Shenandoah Baptist Association of Virginia and West Virginia was originally composed of churches seeking membership from Page, Clarke, Frederick, Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Shenandoah and Warren Counties. Today there are seven counties, two from West Virginia and five in Virginia. Composed of diverse membership, this association came together as a body to defend religious liberty and seeking greater missionary development.
Pastor William Coleman Bitting of the Luray church envisioned the need for a Shenandoah Baptist Association. His church was a member of Shiloh Association and the distance across the Blue Ridge Mountains was long and hard on horseback or buggy. He issued a call to other churches for a meeting to be held in Luray to determine the feasibility of beginning a new association of independent, self-governing bodies with each member possessing equal rights and privileges. They came for the purpose of a comprehensive Great Commission spirit. Under the Spirit motivation they could reach the vast areas without a Baptist witness.
Seven churches in this association were previously affiliated with the Ketocton Association and one from Shiloh. The Ketocton churches were South Fork, Buck Marsh, Mill Creek, Happy Creek, Zoar, Water Lick and Bethel. The feasibility meeting was held April 29, 1882. Some churches with the Potomac Association attended as they too had a long distance to commute. The meeting was called, "to consider the propriety of formulating a new association." Fifteen pastors and messengers representing seven churches arrived: Bethel, Charles Town, Front Royal, Luray, Martinsburg, Riverton and Rockland. They all agreed to form an association: "We, the delegates of churches in the Shenandoah Valley, after earnest prayer and consultation, are most thoroughly convinced, that the best interest of this section and our whole Zion, will be promoted by the formation of an association embracing the churches in (the) valley". Another meeting to contact additional churches was scheduled.
Anticipation was high, when the messengers met on September 13, 1882, at Berryville Baptist Church. Twenty-three delegates represented churches from Berkely, Jefferson, Hampshire, Hardy, Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Page Counties. Collectively, their membership totaled, 1,135 Baptists. Officers were elected, a constitution and by-laws were passed and plans made for a three-day event at Bethel Baptist church in Clarke County.
Moderator T. B. Shepherd called the first meeting to order on, September 3, 1883 where seventeen churches were represented having a membership of 1, 309. Bethel is a registered national historic landmark established on July 16, 1808. The oldest Baptist church in Shenandoah is Buck Marsh now Berryville, constituted on, September 12, 1772 with twenty- nine members
Our first Director of Missions was James T. Cravens whose service was made possible through the financial assistance of the Virginia Baptist General board and the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. An office was established in First Baptist Church in October, 1983. He accepted the call and began his ministry on October 1, 1983. He served for two years, establishing an office and assisting in beginning two missions.
Philip A. Duckett, came to Shenandoah, March 1, 1986 and retired on December 31, 1994. He helped in building the Shanandale Springs Church and missionary efforts. Charles D. Lumpkin was employed in August, 1995 and worked for more than thirty-five hours per week as his contract required. He modernized the office and assisted with the organization of three churches and Spanish-speaking congregations at Front Royal and Woodstock. A reception was held on February 21, 1999 in appreciation for his work with us. William T. Smith, Jr., our next Director of Missions was an intentional interim for three months with an option for renewal by both parties. He began his ministry on February 2, 1999 and ended on June 2, 2000.
On October 7, 2001 our association voted in Charles Town Baptist Church to call a Missions & Ministry Facilitator (MMF) and a search committee was appointed. After several interviews and much prayer, the committee recommended to the association that an MMF not be called and the salary used for ministry, and the association be reorganized. A revisioning committee was formed and the association emerged as a team led association with four ministry teams and an Administrator. Michele Heath was hired as Administrator in February of 1999, she manages the office and coordinates the ministry teams along with the Moderator and Associational Council.
We always seek to accomplish together what we cannot do alone and fulfill the Great Commission in being the Light and Salt. May the reason for our being bring glory to God. For a more in depth look at our history and our churches please see History of Shenandoah Baptist Association Virginia & West Virginia A Great Heritage-A Greater Future by Carlysle C. Crank; available through the associational office.