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Glen Hope Baptist Church:
Alamance County,
North Carolina

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The year was 1924 and Burlington was a loose collection of unincorporated Mill Villages joined by a central business district. James Spencer Love built the Burlington Mills in the middle of a cornfield on the outskirts of town close to the Southern Railway route. This was to be the first in a chain of factories that would eventually become the largest textile manufacturing firm in the world.

Most of the workers on the Burlington Mills payroll lived in the Piedmont Heights Village next to the Mill complex. Mill houses of three to five rooms rented for $1.00 to $2.50 per week. The Superintendent of the Mill lived in a five room house.

The Mill Village was most often dirty with impassable streets. Red mud was everywhere. There were no trees, flowers, grass, shrubs or street lights. Piedmont Heights Villages blended rural customs with town life. They kept gardens, maintained a community hog pen, cows, chickens and drove wagons as well as a few automobiles over the muddy village streets. It was said that if you got into a rut, you just had to stay there. This was not the case for what would eventually become Glen Hope Baptist Church.

When Dr. Carroll Lupton first came to Piedmont Heights, his office was on the corner of Graham and Queen Ann Streets. He described it as "a pretty rough place." The village had earned the name of "Little Chicago," due to its reputation for drunkenness and violence; however, the Lord had other forces at work in the village.

Respectable families began to assert their own way of life. Some residents of the new Mill Village sought to create an institution that would give them a sense of stability and belonging. Mrs. A. E. Lewis (called Granny Lewis) each Sunday morning would gather the children in the neighborhood and hold Sunday School in the graveyard on North Avenue. The children would sit on the tombstones and Granny Lewis would teach them to sing songs of Jesus and to pray for a church to be organized in the community.

Vera Jordan's father, Mr. Bayliff, moved his family to the village so he would be close to his work in the Mill. One Sunday he was out walking and came up North Avenue by the graveyard and heard Granny Lewis with the children praying for God to send someone to organize a church in the community. Mr. Bayliff was a member of a Methodist Church, but it was too far for him to walk to church. He went to see the Pastor of the Methodist Church in Graham to see of he would organize a church. He said, "no." Mr. Bayliff, undiscouraged, then went to see Rev. Buck of the First Baptist Church on Broad Street.

In June 1925, Pastor Buck sent Rev. Robert Councilman, a ministerial student assisting Rev. Buck, to conduct a religious census. The survey found that by far, the greatest number of members of the village residents considered themselves to be Baptist. Forty-eight Baptist members from other places moved to the area to work in the Mill.

On June 21, 1925 a Sunday school was organized. The people of the community met at 9:30 AM at the Casino at Spoon's Park on North Mebane Street. Later they moved into the Glenhope Public School building across the street from the Casino on North Mebane Street. Later a church was organized. They called the church The Burlington Mills Church after Burlington Mills. Later the name was changed to Glenhope Baptist Church in keeping with the Glenhope Elementary School.

In 1926, hard times at Burlington Mills resulted in a large number of people moving away from the community in search of steady work. Rev. Robert Councilman decided to return to school in the fall. The early church was disbanded. Some members moved their letters to the First Baptist Church of Burlington. By 1927, the only formal religious group that remained in Piedmont Heights was a Sunday School class.

Several members of the class had belonged to the Pomona Baptist Church in Greensboro before moving to Burlington to work in the Burlington Mill. On September 13, 1927, the Young People's Sunday School class from Pomona Baptist Church visited the Piedmont Heights group who were meeting in the school building. At the close of the meeting, the group expressed regret that Piedmont Heights had no preacher. One member, Grace Pyrtle, reminded them that among them was a young Sunday School teacher, George Washington Swinney, who had recently experienced a call to the ministry. The group invited him to speak. Through the influence of the Holy Spirit, George Swinney impressed the Sunday School class and they invited him to preach regularly. Soon the gospel he was preaching had attracted a devout following and in June 1928, George W. Swinney was called to pastor Glenhope Baptist Church with forty-eight members.

They moved out of the Glenhope School building, because they could not pay the rent. Dr. Spoon let them use his store building on Beaumont Avenue, where the walking track is today.

The Glenhope Baptist Church met in business session on May 31, 1928 in the store room of Dr. C. E. Spoon where meetings and Sunday School had been held for the past several months, with Pastor Buck presiding. The Pastor explained briefly to those assembled the beginnings and history of Glenhope Baptist Church and endeavored to show its present status.

Among other matters it developed that the church had the sum of money approximating nearly $100.00 in the First National Savings Bank account, Burlington. There was an additional sum of nearly $80.00 in the current expense account of the First National Bank, Burlington.

With the church being without Officers and Deacons, it was deemed advisable to elect such at this time with the following result: Brethren R. C. Moses and A. E. Lewis were elected Deacons by the vote of all present. Brother J. M. Fletcher was unanimously elected Church Clerk, and Brother W. G. White was elected Treasurer by three-fourths of the members present.

It was voted that thanks be extended to Dr. C. E. Spoon for the use of the building for the previous weeks. Also, a vote a thanks was tendered to Mrs. Matthews for the use of her piano during the recent series of meetings. The vote was to be conveyed by the Deacons jointly.

It was reported that the envelopes brought in a special offering for Brother Henesey amounted to $3.63, and the Treasurer was authorized to draw a check for the amount so that the Pastor could forward it at once.

In checking over the church roll, it was found that the following constituted the present membership for the church:

Andrews, Mrs. D. F. watchcare and letter, Haw River, May 30, 1928
Bunton, Mrs. C. K. member since organization in 1925
Bunton, Miss Mozelle by watchcare and letter, Haw River, May 30, 1928
Fletcher, J. M. received by restoration, May 30, 1928
Fletcher, Mrs. J. M. received by restoration, May 30, 1928
Handy, Mrs. H. J. received by letter from Fieldale, VA, May 30, 1928
Hayden, J. C.
Hayden, Mrs. J. C.
Ingle, Mrs. Mickel member since organization
Lewis, A. E. member since organization
Lewis, Mrs. A. E. member since organization
Martindale, Mrs. Opal member since organization
Moses, R. C.
Moses, Mrs. R. C.
Newall, Mrs. Anna Bell
Osborne, W. R. received by letter, May 29, 1928
Osborne, Mrs. W. R. received by letter, May 29, 1928
Osborne, Miss Sybel by watchcare and letter, May 29, 1928
Reid, Miss Pauline by letter
Ward, Mrs. Emma by restoration, May 30, 1928
White, R. C. received by letter, May 29, 1928
White, Mrs. R. C. received by letter, May 29, 1928
White, Raymond received by letter, May 29, 1928
White, Rachel received by letter, May 29, 1928
(married Buddy Smith).

The following were received by baptism, May 29, 1928:

Bunton, Paul
Callahan, Virginia
Davis, Willie May
Watson, Lurene.

The time set for their baptism was June 6th, after prayer service, in the First Baptist Church, Burlington, the Pastor to administer the ordinance.

The church was reorganized and Rev. Swinney accepted the call to be its full-time pastor on September 29, 1928. In October 1928, plans were made for a church building. Mr. Junius Harden donated a lot on the corner of Graham Street and Beaumont Avenue. A small frame tabernacle 26' x 40' was erected at a cost of $526.00. The tabernacle was built to seat 250 people. There were three Sunday School classes: an Adult class, a Young Married Couple's class, and a Ladies Bible class. Later a room was added to the back of the building for the Youth Sunday School class.

George Swinney and his family continued to live in Greensboro until 1930, because the congregation could not afford to provide a salary or a parsonage. Preacher Swinney took the bus to downtown Burlington from Greensboro each Sunday and walked from the bus station out to the church in time for the services. They held only one service on Sunday, because Preacher Swinney would have to walk back to the bus station and return to Greensboro. In February 1930 Burlington Mills donated the use of a Mill house for the family and the Swinney family moved to the Village. The congregation began paying the preacher $25.00 a week.

By the year 1930, the original tabernacle had been outgrown, with people standing outside to hear Rev. Swinney preach. Members voted to build a new church instead of expanding the present building. Burlington Mills donated the lot on the corner of North Avenue and Graham Street for the new church.

The new brick building in January 1931 was just one block from the original building and just across the street from the Burlington Mills Pioneer Plant. At some time during this period, the spelling of the church name was changed to Glen Hope.

The new church building had a sanctuary, pastor's study, nursery and a very small secretary's office on the first floor. There was a coal heater in the left corner to heat the sanctuary; later they changed from coal to oil. There were five Sunday School classes held in the basement under the sanctuary: Ladies Bible class, Young Married Couple's class, Men's Bible class, 7- & 8-Year-Old class, and the Youth class. Later as the church grew they added the Victory class and the Builders class. There was another coal heater, and later an oil heater, in the basement for heat.

After moving into the new church, the Lord blessed the congregation and it wasn't long before they had outgrown this building. In 1936, the church was enlarged with the addition of two wings and a balcony built on three walls. The youth moved their Sunday School to the balcony.

On March 5, 1944 Rev. Edward Miller was called as Assistant Pastor to Preacher Swinney. He was to work with the visitation of the church.

On February 6, 1949 a Sunday morning just before Sunday School was to start, the sanctuary and the basement was destroyed by fire. The fire was believed to have started from the oil heater in the basement. As many as 50 men fought the blaze and five of the paid members of the Fire Department were members of Glen Hope Church.

The fire had hardly been extinguished before Rev. George Swinney found many of his members and other interested persons, volunteering their time and money to get a building program started. There was sadness in their hearts, but there was also the progressive spirit of coming back.

After the fire, the members met in other churches for six weeks and an auditorium was set up in the educational building, which had only minor roof damage from the fire. Worship services were held in the educational building until the sanctuary was finished in 1950. Because Rev. Swinney and his congregation never lost their progressive spirit and determination, a massive church building was constructed with a valuation of an estimated $335,000.00 in 1950. It still stands to serve its faithful congregation. The stained glass windows and the pews in the sanctuary were purchased as memorials or in honor of someone and are marked with their names.

The educational building and sanctuary were well planned, well constructed and provided modern facilities and conveniences that were new for any church in the area. The church purchased nine houses and had them moved to make parking spaces. The parsonage on Beaumont Avenue was built in 1954 and sold in 1995. The fellowship hall was built in 1961.

In 1991 the Cherokee Flooring property with a metal building was purchased and was being used as a recreational building and for parking. The building was demolished in June 1997 for grading and future expansion.

In 1992 the church purchased three lots with houses on North Avenue between Graham Street and Parker Street across from the church. The houses have been sold and the property is used as parking space.

There have been a number of missionaries from the church:

Rev. and Mrs. Robert Frazier who served in Manakward, Netherlands, and New Guinea. Bob and Doris retired in Florida.

Rev. and Mrs. Tom Baird with the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention).

Rev. and Mrs. Bain Daniels served with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board of the SBC). Dianne worked with the youth, senior adults and was Minister of Education at Glen Hope.

Donna Vaughn served in the Peace Corp in West Africa in 1973-1975.

Dr. Bobby J. Touchton received endorsement as Chaplain from the North American Mission Board, after pastoring for ten years. Rev. Touchton has served with the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a Chaplain for the Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland KY since 1997.

There have been 34 ordained ministers who have gone out to serve in churches in other places. Rev. J.B. Foushee was the first ordained on September 10, 1930, while the congregation still met in the tabernacle. There have been at least six members from this church who went into full-time church ministry.

Onita Sheppard, a member of the church, served as Pastor Swinney's secretary (part-time). In September 1946 the Deacons recommended that the church call Mrs. Mildred Cates Overman as a special worker at $35.00 a week. She served in this capacity for twenty years before receiving a raise in salary. Later she became Secretary and Educational Director. She served a total of 35 years, retiring in1980. Following Mildred Overman, several individuals have served the church as secretaries.

A mission church, Eastlawn Baptist, was built on Sellars Mill Road in 1960. Rev. Jack Clark, Associate Pastor at Glen Hope was called as Pastor. The Babcock Mission Church was built in Palm Bay, Florida in 1985. Pastor Robert Frazier, a member of Glen Hope Church who has retired from the mission field, is Pastor of this mission church.

In 1997 another mission, Integrity Community Church (ICC), was sponsored by Glen Hope under the leadership of Rev. Thomas C. (Bud) Wrenn. ICC started meeting at the former Holiday Inn in Burlington.

From the beginning, Preacher Swinney established a personal rapport with church and community members. He was not only a minister, but a friend and companion. The title "Preacher" acknowledged the area of his ministry most valued by the congregation: his preaching. A special bond between Preacher Swinney and the villagers lay at the heart of his ministry. He had no more, and in most cases, less education than the mill workers. He understood first hand their working conditions and their family life.

To Preacher Swinney the rough life was a challenge to his call, and he took as his primary task the redemption of "Little Chicago." In this, he used three tools: example, prayer, and shame. He inspired the community to pull tog ether. Dr. Lupton believed that "Preacher Swinney changed their whole way of thinking about morals and religious values in life." By the mid-1930s, Piedmont Heights was "a completely changed vicinity." It was hard to drive through the church area on Sunday morning; there were so many cars parked around it. It seemed that everyone was going to Glen Hope Church.

Preacher Swinney worked not only from the pulpit, but by confronting villagers directly and privately. It was not only Preacher Swinney who evangelized, but also newly inspired converts. Reformed villagers admonished rowdy neighbors. Cottage prayer meetings were among the most effective methods of fostering the village's budding Christian community.

Instead of noises of fighting and drinking, the sound of prayers filled the air. These meetings offered a place where hearts could be opened to one another, as well as to God. Villagers prayed about their work, their families, their health, and their souls. Members presented community problems to God and to each other for solutions. These prayer meetings built faith, while at the same time they strengthened human bonds between community members. The process of changing "Little Chicago" was not accomplished over night. Through Preacher Swinney's influence, many villagers accepted Christ and changed their personal behavior. Members of the congregation formed a strong community bond based on their shared spiritual beliefs. The redemption of their community was not a miracle, but the fruit of much work.

Mr. Spencer Love and Preacher Swinney became very close friends over the years. Burlington Mills let Glen Hope use their parking lot on Sundays. In turn, Burlington Mills used the church Fellowship Hall for meetings.

Burlington Mills has made a great contribution to Glen Hope Church over the years. The church parking lot was paved by Burlington Mills and the electric bills for Glen Hope Church was paid by Burlington Mills until 1974.

In 1950, Mrs. James Lee Love and the Burlington Industries gave a Baldwin Number 10 electronic organ with cathedral chimes in memory of the late James Lee Love, founder of Burlington Industries.

Glen Hope Church incorporated on November 18, 1996 when incorporation papers were filed with the State of North Carolina.

Presently Glen Hope Church is involved in many ministries. On each Sunday morning at 8:00 AM, Glen Hope has a recorded service broadcast on Radio Station WBBB. Bible teaching is an important part of the church. A program of Biblical instructions includes Sunday School classes for every age group and Wednesday night Bible Study. The youth ministry includes Bible Study and fellowship each Wednesday and Sunday evenings. The M & M (Missions & Music) Club and Mission Friends meet on Wednesday nights.

The church has a homebound ministry for members who are unable to attend. Tapes of the morning and evening services are taken to them each week. The Young at Heart, a senior adult group, is also a very active organization.

Glen Hope is a mission minded church, participating in associational, state, home and foreign mission giving through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. Through benevolent means, Glen Hope Church provided for people who found themselves in great personal and material need.

Mission organizations are available for all ages: Women's Missionary Union (WMU), Missions & Music Club for grades 1-6 boys and girls, and Mission Friends for children ages 2-5. The church has a Men's Ministry which involves both spiritual growth and service projects.

Worship is the most important aspect of the Glen Hope Church family. This is done through Bible teaching, drama, music by the Chancel Choir, Children's Choir, Living Proof Youth Choir, Young at Heart Senior Adult Choir, Ladies Ensemble, the Handbell Ringers, and the Sign Choir which is called "The Father's Hands."

Vacation Bible School is held each summer for adults, children, and youth. The library, built in 1970, filled a much needed ministry for all ages of the membership and was expanded in 1977.

Rev. G. W. Swinney, founder of Glen Hope Church, preached his final sermon as pastor in 1969 and entered retirement after 42 years in the Glen Hope pulpit. In January 1975, he went home to be with the Lord.

Rev. Clarence C. Vaughn, son-in-law of Rev. Swinney, became pastor of Glen Hope Baptist Church in1969 and faithfully served until March 1984, when he retired.

Dr. Tom Graves served as Interim Pastor for five months: June 1984 thru November 1984. Dr. Graves would later become the founding president of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond, VA. Dr. Warner Doles served as Pastor from December 3, 1984 until 1987. Dr. Don Cook served as Interim Pastor from April 19, 1987 until 1988.

Dr. Fred Treadwell served as Pastor from March 20, 1988 to July 13 , 1997. Rev. Robert (Bob) Stephenson came to serve as Associate Pastor and Minister of Education in 1985. Rev. James (Jim) Wrenn came in 1992 serving as Minister of Music and Senior Adults. Mr. Thomas (Bud) Wrenn came in 1993 as Minister of Youth and Evangelism, resigning in 1996 to become pastor of the new mission church, Integrity Community Church (ICC). In May 1997 David Faile was called as Minister of Students.

The decade of the nineties has seen growth and expansion at Glen Hope. God has expanded the church's vision and ministry to include work with the Laotian community and the deaf throughout Alamance County. An after school program called "After School Adventures" (or The Big "A" Club) started in March 1996 and is still in progress. Rev. Terry Creech is director, assisted by LaJune Bowes Moore and some Glen Hope youth.

The Laotian ministry began when two men originally from Laos came to the pastor and asked if they could worship with the congregation. They were assured that they would be welcome and began initially to attend English Language Sunday School classes. The grasp of English for some was not good enough to understand all that was being taught. The pastor, through an interpreter, began to teach a class for them on February 16, 1992 with eight members present. Phonekeo Sisouphanh, who attended Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in San Francisco, CA, assisted in the formation of this ministry and continues to share in leadership.

In 1995 God lead David and Noo-on Pettingell to Glen Hope. Having ministered to the Lao/Thai community in Texas they brought a fresh vision to the growing Lao ministry. Currently they are not only conducting Sunday School in the Lao language, but have formed the Genesis Lao-Thai Church which meets each Sunday at 11:00 AM with David Pettingell serving as Pastor and Phonekeo Sisouphanh as Elder.

A ministry to the deaf community of Alamance County was begun on August 2, 1992 at Glen Hope. Before this time Kinnett Memorial had been home to the deaf church. As the ministry grew, so did the need to expand. Expansion needs were not only to accommodate for more growth, but rather to provide more opportunities to reach the entire deaf community, both young and old, so a decision was made by the deaf leadership to move the ministry to Glen Hope.

A covered dish lunch was held on Sunday, August 2 with approximately 28 n attendance. This number was composed of both the deaf and the hearing. On Sunday, August 9 the "Silent Servants" Sunday School class was formed with seven persons enrolled. By the end of January 1993 (six months later), they had grown to an average attendance of 20 to 25 every Sunday with 14 having joined the church. On the Sunday in which the Sunday School class was begun, they also conducted the first service of worship for the deaf, led by Rev. Garland Handy. From thievery beginning a full program was developed with Sunday School, Morning and Evening Worship on Sundays and Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.

Janet Boucher has served as the interpreter for Glen Hope and has done a marvelous job in helping to establish this ministry a Glen Hope. With her leadership a Deaf Ministry Council was established to coordinate events and ministry opportunities for the deaf in the coming year. The original committee was comprised of Janet Boucher, Rev. Garland Handy, Martha Handy, with Bob Stephenson serving as ex-officio member representing the church staff. Since that time other members of the Deaf Community have been invited to participate on the council. This ministry continued to grow with activities designed to reach and meet the needs of the Deaf Community in Alamance County.

In October 1995 God called Rev. Handy home and Rev. Bob Stephenson became the Interim Deaf pastor with Janet Boucher interpreting the services. In 1996 God called David Boucher to serve as Minister to the Deaf and began on November 2, 1996. David was ordained to the gospel ministry on May 11, 1997.

The after school program was started to target children who were not in day care programs and were considered "latch key kids." They meet in the Glen Hope Fellowship Hall from 3:00 to 5:00 PM Monday and Wednesday. There are approximately 21 children in the program at present.

On September 13, 1992 the church celebrated its 65th Anniversary with a special program, including music, and lunch in the Recreation Building following the 11:00 AM worship service. After lunch those present gathered on the site of the proposed New Educational Building for a service of dedication.

In the Spring of 1993 the church began construction on a three story building, housing preschool, children, and new office space. It was connected to the present building on the Delaware Avenue side. This facility was completed and a service of dedication was held on April 17, 1994. Burlington Christian Academy (BCA) utilized the preschool portion of the new educational building to house their three- and four-year-old preschool, beginning in August 1996. Studies are being conducted for the establishment of the Glen Hope Weekday Learning Center to open when BCA moves back to their own expanded campus.

In 1995 a half court gymnasium was constructed and donated to the church. This structure was dedicated on February 25, 1996. The church debt from the new construction, was paid off in October 1998.

The building in which Glen Hope Baptist Church meets is a monument in the community of the power and grace of God. Any one of the more than 500 people who make up the average attendance each Sunday would agree . It stands there dignified and serene, quietly proud of its major part in changing "Little Chicago."

To add your Alamance County
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Mary Wrenn Ellis

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This page was last updated July 4, 2000.

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