History

Admitted into the Tar River Baptist Association on October 5, 1877 as a “recently organized” church of twenty-three (23) members, Cedar Rock Baptist Church (Cedar Rock First Baptist Church after 1984) traces her origins to a series of religious services conducted in the old Cedar Rock Townhouse Courthouse in 1876. The exact dates of those meetings and of the constitution of the church have not been preserved. At the time of her admission into the Association, the church was conducting a Sabbath School with forty-four (44) scholars enrolled and John A. Coppedge, Superintendent. Coppedge was also elected as the first Church Clerk – a role which he retained for some thirty years thereafter.

The church erected a framed house of worship in either 1877 or 1879, with classrooms attached, on the site of the present church cemetery. Additional acreage was purchased in 1941, including the old Cedar Rock School building. The original church structure continued to serve the needs of the congregation until it was destroyed by fire on October 29, 1944. Services were conducted temporarily in the Edward Best High School while the Cedar Rock School building was prepared for use by the church and her auxiliary organizations. Initial services were conducted in the present sanctuary on October 7, 1951. The Educational Annex was first occupied by the Sunday School in November 1958.

Services of worship were conducted once a month, 1876-1920; twice monthly, 1920-1944, 1950-1954; and three Sundays each month during the pastorate of Thomas Harold Steen, 1946-1949. It was not until 1954 that Cedar Rock Baptist began to conduct services of worship each week. The first resident pastor of the congregation, the Reverend Burke Elmo Holland, Jr., moved into a newly completed brick parsonage – constructed adjacent to the church’s other facilities – in the summer of 1966. Extensive remodeling/renovations to the parsonage were completed in 1989.

A Woman’s Missionary Society, with Mary L. Lacy, President, was organized in 1902. A Baptist Young People’s Union was reported in 1921 with Eula Dean, Secretary. This latter auxiliary (later BTU) continued to function until discontinued in 1939. It was then reactivated, 1954-1967. Ongoing Discipleship Training sessions have not been maintained since 1995, although occasional provision has been made for the instruction of Royal Ambassadors. There was no Director of Baptist Brotherhood/Baptist Men elected by the church prior to 1995.

Church membership reached one hundred twelve (112) in 1881-1882; exceeded two hundred (200) in 1908-1909; and then reached three hundred (300) for the first time in 1922-1923. Current membership stands at one hundred eighty-one (181), with one hundred eleven (111) classified as resident members. Average weekly attendance upon the Sunday morning worship services of the church was reported to be fifty-five (55) in 2017-2018, with a reported weekly average attendance of forty (40) in Sunday School.

In recent years, God has been revitalizing Cedar Rock. The church has prioritized outreach efforts into the community, special “Reconnect” events that help people connect faith to their everyday lives, and a weekly “KidsConnect” ministry that focuses on training children to read and understand the Bible. In addition, Cedar Rock members have sensed the Holy Spirit growing them deeper in their faith and closer to one another. In this time, eighteen (18) new members have joined, and two (2) have been baptized.

Cedar Rock First Baptist Church has been served by a succession of forty-four (44) pastors during her history of one hundred forty-two years. Those who have been called to the pastoral office include: George Washington Newell, 1876-1894; William Alonzo Smith, 1894-1895; William Cullen Nowell, 1896-1903; George Mark Duke, 1903-1918; John Henry Harper, 1918-1919; John Paul Gulley, 1919-1920; James Louis Price, 1920-1921; William R. Wallace, 1922-1923; James Redding Everett, 1923-1925; Robert Pendleton Downey, 1925-1927; Julian Setzer Hopkins, 1927-1930; Raymond Long, 1930-1931; Fred Reeves Poplin, 1931-1932; J. Winston Pierce, 1932-1934; Lonnie Boyd Reavis, 1934-1936; Ernest Y. Averett, 1936-1940; Fon Hulester Scofield Jr., 1940-1942; Rexford Ray Campbell, 1942-1945; Thomas Harold Steen, 1946-1949; Billy Marlin Gordon, 1951-1952; and Leonard Hays Miller, 1953-1956.

Also, Robert H. Freeland, 1957-1960; James Howard Pernell, 1960-1963; Allen Lawrence, 1961-1964; John Stephen Perrou, 1964-1965; Burke Elmo Holland Jr., 1966-1969; George Robert Robbins, 1970-1975; Ray Slone, 1975-1976; Winfred William Porter, 1976-1978; Joseph E. Legacy, 1978-1983; Curtis Lee Bradford, 1983-1984; Don Charlton Austin, 1984-1988; Andrew Cook, 1989-1991; Stephen Nelson Rummage, 1992-1994; Paul Douglas, 1994-1997; Michael L. Underwood, 1997-2001; Keith D. Church, 2002-2005; Michael Spain, 2005-2006; John Carter, 2006-2010; Robert Ricks Boone Jr., 2010-2011; Joseph Caudill, 2011-2013; Richard Walker, 2013-2014; Adam Denny, 2014; Richard Walker, 2015; and Nathaniel Williams, 2015-present.

Two men from the church are known to have been ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry, namely: John Wesley Sledge (1884) and Robert Ricks Boone (1963). Cedar Rock has hosted meetings of the Tar River Baptist Association in 1920, 1967, 1977, 1985, 1992 and 2018.