Residents of the Hardwood community came together Saturday for a festival to raise money for New Bethel Baptist Church’s new building.
For about 90 years, a worn, white, wooden clapboard church served the spiritual needs of its congregation and neighbors in the Hardwood community until time and termites took their toll.
“The people came here mainly from Mississippi to work at the King Lumber Company Mill just to the north of here,” the Rev. John H. Lee said.
The church building originally served two separate congregations — the New Bethel Baptist and the New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, he added.
Each congregation held its services two Sundays a month. Eventually, only the Baptist congregation survived.
“A lot of people, including me, shed a tear when we found out our old church building could not be saved, because it had seen a lot of history,” Lee said.
After finding out the old church building was beyond saving, the congregation set about building a new one, and now a new church with a brick façade stands in place of the old one. But building that church came with a price, which is why the congregation decided to revive the old fall festival that had been a tradition in years past.
The original wooden church building served as a school back when schools for African-American children were few and far between, and it also served as a community center for the people in Hardwood. In more recent years, it has served as a food distribution center for those in need and the elderly.
Lee said the congregation is glad to have been able to build a new church on the site of the old one. He said they took pains to document the entire process of dismantling the old church and building the new one.
Verna Jackson Lee, the pastor’s wife, said the congregation is grateful for the support it received in the building of the new church. She said reviving the community’s fall festival was one way to help raise money for the building fund.