When the founding members of the Mt. Horeb Missionary Baptist Church first gathered in faith, they did so without four walls and a roof to worship in. Those first congregations also happened to be held on a working plantation some 16 decades ago near Reagor Springs.
Now, 159 years later, almost 100 members celebrate the Lord inside a church building on Kaufman Street in Waxahachie.
“It’s 159 years of faith, hope and determination," emphasized Versie Burrell, the Mt. Horeb Baptist Church financial secretary, ahead of Sunday's homecoming celebration, which is held annually around Sept. 20. "That is what this church was built upon."
Earlier this week, Judy Smith and her mother, Helen Pointer, who can recall several decades of evolution of the church, sat alongside Burrell in the red cushioned pews of the church to talk history. The three were joined by Rev. David Reed, 65, and deacon Charlie McCuller, a church member for over 20 years.
“According to what was on record, it was a plantation where this was derived from. We as a black people, it was a white man that allowed us and led us into the leadership in establishing Mount Horeb Baptist Church,” said Burrell, who has served the church for over 58 years.
She explained the historical documents kept by the church show it was established in 1859 under the leadership of the first pastor, W.H. Stokes, and was initially called the Bethel Baptist Church. Service was held at the Thomas C. Neil plantation until the first log church was built in current-day Reagor Springs.
After the construction, the church was re-named after Old Horeb Church in Handcock County, Georgia. A proclamation signed by Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength in 2015 even notes white church members of Little Bethel met with Horeb members to assist in the organization. The framed parchment stands proudly on the church stage today.
Once organized, the church in Reagor Springs was officially named Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church.
Smith and Pointer can still remember the small, white house that also served as a schoolhouse. Smith recalled the outhouse off-site, no air conditioning, the open windows and the cows off in the distance.
“As a kid, church is going on but we as kids are going out the windows and bugs are flying, and we start running through the church,” Smith recalled.
Smith last visited the church with her husband some 15 years ago and said all that’s left after it burned down are the cement footsteps.
Mt. Horeb Missionary Baptist Church moved to its current location on Kaufman Street in 1983 and held the first service in 1984. It is only the second church building for the congregation — ever.
At that time, pastor Charles Smith Sr. led the church. His 38 years as the church's pastor are the longest of any of the 10 pastors. Terry Hudson Sr. currently leads the service.
“We moved because it’s up and forward,” Burrell expressed.
When Pointer, a Waxahachie resident, discussed the history of the church she first reflected on her 62 years of service. She was quick to recognize the advancement of the Kaufman Street building since it is equipped with more facilities, including a kitchen and toilets with running water.
Back in Reagor Springs, the building was not equipped with a kitchen or eating area so church members would feast in celebration outside. The congregation gathered with the trunks of their vehicles filled with food and those who did not have a car arrived with boxes of goods to share.
“Our church, we want to remember the past and who we came from and the richness this church has, as far as history, and the spiritual, uplifting atmosphere,” Smith explained.
Looking toward the future, Burrell said the church hopes to renovate and could possibly bring back the daycare. She also said the congregation is always trying to increase the number of prayer requests and membership by reaching out to millennials. As Smith explained, "when you keep the youth here, your church will continue to grow."
The official homecoming and anniversary are on Sunday.
Sunday school starts at 9:30 a.m. and the afternoon service begins at 11 a.m. Before the evening service at 3 p.m., the congregation will enjoy a meal together in celebration. Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church is located at 601 Kaufman Street.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450