensed four persons to the gospel ministry: Ashley Wiltshire Jr., Robert Cutts, Tom Lacy and Stuart Wilkinson. In July 2002 Lakeside church for the first time ordained an individual to the gospel ministry, Bob Lehr, then a staff member.
Members conducted a Vacation Bible School at McBride Trailer Court in the early 1960s. Volunteers from Lakeside have a long history of assisting in Richmond Baptist Association ministries at area mission centers, at Camp Alkulana and in gathering materials to assist Baptists overseas. Youth groups have gone on summer mission trips. Several members have traveled to various countries overseas in partnership missions efforts to assist in evangelistic or building efforts. Delivering food baskets to families at Thanksgiving and Christmas became a regular activity, and men of the church at times delivered groceries regularly throughout the community. Lakeside has given support to the Caritas program for the homeless, provided materials for the Lakeside area food bank and later the Lamb’s Basket food ministry. Members have dressed dolls and bears for Salvation Army gifts at Christmas and taken part in a variety of community programs of assistance.
Special observances have become cherished traditions at Lakeside Baptist. One of these is the live nativity pageant on the church lawn at Christmas, the first one presented in December 1961. The fiftieth presentation of this annual pageant took place in 2010. The first Christmas in August mission emphasis took place in August 1959. Members decorated their first Chrismon tree in 1981. Maundy Thursday worship services began in 1986, and Hanging of the Greens at Christmas started in 1993. A candlelight Christmas Eve service has become a favorite of many. Harvest Home observance on the Sunday before Thanksgiving has provided noontime fellowship, collection of food for distribution to those in need and time for a special offering for specific church needs. A Fall Festival and Trunk or Treat events have reached out to the community. In 2006 a Woman’s Day Sunday in the fall began as a companion to Men’s Day, which had been held in January for many years.
Over the years the character of the Lakeside area has changed, becoming a settled community while housing developments stretch miles in all directions. Several church members now live far outside the originally suggested “boundaries” of the church’s influence. Development of Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, the church’s nearest neighbor, has enhanced the appearance and value of Lakeside Baptist property. By 2010 the land and building of Lakeside Baptist was valued at $1,478,000.
Still, Lakeside Baptist Church has always been comprised not of buildings but of people. There were the charter members who stepped out in faith to establish the church. Decade after decade of leaders have nurtured the congregation through good times and difficult days. Faithful members who make up today’s church body continue to seek Lakeside’s appropriate ministry for the future, thus adding to its influence and contributions of the past 60 years.