Wallers Baptist Church
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Love God, Love People, Serve the World
Remember, God through you will provide; not by sight but by faith.
When reviewing the life of John Waller, we are also reviewing the life of many of the early settlers who came to the young colonies to escape religious persecution in Europe. England, who ruled the colonies, established the Church of England to rule over every aspect of the colonists’ lives. Everyone was subject to the laws established by the church and dissenters were punished and jailed for their beliefs. This was specifically true of the Baptists.
John Waller, who came from the prominent Waller family in Lower Spotsylvania County*, was especially intent upon ridding the community of these dissenters. He had been pursuing a career in law but his profligate nature made him succumb to many excesses especially in the areas of drinking, gambling and foul language. He became known as “Swearing Jack Waller”, also known as “The Devil’s Adjutant”.
As a grand juryman, he was active in bringing court proceedings against the Baptists. He was sitting on grand jury proceedings against Lewis Craig for unlawful preaching. However, he was so impressed by Craig’s defense of himself and his meekness of spirit that he began to attend Craig’s meetings to see what this man possessed that he had never before witnessed.
After one such meeting, John Waller walked into the woods, fell to his knees and wept uncontrollably. Like Paul the Apostle, he immediately saw himself for the sinner that he was and called upon the Lord for forgiveness. He was baptized in 1767 and at the age of 26 he became “Preaching John” instead of “Swearing Jack”.
On December 2, 1769 John Waller established Wallers Baptist Church and became its first pastor. He, along with Lewis Craig, brothers Elijah and Joseph Craig and William Webber, traveled in every direction spreading the tidings of peace and salvation. They were often beaten and imprisoned but it never stopped their zeal, even preaching from jail cell windows.
If it had not been for those men, we would not have the religious freedom they fought so hard to secure for us. John Waller and his friend Samuel Harris petitioned James Madison unceasingly to have religious freedom written into our Constitution by the Continental Congress. Finally, in 1799, the Baptists finally achieved their objective.
Wallers has been called “a mother church indeed” because it instituted 15 other churches and also the “mother of preachers”. Called to the ministry were John Waller, Absalom Waller, John Billingsley, James King, William Waller, Addison Lewis, Joseph Billingsley, E. V. Peyton, Thomas Pugh and Calvin Sacra.
The original frame meeting house was replaced in April 1850 by a new brick structure. Unfortunately, in 1873, a fire damaged it severely and it was rebuilt in 1874. A cemetery was established in July 1898 as a resting place for dearly beloved members. In April 1868, it was resolved that a Sabbath School be organized. In 1953, a new addition was approved for a Sunday school building and was dedicated in June 1954. In 1979, a large Sunday school addition was erected with a new kitchen and fellowship hall. The need for a parsonage became evident and upon completion, it was first occupied in 1964.
In August 1997, a Playground Committee was formed and the children now enjoy a safe and colorful place outdoors near the church. Easter of 1999 saw the erection of three large crosses near the cemetery, which are also clearly visible to those who drive past Wallers Church. We celebrated 230 years of continuous service on September 19, 1999. Many of the church members dressed in period costume to celebrate with dinner on the grounds.
Wallers had been guided since 1769 by 28 wise and caring pastors. On May 1, 2006 Reverend James Graham accepted the position of Interim Pastor and subsequently on October 1, 2006 became the 24th pastor. In 2009 Reverend Ernest Cornwell became Pastor Emeritus.
In the past ten years a lot of changes have come. Starting January, 2008 we now have two worship services on Sunday mornings at 8:15 and 11:00. Sunday School is held at 9:45. In 2008 AngelFood Ministries was started, offering food at a reduced price to the community. In 2007 our first Fall Festival was held and continues yearly. We continue to offer many programs for all ages.
As a church we feel that we have been given a vision to love God, love people and serve the world. In this we are attempting to spread the gospel to see salvation come to all people and to meet the needs of the community we live in and throughout the world.
*The Wallers and Wallers Plantations are mentioned in the book Roots by Alex Haley.