Vandals hit historic Baptist Church building
By Carol Vaughn —
One of the oldest religious buildings on the east coast was vandalized on Sunday.
Chincoteague Baptist Church, on Sign Post Road near New Church, was built in 1858, according to Kirk Mariner’s book, “Revival’s Children: A Religious History of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”
Arriving for worship on Sunday, January 31, worshipers found stained glass windows destroyed and a newly installed glass storm door broken, according to member Linda Gordon.
The Accomack County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, Gordon said.
Elijah Baker, a Baptist who preached and founded churches on the east coast of Virginia and Maryland from 1776 to 1798, founded the congregation in 1786, according to a 2011 research paper written by Laverne Young Smith for the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary,
It is the third oldest surviving Baptist church on the Shore, according to Smith.
The church was given the name Chincoteague Baptist Church because Baptists on Chincoteague Island had to travel there to find a Baptist service, according to local tradition.
Another explanation for the name was given by Mariner, who noted that the name Chincoteague in the late 1700s referred to a wider area of the coast than today.
William Benson deeded 1/2 acre to church trustees to build a meeting house for the congregation, which had 132 members in 1810.
The original structure was destroyed and a simple one-room structure, the current church, was built across the street, according to Gordon.
In the 1890s, the one-room building was repaired and enlarged, and stained glass windows were installed.
The church has had its ups and downs over the years.
In 1897, 24 members left to plant a new church, Horntown Baptist Church. The two congregations since 1966 shared a pastor.
The church in a 2010 report to the Baptist General Association of Virginia said it had 34 members.
These days, a dozen people worship there on Sundays, Gordon said.
“Our church houses only spiritual valuables of ‘grand prix’. There was nothing to be gained financially from such vandalism,” Gordon wrote in an email.
“What evil intentions would violate our little sanctuary by hurling projectiles through irreplaceable stained glass windows donated by former devotees in memory of their loved ones and to glorify Almighty God? What happened to our country that such destruction of a church is even considered? We pray that the defilers will come forward, offer to repair the damage where possible, repent, and seek forgiveness and salvation from Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith.” Why don’t you join our little congregation rather than employ your vain attempts to destroy it. The gates of hell will NOT prevail against the church,” she wrote.