PRUNTYTOWN — A church older than the state of West Virginia is celebrating two centuries.
The people of Beulah Baptist Church have gathered in worship for 200 years; the first congregation met Aug. 18, 1818.
“The church building where we’re worshipping now was built in 1848, so the church had been in existence for 30 years before this building was built,” said the Rev. David Bess, pastor at Beulah Baptist Church. “Initially we were meeting in homes, and then there was Rector College and we met there.
“We also had a log cabin building for a while, and then this building was built in 1948. It’s a very historic building when you look at the architecture and you go up into the attic and see some of the rough timber and all that sort of thing. It’s really fascinating.”
The church initially launched in Williamsport, Va., in what is now considered Grant County, W.Va. Today, Beulah Baptist Church is in the unincorporated Taylor County community of Pruntytown.
“Pruntytown did not yet exist at that time,” Bess said. “They hadn’t changed the name. Of course, also
in 1818, West Virginia did not exist.”
Bess’ tenure with the church, however, is much shorter. He began as the church’s pastor more than two years ago.
Now encompassed in the church’s history, Bess is proud to be shepherding the church into its third century.
“I’ve pastored in West Virginia for all of my career. I started back in 1985 but had the invitation to come up here a couple of years ago,” he said. “It’s really
an honor to pastor Beulah and to be with these wonderful people. It’s one of the strongest churches I’ve ever pastored, so it’s a real privilege.”
Bess describes Beulah Baptist Church, with its225 members, as “conservative in theology but liberal in love.”
“That’s exactly where Beulah is,” he said. “They’re very biblically oriented. They want to do exactly what the Bible says. They want to have a chapter and verse for everything.
“But, at the same time, they’re very, very loving and warm and caring. That’s one of the remarks that’s been made by church member after church member when we’ve asked them: ‘What’s kept you at Beulah and what appeals to you about Beulah?’ They said it’s the loving, caring family. So it’s just a very good combination there.”
Churchgoers celebrated the bicentennial over the weekend, starting with special events and music on Friday night.
“We brought in folks who’ve had special ties to the church over the years,” Bess said.
Saturday was the actual date of the bicentennial and included an invitation-only dinner for church members.
The weekend wrapped up with services on Sunday, including a special visitation from the West Virginia Baptist Convention to congratulate the church on its historical mile marker.
For those who want to visit the historical church, Bess said all are welcome. Beulah Baptist Church is on U.S. 50 toward Grafton.
“The historic sanctuary’s on one side, and then we’ve got an activities building that’s on the other side. We have a lot of country side and farmland. It’s a really beautiful place to be.”