Millfield Baptist celebrates milestone

Published 9:45 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Millfield Baptist Church recently marked its 175th anniversary with a homecoming service attended by nearly 200 people. -- MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS


Bradley Spivey drove a chain into this tree when he was 16 for tying up his horse at church. When the tree was cut in 1984 and Spivey was 93, church members saved this section. -- MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS

IVOR—Millfield Baptist Church in the Berlin-Ivor area celebrated its 175th year with an anniversary and homecoming service.

Nearly 200 former and current members and friends attended.

“Oh, it was a grand occasion,” said the Rev. Jay Butcher. “The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Kello family, one of the families who helped organize the church, were here, along with many others who had not attended Millfield for years.”

The oldest member who attended was Elva Magee, 101, of Wakefield. Magee is the grandmother of choir director Molly Dowless.

Dr. Peter James Flamming, pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church in Richmond, was the speaker. During the day, there was music, and services in the morning and following lunch, which was served by the ladies of the church.

The Rev. Jay Butcher, pastor for Millfield Baptist Church, left, with Ivor Mayor Keith Joyner. -- MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS

A video of early activities of past members was presented, after which some shared their experiences, often humorous, while attending the church.

Millfield Baptist was organized on Aug. 20, 1836, when 13 members of Black Creek Baptist Church acquired the abandoned Millfield Episcopal Church, a log cabin, which sat on the same site it does today.

The Episcopal congregation, which was organized in 1791 on one of two acres on Millfield Road near Ivor donated by the Rev. Thomas Burges and his wife, Sally, had disbanded.

Millfield Academy was built on the second acre across the road from the church, and is known for having former U.S. President William Henry Harrison as one of its students.

Members used the log cabin church, which had been repaired and enlarged until 1902, when a new church was constructed. This building sits on the same site as the first and remains in use today.

During the years, improvements and additions were made. The stained-glass windows installed in 1924 were purchased by the church’s ladies aid society, while a fellowship hall was added in the 1970s and an education wing was completed during the 1990s.

Always the center of the community, Millfield bustles with activity. Services are held each Sunday beginning with fellowship time at 9:30 a.m. and continuing through Sunday School and preaching. During the summer, it consistently holds one of the largest Bible schools in the area, averaging about 100 children each year.

A records room holds numerous reminders of the past; showcases hold old ledgers and correspondence, while an oil lamp used before electricity hangs from the ceiling. It was purchased from an antique shop and donated to the church.

A section of sycamore tree, in which a short chain has been driven, sits on top of a bookcase. Butcher said the chain was attached to the tree by Bradley Spivey when he was 16 and was used to tie up his horse while he was in church. When the tree was cut in 1984, members saved the section containing the chain. Spivey was then 93.

The church has seen good times and sad times, Butcher said. In recent years, it has lost several of its younger members, including Marine Jayton Patterson, who was killed in Iraq, and 17-year-old Cody Stallard, who died in a car accident.

One of the youngest to pass was Matthew Cornwell, 6, son of church organist Ronnie Cornwell and his wife, Nancy. After Matthew died of meningitis, his mother designed a stained-glass window, which she and her husband presented to the church in his memory.

Hanging behind the pulpit, the brightly colored window contains roses — Matt’s favorite flower — beneath a cross. Imbedded beneath the cross is a small pebble, which Matt always carried in his pocket.

The church’s ministries includes music, under the direction of Dowless and Cornwell.

“We are excited about our latest ministry, though,” Butcher said.

The church has formed a partnership food ministry with Ebenezer Baptist on Route 616. Called “Bags of Hope,” Millfield representative Nancy Stephenson said, the group has operated the food bank for four months and last month fed 76 households.

“Our watchword is ‘loving God’ and loving others,’” Butcher said. “We try to reach out to folks in a meaningful way by helping them physically and spiritually.”