New Hope Church celebrating 150 years

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tradition is strong in Covington County, as the congregation of New Hope Baptist Church will testify to this Sunday when they celebrate 150 years of church history.

The area in which the church rests, located near Onycha, was first opened for sale in the 1840s to 1850s and was sold at $5 an acre. Sales were very slow, and as a result, the price was later reduced to $1.25 an acre. The slow sale trend continued until the price dropped to $0.12 an acre.

It wasn’t long after the new families established themselves in their new homes before a group of five — Robert Tucker, Joel McLlendon, Allis McLlendon and Martha Powell — organized the Clear Creek Missionary Church on April 15, 1859. Its first service was held on April 30, 1859.

In 1865, the name changed to New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, and the rest — as they say — is history.

On Sat., April 25, the church will be recognized by the state and by the Covington Baptist Association for its exceptional history.

Sherrie Cravey, a 50-year member of the church, said a great deal of preparation has gone into the day’s event.

“This is the church of my childhood,” Cravey said. “It’s the church I grew up in and the church I raised my children in. To think that it’s going to celebrate 150 years of history on Sunday is amazing.”

Cravey said the day’s events will begin at 10 a.m. with a plaque presentation, and be immediately followed by a message by James Pickron. Lunch will then be served on the centuries-old long table on the church grounds.

“That table has been there as long as I can remember and I can remember when there was no indoor plumbing there,” she said. “I hope everyone comes out and listens to all the wonderful memories people have about the church and the people who attended it.”

Many family members of the church’s charter members will attend the recognition ceremony, she said.

“We have Mrs. Aldean Parker who will be playing the piano,” she said. “James Cravey is going to come and lead us in music. We’re going to have several members of our church family attend.”

One of the church’s most recent claims to fame is the addition of its cemetery to the state’s historic cemetery register. The register officially recognizes and honors family and community cemeteries established at least 40 years ago. New Hope Cemetery is one of five cemeteries in the county on the register. Dennis Murphy of Opp completed all the state requirements to nominate the cemetery and his efforts paid off.

On Sunday, churchgoers can visit founding member Martha Powell’s gravesite after enjoying the dinner on the grounds. They will also be able to thumb through a complete history of the church and the surrounding area, compiled by Derlie Barnes.

“We want everyone to come out and share their memories of what it was like then and growing up in this area,” Cravey said.