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Church History PDF Print E-mail

Orcutt Baptist Church, presently located on Baxter Lane, had its beginning on June 26, 1892. A group from the Newport News Baptist Church (now First Baptist) and other interested persons in the East End section of the city met under a shed on the corner of 27th Street and Chestnut Avenue. The purpose of this meeting was to establish the East End Baptist Sunday School. The shed was located on the farm of Mr. E.T. Ivy and during the meeting Mr. J.R.L. Nelms was elected Superintendent.

Later in 1892 the little Sunday School moved to a small chapel near 24th Street and Roanoke Avenue. This chapel was provided by the Mother Church. Reverend M.L. Woods, pastor of the Mother Church, preached two Sunday afternoons a month. Sunday School was held each Sunday.

In June of 1894, the Mother Church secured the services of the Reverend W.L. Hayes, a ministerial student at Richmond College, to take over this growing work. Two months later on August 19, 1894, twenty-three members of Newport News Baptist Church asked for their letters of dismissal for the purpose of organizing the church in the East End. On August 21, 1894 an organizational meeting was held and the church was officially organized and named Second Baptist Church. Mr. C.B. Orcutt, president of the Old Dominion Land Company, and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, donated the land on which the first church was built.

The first Pastor called by the new church was the Reverend W.R. Keefe who served from 1894 to 1895. After his resignation, a call was extended to Brother Collier of Culpepper County, Virginia. It was unanimously decided to call him and pay him $600 a year. Evidently, he declined the call because shortly thereafter a call was issued to Reverend. W.B. Brown. He assumed the duties as the second Pastor in 1895 and served until his resignation on September 20, 1897.

Orcutt has always been characterized, as a mission minded church. Evidence of this shows up as early as 1895 when in a business meeting on December 4 the minutes note a gift of $16.66 to State Missions recorded even though the Pastor's salary remained unpaid!

On November 3, 1897 the Reverend T.J. McKay became the third Pastor and the church grew rapidly. On April 1, 1900, membership stood at 208.

The Reverend C.G. McDaniel became the church's fourth Pastor on May 18, 1900. Soon after his arrival an accidental fire burned the church down to the ground. This occurred July 4, 1900 and was caused by children playing with firecrackers. While the building was destroyed, some furniture and equipment was saved and moved to Watkins Hall located on the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 26th Street. This location was used as the meeting place until February 1901. At that time, the basement of the new building was occupied by the Sunday school.

February 4, 1901 represents a major milestone in the history of our church and a cornerstone of all mission activity thereafter. On that day in the home of Maurice Nelms, the Woman's Missionary Union was organized. Mrs. E.T. Ivy was elected the first president and 15 members were recorded. During their first year of existence, $33 were collected and disbursed. From these humble beginnings, this organization grew to a point in 1958 when 612 members of the WMU were recorded. On June 15, 1901 the main auditorium of the building was completed and it was dedicated the next day.

During 1902, Reverend McDaniel resigned to accept God's call to the mission field in China. The church strongly commended his call to the "Great Commission." This calling out of one of our own to the mission field represented yet another first in the life of Second Baptist Church. During 1902, Reverend R.C. Hubbard was called as the church's fifth Pastor. Reverend Hubbard was concerned with training our young people and as early as 1903 the Baptist Young People's Union (BYPU) existed. Records from that period also reflect continuous activity in WMU, Sunday School, and Training Union work.

Additionally in 1903, a committee was created and authorized to proceed with plans for a heating system for the church not to exceed $300. During Reverend Hubbard's pastorate in 1904, Second Baptist Church and sister churches organized the Peninsula Baptist Association. He remained at Second Baptist from 1902 to 1907. In order to take care of the growth of the membership, the deacons voted on March 19, 1906 to ask the church to appoint a committee to examine the advisability of enlarging the church. At the end of 1906, church membership was 400.

In April of 1907, Reverend Hubbard resigned. The following month the Reverend J.T. Riddick of Lexington, N.C. became the sixth Pastor. Records indicate that in the fall of 1908, Reverend Riddick held an evangelistic meeting after which 47 people united with the church. On August 8, 1908, Mr. O.E. Godwin was employed by the church as the first paid organist.

In 1910, J.L. Ballentine gave the church two lots next to the old church property. On October 21st the church voted to purchase the interest of the Old Dominion Land Co. in these lots at a cost of $524.06. This purchase paved the way for a later enlargement of the auditorium.

In 1911, Reverend H.S. Driscoll of Heathsville, Virginia became the seventh Pastor. During his pastorate, plans continued for the renovation and expansion of the facilities. On January 11, 1914, the auditorium and new addition were rededicated. This new addition was later known as the Kellum Bible Class. Later in 1914, Reverend Driscoll resigned.

The next several years (1914 to 1918) represented challenging times not only for the church, but for the entire world. With the outbreak of World War I, the great flu epidemic, and the influx of military personnel to our area, the problems and responsibilities of the church became increasingly significant.

On January 6, 1915, the Reverend I.T. Jacobs became the church's eighth Pastor. On the same day the church voted to change the name from Second Baptist Church to Orcutt Avenue Baptist Church. On February 10, 1915, the name was officially changed and remained such until April 12, 1970. Under the leadership of Reverend Jacobs, 143 members were added to the church during 1915. Membership totaled 665 at the end of that year. During the years of World War I, Newport News became a port of embarkation. The church petitioned the state mission board to send a camp pastor to serve at nearby Camp Stuart (later known as Stuart Gardens). In 1916 the church purchased a parsonage. At the end of 1917, church enrollment was 708, and the church budget was $8,256.50. Reverend Jacobs resigned in the spring of 1920.

Reverend H.J. Goodwin became the ninth Pastor and served from 1920 to 1924. Records indicate that Reverend Goodwin was characterized as a "great preacher."

In 1924, Reverend. J.L. Carrick became the tenth Pastor. Under his organizational leadership, the Sunday School was recognized as a Standard Sunday School. Additionally, the WMU was organized around the circle plan. These historical highlights took place while Mr. B.G. James was Supt. of Sunday School. Also, under Reverend Carrick's pastorate, the church employed Mrs. Annie Ramsey as its first Educational Director. Plans were formulated to expand the Sunday School facilities. Reverend Carrick resigned August 28, 1927.

These expansion plans were implemented by Reverend J.B. Hill, the church's eleventh Pastor. During his pastorate, the new education building was constructed at a cost of $104,192.29. It was necessary for the church to borrow $85,000 of this money. In the spring of 1930, the building was completed.

Also in 1930, Rev. Hill led the church to adopt the Unified Budget System. Additionally, Brother H. Grady Daniels became the new Educational Director succeeding Mrs. Ramsey who had resigned December 1, 1928.

On June 17, 1930, Reverend H.W. Connelly became the twelfth Pastor. He served during the early Depression years and was challenged by the indebtedness of the church. When he resigned in 1935, $40,000 had been paid on the church's debt during his service. At the end of 1935, the church had a total membership of 1,404.

Reverend Connelly and Brother Daniels resigned within several weeks of each other and on November 1, 1935, Dr. Herman T. Stevens became the thirteenth Pastor. At the same time, Mr. Hartwell Campbell became the Educational Director. Mr. Campbell resigned after one year and this position was not filled until 1942.

Under the energetic outreach leadership of Dr. Stevens, the church established many missions in the Peninsula Association. Dr. Stevens truly believed in the Baptist seven-mile concept. Under this concept, a church is established when the church reaches 250 members, then you go seven miles down the road and establish another one. The following is a list of churches started as a direct result of the efforts of Dr. Stevens:

Buckroe Baptist 1936

Grafton Baptist 1938

Pine Chapel Baptist 1942

Temple Baptist 1942

Riverside Baptist 1943

Westhampton (Copeland Park) 1943

Hampton Roads Baptist 1943

Yorktown Baptist 1947

Parkview Baptist 1949

Langley Baptist 1949

North Riverside Baptist 1953

Lee Hall Baptist 1954

Newmarket Baptist 1959

Gloucester Point Baptist 1959


Even though the nation was in a depression and World War II terrorized the world, Dr. Stevens' ministry was characterized by much growth. In 1935, church membership stood at 1,404. When Dr. Stevens retired in 1948, church membership stood at 1,947. This represented a 39% growth during this time. Additionally, during his ministry, 889 people were baptized in Orcutt Avenue Baptist Church. From the standpoint of baptisms, 1938 represents the high point of our history with 102.

In 1943, Orcutt Avenue Baptist Church WMU led the state in gifts with $51,864.56 contributed, ($12,585.35 going to the Cooperative Program and Missions). Also during the 1940's, the church was used regularly for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Girl Reserves, Red Cross Nursing Classes, Air Raid Shelter and Casualty Stations, Emergency Station and Divisional Headquarters for Civil Defense.

On June 25, 1944, Orcutt celebrated her 50th Anniversary. Church records indicate:

Church Enrollment 1,957

Sunday School Enrollment 348

Cradle Roll Enrollment 410

WMU 288

Training Union 165


Dr. Harold Tillman served as the fourteenth Pastor from 1949 until his untimely death in 1957. Dr. Tillman was a firm believer in the Cooperative Program Finance System and envisioned Orcutt contributing 50% of income to it. While this goal has yet to be reached, Dr. Tillman did see the church reach 35%.

On September 21, 1949, Mrs. Gordon B. Smith enrolled the 1,000th baby in the Cradle Roll. The baby was Lynn Curtis, the daughter of Howard and Lib Curtis. Before Mrs. Smith stopped working the Cradle Roll she enrolled over 3,000 babies.

In 1951, it was decided to enlarge and refurbish the sanctuary. During this time of construction, worship services were held in Walter Reed School located on 25th Street at Wickham. September 28, 1952 was the first worship service held in the newly renovated sanctuary. Because of these renovations, Orcutt Avenue became the first church of the Peninsula to have central air conditioning. This service also represented the high water mark in Sunday School attendance with 1,129 members recorded present.

On November 23, 1952, Orcutt Ave. celebrated a Homecoming service to recognize the Sunday School's 60th Anniversary and the Church's 58th Anniversary.

In 1957 the "Forward Program of Church Finance" was adopted to aid in budget promotion. Additionally, on September 16, 1957, Dr. Tillman died unexpectedly.

March of 1958 represented a high mark for contacts through the Sunday School church records, which records 2,333 contacts for the month.

Reverend William P. Milne became our fifteenth Pastor on June 1, 1958. In his acceptance letter he wrote, "It is with a sense of total dependence upon God that I come to be a shepherd of the people of the church." It is said that, "to remember Bill Milne is to remember a man who loved people." He truly loved all people!

The year of 1959 was a strong year financially with a budget of $115,527.30. The sum of $115,802.30 was pledged on Pledge Sunday. During this time, Orcutt Avenue was asked by the Peninsula Baptist Association to sponsor a mission in one of the new housing areas of our city known as Newmarket. The church sponsored Newmarket mission. Then in 1961 we sponsored Walnut Hill Baptist Church in Williamsburg. Additionally, Ivy Farms Baptist was sponsored in 1965. During the Wednesday night service on February 23, 1966, Reverend Milne died "at the call of duty."

During the 1950's and 1960's the Royal Ambassador Program grew strong under the leadership of G. Jack Smith. In 1959, this program had on roll over 75 boys.

The Rev. Bob Estes became the sixteenth Pastor on October 9, 1966. In 1967 the church began preparation for relocation. All the property between 24th and 25th Streets on Orcutt Avenue was sold to St. John's Church of God in Christ for $161,000. Property for relocation was purchased on Oyster Point Road for $25,000. The decision to purchase this property came after serious consideration of another site on Saunders Road.

On August 18 1968, Orcutt Avenue celebrated its 74th birthday with a Homecoming. On that day 1,100 people were served dinner. The theme of the day was To God be the Glory.

November 24, 1968 was the last worship service to be held in the old location. Worship services were held at three different locations during the period between Orcutt Avenue and the relocation to Oyster Point Road. These locations were South Morrison Elementary School, Chestnut Memorial United Methodist Church, and the Lakeside Church of God of Prophecy. On February 9,1969 a groundbreaking service was held at our Oyster Point Road location. The theme of the day was Let Us Rise Up and Build.

Worship began at the new facility on April 12, 1970. Effective that date, the name of the church was changed to Orcutt Baptist Church. On June 14, 1970 it was dedicated "to preach His Word, to win the lost, to train the saved". On August 16, 1970, Reverend Estes resigned. There were those who felt he was "our Moses" as he led us through our wilderness journey.

Dr. Bruce H. Price, retired pastor of First Baptist Church Newport News, became our interim pastor when Reverend Estes departed. On July 11, 1971, Dr. Harry J. Rowe came from Australia by way of New Orleans Baptist Seminary to be our seventeenth Pastor. When Dr. Rowe arrived, Dr. Price remained with us as Minister of Visitation. Dr. Rowe was a scholar, as well as a great preacher and teacher. Under his leadership, the church decided to build a sanctuary that would seat 1,000 people. Upon completion of this construction, Orcutt Baptist owed more money than any Southern Baptist Convention church in Virginia ($1,150,000). During Dr. Rowe's ministry, a Day School, Kindergarten through Seventh Grade was added as a ministry of our church. Raymond W. Bunn, Jr. was the first Headmaster and June Bright was the first administrative assistant. The new sanctuary was dedicated on October 5, 1975. Dr. Rowe stated that this facility had been "erected to the glory of God." Dr. Rowe had a plate engraved and placed on the podium stating "Sir, we would see Jesus." On November 29, 1978, Dr. Rowe died of heart attack.

The church's eighteenth Pastor, Tommy Harrell, began his ministry October 7, 1979. Dr. Harrell brought with him a Ministry of Caring Program that was initiated shortly after his arrival. A hallmark of Dr. Harrell's tenure was an emphasis on participation in the denomination at all levels (Peninsula Baptist Association, Baptist General Association of Virginia, and the Southern Baptist Convention). Retha Tillman, widow of former pastor Harold Tillman, was employed at the church as Director of Family Ministries, during the early years of his ministry. On September 7, 1980, Orcutt observed "Price Appreciation Day." Dr. and Mrs. Price were honored at a special program and reception in commemoration of their 50 years in ministry.

In December 1982, the Church Covenant was placed in all of the church hymnals. Don Carter was hired as a part-time minister of music and stayed in this position until 1988.

In March of 1983, Dr Harrell led a mission team of eleven people on a seventeen-day trip with the Partnership Evangelism Mission to Korea. About this same time, the Reverend Kenneth Trinkle joined our staff as Minister of Education and Administration. Ken possessed a zeal for discipleship and instituted several effective programs of training. One such program that had special meaning was the Bible Drill Competition. He led several missionary projects to construct churches in New England.

In August of 1983, the church honored its members who had been active in its programs and who had been members for 50 years or more. The theme of this celebration was "Orcutt Remembers." Two individuals honored at this occasion were Daisy Gardner, who taught children's Sunday School for over 50 years and the late Mr. B.C. Bunn, who taught a men's class for over 50 years.

Dr. Floyd Lewis was called to serve in Youth and Pastoral ministries in April 1984. On August 19 to 22, 1984, Orcutt celebrated its 90th birthday with special services and issued a cookbook. Dr. Harrell appointed a twelve member "Committee of the Future" to begin long-range planning for Orcutt.

Dr. Lewis left in February 1986 and a few months later Randy Cruze joined our staff as Associate Minister for Youth. Terry Laufer was a member of our staff as Minister of Music from 1988 until 1993. In October 1988, Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Winters, as a team, were employed to fill the position of part-time church instrumentalist. Becky Glass served as part-time Minister of Youth during 1989 and 1990.

In 1990, Dr. Harrell led us into a debt retirement program called Set Free to Serve. On July 2, 1995, this program came to completion where the church celebrated the burning of the mortgage note. Also in 1990, Orcutt joined with several other sister churches to sponsor the formation of Mercy Seat Baptist Mission. This mission would serve the black community.

Bennett Sanford became the full-time Minister of Youth in 1991. Dr. Harrell resigned in 1991. His ministry of 12 years is the second longest in the church history behind Dr. Stevens.

On June 1, 1992, Rev. James Doyle began his ministry as our nineteenth Pastor. Shortly after his arrival, he initiated an outreach program known as "The Seven Touch Centers." In September 1992, he led a team of 22 volunteers (13 were from Orcutt) to assist the people of Homestead, Florida after Hurricane Andrew. The church spearheaded a community drive to collect supplies. This effort resulted in a nine-vehicle convoy that carried 105,000 pounds of food and medical supplies. A second team went before Christmas to deliver gifts collected by the church.

In August 1993, Rev. David Hughes joined our staff as Minister of Education and Music and in September, Rev. Harald Aadahl was called to serve as Minister of Youth and Singles.

September 19, 1993, a special service was held to honor Ken and Rosemary Trinkle. The Trinkle children sang "May Those Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful" as part of the program to recognize their father's retirement.

August 19 to 21, 1994, Orcutt Baptist celebrated its 100th Anniversary and Homecoming. Many former and present members attended four services culminating on Sunday with dinner on the grounds.

In 1997 Catherine Copeland culminated her time as church organist which spanned over 50 years and two locations.

In 1998, Jim Doyle and David Hughes, Minister of Music and Seniors, accompanied Mary Frances Grasty on a mission trip to the Ukraine. She continues this ministry which began in 1997. In 1999 and 2000 she went to serve in Russia. She will return to the Ukraine in 2001.

Rev. Weston E. Taylor was called to serve as the Minister of Youth and Children in November 1998.

December 1999, Rev. Doyle's ministry at Orcutt ended and the church voted to enter into a period of intentional interim ministry before calling our twentieth Pastor. In November of 2000, Reverend Robert Collins was called as Intentional Interim Pastor.

In January of 2001, Orcutt Baptist Church ordained Traci Bunn Powers into the gospel ministry. This action represents the first ordination of a woman in the church's 107 year history. Betty McCloud became the church historian and diligently accumulated and organized our church history.

In February 2001, the church's address of 653 Oyster Point Lane was officially changed to 653 Baxter Lane to honor Jim and Marge Baxter for their many years of faithful service. Additionally, Baxter Appreciation Day was held on a Sunday morning and many past and present members came to honor them.

A Transition Team was organized to work with Reverend Collins to lead the church through the intentional interim process and towards calling a new pastor.

Dr. M. Reginald Warren became Orcutt's 20th pastor on May 3, 2003. His wife Lucianne and children Allison, Adam and Daniel became active in many positions in the church. Daughter Bethany was away at college. During his tenure, Orcutt did a major sanctuary renovation, participated in Rick Warren's “A Purpose Driven Life”, and held two fall festivals as community outreach opportunities.

Brenden Lawson was hired as our Associate Pastor for Youth and Children in April 2004. In addition, he organized a praise band that led worship in the early Sunday morning service. While here, he married Jaime Stanley and became father to Harold Connor Lawson.

Orcutt decided to add a part-time Missions Coordinator staff position filled by long-time member Pam Chalkley. She organized many mission opportunities one of which was PORT. Volunteers from Orcutt teamed with area churches to help with this program for the homeless. Pam held this position until April 2010.

Rev. David Hughes, our Associate Pastor for Music/Visitation/Seniors, announced his retirement in 2006. His wife, Loraine Hughes, was hired as our Senior Adult Ministries Coordinator and she continued as the organist. Pianist Ruth Winters added Music Ministries Coordinator to her responsibilities and Sherry Castello became the Congregation Song Leader.

The year 2008 brought many changes to Orcutt Baptist Church. Brenden Lawson resigned in February and Loraine Hughes and Dr Reginald Warren resigned in September. Dr. Warren preached his last sermon on October 5, 2008. In addition after 39 years, Orcutt Baptist School closed at the end of the school year in June 2008. Enrollment had been declining for several years and after careful and prayerful consideration the church congregation voted on April 13, 2008 to close the school.

Dr. John Tadlock became Orcutt’s Interim Pastor December 10, 2008. He was a former campus minister and since 1985, had been associated with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board as Group Leader of the Collegiate Ministries Group. He served Orcutt for nineteen months as our Interim Pastor. Under his leadership, Orcutt created a vision plan focusing on making a difference in our community and beyond. In addition, the church voted to start a 3-phased plan to renovate the educational wing. The first phase was completed in early 2010.

While without a Pastor for Youth and Children from February 2008 until early 2009, these programs were lay led by Kim Sykes and Tammi Bucklin with support from the Student Ministry Team, Children’s Ministry Team, and many others. In July 2009, Ronald James (R. J.) Zupancich, Jr. was called to be the Pastor for Youth and Children. R. J. and his wife, Monica, have been a welcome addition to Orcutt Baptist Church.

Our Pastor Search Committee announced their chosen candidate for the Senior Pastor position on August 15, 2010. He and his wife were serving as missionaries with the Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Asia with their term slated to conclude in October 2010.

With the anticipated calling of a new pastor, Dr. Tadlock resigned as interim with his last Sunday being August 8, 2010.

The congregation met the candidate for the Senior Pastor position, Rev. Chris Fowler and his wife, Tammy, via Skype on September 12, 2010 and in person during a series of events October 22 - 24, 2010. The congregation had the opportunity to vote to call Rev. Fowler as Senior Pastor following his sermon on the 24th. With a 100% affirmative vote, he became the 21st pastor of Orcutt Baptist Church.

 
653 Baxter Lane, Newport News, VA 23602  |  (757) 249-1280  |  (757) 249-9326 Fax  | 
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