History of Redeeming Grace Baptist Church
The Redeeming Grace Baptist Church (RGBC) of Mathews County, Virginia, was formed from a small group that began meeting in the home of David and Janice Jones on January 9, 2000. Their purpose was to establish a church in the Reformed Baptist tradition consistent with that of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention. Later, they began meeting in the Thomas Hunter Middle School in Mathews. In 2007, they began renting a commercial building adjacent to the Hudgins Post Office for their meetings. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) and the Association of Reformed Churches of America (ARBCA). Pastor Van L. Loomis, Jr. has been senior pastor since February 6, 2005.
Fifty-seven people met at the home of David and Janice Jones on the evening of January 9, 2000, to praise God and hear the preaching of His Word. Pastor Brian Russell preached from the book of Titus. Marvin Jones led us in our preliminaries. Lois Trowbridge was pianist using a keyboard provided by Cindy Ford.
The group met at the Jones’s each Sunday morning until February 20, 2000, with Pastor Russell preaching. Cindy Ford, Vickie Callis, and Angie Clawson took care of and taught the children in their homes. Prayer meetings were held on each Wednesday evening beginning at the Jones’s on January 12th and at the homes of various members thereafter. Marvin Jones led the first prayer meeting.
The men in the group were invited to participate in organizational meetings, the first of which was held at the home of Erwin Callis on January 15, 2000. In the following months this group formed into a steering committee with the purpose of organizing a weekly program of worship services and surveying the possibility of establishing a new church. The congregation approved the steering committee on February 13, 2000.
The name chosen for the prospective church was Community Baptist Fellowship, and Pastor Brian Russell was approved to be the interim pastor on April 2, 2000. The church joined the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia by contributing to their mission funds on May 7, 2000. Pastor Russell was scheduled to travel to South Africa for two months, April and May, therefore, Marvin Jones and Jim Stanley were assigned to preach in the absence of the Pastor Russell.
Committee assignments were as follows: Roane Hunt, chairman and treasurer; Erwin Callis, offering and counting; Michael Callis, scheduling Wednesday night and Sunday School coordinator; Hank Didot, Lord’s Supper and music; Marvin Jones, Sunday worship, preaching, confession of faith study, and Wednesday Bible study; Jim Stanley, preaching, confession of faith study, and Wednesday Bible study; David Jones, facilities; and Jim Ford, ushers.
Ministry Using Public School Facility
On February 20, 2000, the church began meeting in the Thomas Hunter Middle School. The multipurpose assembly hall and three regular class rooms were used for Sunday School and worship services in the morning and evening. The user fees for two Sunday services, morning and evening, was $50 for utilities and $50 for custodian services. The Wednesday evening Prayer Meeting and Bible Study was held in the homes of the members. The first offering was taken at the first meeting in the school.
Sunday congregation at Thomas Hunter Middle School
Allen Davis began leading the singing at the school accompanied at the piano by his wife, Marty and Lois Trowbridge. Sunday school teachers and leaders included Karen Jones, Sherrie Lee, Cindy Ford, Carolyn Royals, Angie Clawson, Vicky Callis, and Phyllis Hunt were assigned for nursery and children; Hank and Martha Didot for the youth; and Brian Russell, Marvin Jones, and Jim Stanley for the adults. In October, a children’s choir led by Janice Jones and an adult choir led by Sherrie Lee were formed.
In addition to the affiliation with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV), the church considered an affiliation with the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA). Therefore, Brian Russell and Roane Hunt attended the annual meeting of the association on March 7-9, 2000, at Taylors, SC. Bob Selph, the administrator of the association, met with the church on May 28, 2000. He informed the church about the mission efforts of the association during the Sunday School hour and preached from Psalm 96 in the worship hour. On November 11, 2001, the church unanimously approved affiliation with ARBCA.
A constitutional committee of Brian Russell, Marvin Jones, Roane Hunt, and Michael Callis presented the proposed constitution for church approval on August 20, 2000. It was accepted with changes, and there was no dissenting vote.
On September 17, 2000, the church was constituted with the new name of Redeeming Grace Baptist Church. The church covenant was read in unison by all those who had previously signed and agreed to live in accordance with the covenant. Pastor Russell preached on “The Church Christ Wants Us to Be.” The Scripture texts were from Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 2:40-47. Michael Callis presided over the meeting. Marvin Jones gave the dedicatory prayer after which all members signed a large reproduction of the covenant to be put on display. The service was followed by lunch. Jim Stanley gave thanks to God for the food. It was a glorious day. Those who signed the covenant were: James Ford, Eleanor B. Ford (Cindy), Margie Soles, William F. Soles, Marvin Jones, Deborah Jones, Katie Jones, Karen Jones, Rebecca Jones, John Chambers, James R. Chambers, Janice H. Jones, Katherine D. Downs, Martha Didot, Hank Didot, Muriel Russell, Renelle Russell, Lois Trowbridge, David S. Jones, Jim Stanley, Robert E. Callis, Nancy Callis, Jeff C. Whitley, Mary K Whitley, Philip Chambers, Carolyn Royals, Morgan Lee, Robert C. Witt, Betsy Witt, Helen E. Yager, Sherrie H. Lee, Roane Hunt, Phyllis S. Hunt, Dian H. Clawson, James F. Clawson, Brian A. Russell, Michael E. Callis, Vickie Callis, Gloria Stanley. Marie Stephenson and Rebecca Stone signed the covenant later at their nursing home residences.
In accordance with the constitution, the first ruling elders were elected on November 5, 2000. They were Marvin Jones, Roane Hunt, and Michael Callis. On January 26, 2001, the church voted to call Brian Russell to be their first full-time pastor. The pastor is the teaching elder and a member of the Elder Board that serve as the spiritual leaders of the church. On November 26, 2000, the church elected Erwin Callis, Hank Didot, and Jim Ford to serve as deacons.
First Board of Deacons: Ervin Callis, Hank Didot, and Jim Ford with Pastor Brian Russell
First Board of Elders: Marvin Jones, Pastor Brian Russell, Roane Hunt, and Michael Callis
On September 9, 2001, the church approved the appointment of Pastor Russell as a SBCV Church Planter with a grant of $36,000 over three years. Since Pastor Russell received full support from the church, he committed the full grant to the church. Also, the church commissioned the deacons to search for a church site accessible to Mathews, Gloucester, and Middlesex Counties. The church closed on the purchase of seven acres of forest land on February 26, 2002. The property is located near the junction of Route 3 and Route 14 in Mathews County. A portion of the land was cleared with a septic drain field installed. In November 2003, another acre was cleared for the installation of septic tanks. The three tanks were installed in the summer of 2005. In August of 2006, three additional acres of the church property were cleared, sufficient for the construction of a church building.
The site plan for the property was not approved because the Virginia Department of Transportation would not allow a separate entrance on Route 3. They insisted that the church share an entrance with adjacent property owners. The entrance and shared road with the Courthouse Players and the Fort Nonsense Park was constructed in 2010.
On August 1, 2004, in view of Pastor Russell’s pending retirement at the end of the year, the church elected Lois Trowbridge and Betsy Witt to serve on the Pastor Search Committee with Elders Michael Callis and Marvin Jones and Deacons Roane Hunt and Erwin Callis. On December 19, 2004, the search committee unanimously recommended to the church that we call Van L. Loomis, Jr. to be the second pastor of RGBC. The church voted to call him 19-0. Pastor Loomis accepted the call on that day.
On December 26, 2004, Pastor Russell preached his last sermon before retirement. He has served with RGBC for the five years that we had been in existence. The title of his sermon was, “God’s Promise to Us of His Guidance,” with text from Isaiah 42:1-17 (key verse 16). On January 9, 2005, a retirement reception was held at the home of Arleen Stone in honor of Pastor Russell and his wife Muriel.
On February 6, 2005, Van and April Loomis began their ministry with us. Their children are Krystina, Jenna, and Christian.
Ministry Using Commercial Building at Hudgins
On September 9, 2007, the church voted to rent a building in Hudgins to hold its church meetings. On October 15, 2007, the church began renovations on the Hudgins property. Roane and Phyllis Hunt were appointed co-chairs of the project. We thank God for guiding and giving us skilled men and women who were committed to Him, to His church, and who were ready to work. The timing of the work allowed us to have Michael Callis on the job for two weeks and Shawn Towne on his week of vacation. Every family participated. The subcommittees were chaired by Michael & Vickie Callis, furnishings; Janice Jones, decorating; Ole Albert, plumbing; and Shawn Towne, hanging and finishing wallboard. After three weeks of dedicated workmanship, we were able to worship in the new building on November 4, 2007. To God be the Praise and Glory!
Karen Jones waves from Hudgins building entrance
In January 2011, Pastor Loomis requested that the church create a fund in preparation for mission trips. Three percent of the general fund offering was transferred each month to the Mission Trip Fund. In 2014, this fund was expanded to respond to other mission support requests and renamed Mission Trip & Support Fund.
Typical outdoor church celebration at the home of Erwin and Nancy Callis
Pastor Loomis was invited to participate in a mission trip to Haiti to teach and minister to Baptist pastors. This program was sponsored by Future Generations International Missions headed by Pierre & Lorphine St Louis. The church voted to sponsor Pastor Loomis in prayer and financial support. He and Pastor Clint Miller of Petsworth Baptist Church ministered there in May 2014.
Recently, Redeeming Grace Baptist Church has experienced strong growth in attendance and increased offerings to the church. Funds given to the church above the expenses are transferred to the Building Fund and the Mission Trip & Support Fund. Currently, the church is served by a single elder, Pastor Loomis, and four deacons, Harold Wood, Roane Hunt, Dusty Dowdy, and John Johnson.