Barfield Baptist Church has opened its new building on Veterans Parkway after 122 years in its previous location.
The church held its first service at its new location at 550 Veterans Parkway last Sunday, pastor Ron Byers said. The new church is located across the road from the ball fields at Barfield Crescent Park.
The church was established on Sept. 8, 1898. Founders included husband and wife Robert and Camilla Jamison; widow Nancy Gamewell and her children; Ellen McCullough; and two ministers, according to a church history article. They met under a large oak tree near the site of the old Barfield Post Office.
The original building, with additions, stands today on a triangle of land bordered by Barfield Crescent Road, Barfield Road and Barfield Church Road, just off of Veterans Parkway.
The Barfield congregation had continued to meet in the old building since selling it in August 2019 to Turning Point Church, an Assembly of God congregation, Byers said. Turning Point was gracious to allow the use at no charge, he said. The two churches had alternated meeting times for the most part, but did hold two joint services, including at last Christmas.
But now, Barfield Baptist has room to spread out, Byers said. The new church is on 10 acres, compared to two-and-a-half acres at the original site. That site also has a number of utility easements that restrict use, he said.
The Veterans Parkway site has a large lobby for mingling, which is important for showing hospitality, Byers said.
“We want to be warm and friendly,” he said.
They have a nursery and classrooms, plus a baptistry behind the pulpit, Byers said. The main meeting area in the sanctuary has room to seat about 450. There is space for 50 in the choir and an unfinished balcony that should seat 100 and allow for growth. The sanctuary is lined with windows to allow natural light in. They are using chairs instead of pews for seating flexibility.
The new building is set back off the highway. Where the property adjoins surrounding homes, they have a privacy fence.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Byers said.
The previous church building had a capacity of about 291 after having been expanded from its previous limit of 120, Byers said. Before the sale, and before COVID-19, Sunday attendance was around 225 to 250, with a mix of ages. Services are livestreamed, and members observe social distancing, wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Donations are about 90 percent of normal.
Byers said Barfield Baptist still considers itself to serve a country niche, and members believe in nostalgia. They provide hymn books for worship services. Everybody knows one another, and they believe in being sincere, welcoming people, he said. Their slogan is “honoring the past, embracing the future.”
Even though they have moved to a new building, they honor the past, he said. One member, Rachel (Lovvorn) Morton, has been attending for about 75 years and is a Sunday School teacher (and a retired cafeteria worker from a local school system). Joyce Helton has also been serving in the church for 65 years.
“Barfield Baptist has changed with the times, but it remains a church where God and his principles are still honored,” the church history article says. “While the once common image of the hardworking Barfield farmers, with wives and children, making their way, on foot or by horse and buggy, to the one-room wooden church building, has obviously undergone a big transformation, the gospel message has not been altered.”
The church has had more than 30 pastors since 1898, the history says. Byers said he has served since December 1998, when attendance was about 30 on Sundays. That has slowly built up to today’s levels where the new building was needed.
Byers said he loves preaching at Barfield.
“I can’t think of being at any other place,” he said.