Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church will celebrate its 134th anniversary on Sunday, and in doing so recognize its two oldest members, Gertrude Ingram and Fred Breeden, born in 1920 and 1918, respectively.
While the passing decades have clouded some of their memories of the church’s early days, they both agreed that it has come a long way since they both started attending in the 1930s.
“We used to meet in a little wooden framed on Dickson Street,” said Ingram from a church pew in Bright Hopewell’s current, expansive sanctuary built in 1984.
Back when Ingram first attended the church, in 1931, she recalls that the congregation only met on two Sunday’s each month, spending the other two Sundays at another local church.
“Those were tough times,” said Ingram, speaking of both the depressed American economy of the 1930s and of her family’s personal struggles.
“My father was a baptist minister, and when my mother died he was left to take care of us,” said Ingram, one of 11 children in her household.
With the support of the church and a new stepmother, Ingram grew up, moved away to New York for a period, and stayed a member of Bright Hopewell throughout.
Baptized in a remote Scotland County pond, Breeden notes some of the more obvious changes he has seen since first joining the church “sometime in the 1930s.”
“They have that little pool up there now to baptize people,” said Breeden, gesturing toward Bright Hopewell’s baptistry from the church aisle.
“There’s also more sound during service than there used to be,” observed Breeden, ambivalent about the music which he says makes it harder to hear the messages of Reverend Garland Pierce on Sundays.
In a testament to his longevity, Breeden recalls only that he has been a church deacon for “a long time, since I was about 60.”
Born in Clio, South Carolina, Breeden remembers being told by his father that they were moving to Scotland County to have a better life.
“He said, ‘Boys, I don’t want you to come up like I did,’ and we moved here from South Carolina,” said Breeden.
The theme of the church’s Sunday celebration is “134 Years and Still Holding on to God’s Unchanging Hand.”
Ingram credits that “unchanging hand” with her continued health.
“The grace of God is the reason I’ve made it this far, and I still feel 19-years-old on the inside because of him,” said Ingram.
Rev. Matthew Rouse, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church of Raeford, will be the guest speaker and the church’s “founding forefathers” along with other members will be memorialized during the service. Dinner will also be served.