Graceland Baptist History & Hope
In the rolling farmlands of central Virginia, namely Powhatan County, a new church was formed by area residents meeting in a two-room house in the year 1888. W. Dudley Rudd, a conductor on the Southern Railroad, and Rev. Eldridge Hatcher, then pastor of Skinquarter Baptist Church, organized a Sunday School, which met just two blocks from the present church's building. This Sunday School grew, and in the year 1889 Graceland Baptist Church was organized with the assistance of B.R. Dearen, J.E. Dearen, and B. L. Phaup.
By the year 1891, a church building was erected and remained on the present site, with enlargements and improvements until the fire of January 1958. This first building, like others, was the result of the cooperative efforts of members, friends, businesses, and the community. Beginning with Mr. Rudd's solicitation of funds from passengers on the train to the generous donations of lumber and labor by members and friends in the community, this first church building was born. Even the land on which the building was erected was unofficially donated by J.H Griffeth, whose only request was to name the church after his daughter Grace. As a result, both farm and land were called Graceland. Officially the original one and one-half acres were sold to the church for a dollar by J.E. Bradley and his wife Adele, who at that time owned Graceland Farm. Additional land was donated in the 1970's by Mr. Gravitt's widow and Mr. Smith, who purchased the farm. Due to recent purchases, the Graceland Baptist Church now owns fifteen acres, which will be utilized in future growth.
Through the years the church has continued to grow both organizationally and numerically. Under Rev. W.V. Smith's pastorate the church grew from 35 members in 1921 to 111 members in 1934. It was Rev. Coan Agee who returned to Graceland to lead the growing congregation after the building burned and to lead in the construction of the present sanctuary and old education wing. Recently retired pastor Rev. Robert Beasley led the church in the construction of the newer educational wing in the summer of 1991. During Rev. Beasley's almost 37-year tenure, the membership grew to almost 600. Also during Rev. Beasley's tenure, the playground was built behind the church in 1998 in memory of Virgil Gregory by his friends and family.
Organizational growth came through such individuals as C.N. Elam, who organized the B.Y.P.U. in 1931 and Mary Schroeder, who organized the Woman's Missionary Society in 1938. Mrs. Leslie Bradbury organized the Girl's Auxiliary: C.N. Elam organized the Royal Ambassadors; Barbara Wells organized he Sunbeams and Mrs. Arthur Williams organized the Young Women's Auxiliary, all in 1939. More recent growth includes the addition of a part-time Associate Pastor, Rev. Todd Bradbury, who leads with new educational opportunities, and a part-time Youth Minister, Matt Winters, who head up the youth ministries.
The new pastor, Dr. Ronald Wyatt, Jr., assumed his position of Senior Pastor on July 1, 2004. During his first years, with the cooperation of church members, he has worked to offer an early contemporary worship service on Sundays, handbell choir, drama team, a dance/interpretive movement team, contemporary worship team, puppet team and media and technology teams. A reorganization of the children's ministries has also taken place. New parking lots have been established, and the new section of the cemetery has also been opened. Finally, members, teams and committees continue to work toward the building of a new sanctuary, multipurpose building and gymnasium.
Filled with a humble, friendly and community-minded spirit, this church walks hope-filled into the future. While maintaining a loving and close fellowship of Christian believers, this church will work to minister to the needs of the fast growing community and its surrounding area. Remaining true to the Great Commission, Graceland will continue to reach her community and her world with the message of Jesus Christ. While making disciples and ministering to needs, Graceland will see even greater accomplishments in the future. May all be done to the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.