Category Archives: Scripture

Mt. Zion AME Church

On Saturday, February 16, Buddy and I were traveling to Kimball on route 52.  As always, we were both searching for a church that we had not visited.  As we crossed the bridge at Eckman, I said, “Hey, that looks like a church over there.  I’ve never noticed it before.”  Buddy insisted that he had told me it was there.  If he had, I didn’t remember.

After our visit to Kimball, we traveled to Vivian.  While at Vivian, I took some shots of the old Vivian Grade School.  We had been down there last summer with Elaine McMillion, who was filming for “Hollow”.  Everything was so grown up at that time, however, that we could not see the school very well.  Buddy and I found a side entrance that was easy to get to, but we did not go in.  Not because he didn’t want to, but because I am a chicken when it comes to old buildings.  I know they have been standing there for years, but today might be the day they fall.

After taking a few shots of the grade school, I took a few more shots of the Peerless Coal & Coke Company Store.  My Granddad, Eltrue Gordon, had worked for them at some time.  That fact alone makes that old, burnt, falling down building a part of my family history.

We then drove to Eckman.  As we always do, we “discussed” how to get to the church.  I always say, “Let’s go this way”.  Buddy always says, “Let’s go that way.”  Of course, since I am driving, I always choose my way first.  (I don’t like it when I have to turn around and go the way he said, but it does happen more often than I like to admit.)  On this day……I was right.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV Window

We pulled up to the church and the first thing we noticed was all the trash beside of it.  Looking at the church, we noticed how bad a shape it really is.  The roof on the left side is partially gone.  From viewing it on the outside, we were unsure if we would be able to go in.  I walked up to the window and said, “At least I can peak in and get some shots.”  As he always does, while I am repeating words of warning, Buddy ignored me and walked in the wide open door.

He came back out and said, “It’s ok, you can come in.”  I said, “Are you sure?”  He always gets aggravated at this time.  The time when my OCD kicks in and I require complete reassurance….once, twice and sometimes three times.  He calmly says, “Yeah, I’m sure.  Come on.”  I slowly and cautiously walked into a vestibule.  The first thing I did was look up for a bell.  I could see nothing but a wooden ceiling.  At least I would hear the bell before it crashed onto my head.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME Church, Eckman, WV, Vestibule

I walked into the church  more cautiously than I did the vestibule.  The whole time, I was gripping my camera in front of me.  This way, if a human or animal lunges at me, I have a defense.  The defense of shooting them first. Essentially, taking their picture BEFORE they harm me.  Laugh if you must….go ahead.  I know that you are.  I can hear your laughter before you read this.  However, this is truly how I enter these falling down churches or buildings.

The first thing I noticed in the floor was a piece of gold Christmas garland.  You know the kind.  The kind that we have all used in Christmas plays when we dress the kids up as angels.  My first thought was this:  “Was their last service a Christmas service?”  I started looking at the roof and the ceiling.  I noticed a ceiling fan whose blades are completely drooped down, as if it is in complete despair.  There are a few wooden pews over to the right.  Two of them are upright while one has a leg missing and the other is laying on it’s back.  To the left is another pew against the wall and an old cabinet that has hymnals and papers strewn all over the floor in front of it.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Sanctuary

Buddy was up to the front looking around.  There is a book laying on the altar that was a hymnal.  There is another book that is laying on the banister.  It has been purposefully laid there as if someone is coming back to take it home.   When he saw that book, Buddy said what he always says when he finds something unbelievable.  “You’re not going to believe this.”  “What is it?”, I said.   “You got to get a picture of it.  It’s a Bible with ice on the cover.”  He opened the cover to search out a name.  There is none.  Completely soaked through with ice on the cover, it is completely ruined.  It’s laying under a part of the roof that is halfway gone.  I took a few pictures.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Bible

Buddy started toward the back of the church and I followed.  There is some more garland laying on a step that leads to the back.  There is a wall that partitions the front of the church to make a little hallway to the side.  Towards the back, we could see a restroom that had a shower.  To the left before the restroom is another room.  This room has a piano.

The piano, like the Bible, sits in that room like it is waiting on someone to return to get it.  It is turned towards the door, as if it could watch for someone to come pick it up to take it home.  The light from the window behind shone on the top and back of it.  I took a few pictures of it, and went back to the sanctuary.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV, Piano

I took a few more shots of the Bible laying on the banister with debris all around, the pews that were left, and the falling in roof.  While alone in the room, I cried and said aloud, “Why, Lord?  I just don’t understand.”

I keep telling myself that population decline is one reason our churches are empty, am I lying to myself?  There are 22,000 people in McDowell County, enough to fill the open AND the closed churches.

As were leaving through the front door, we noticed it was starting to snow.  After taking a few shots outside, I went back in to attempt a few shots of the snow falling.  I said, “Can you make them a little bigger, Lord?”  And wouldn’t you know it, they got a little bigger.  I couldn’t hold my camera well enough, though, to take a good shot.  Before we left, I asked Buddy if we should take the Bible with us.  It didn’t seem right to leave it there, but then, it didn’t seem right to take it, either.  It is still there.

“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”  Exodus 25:8 KJV

I wish I could show you the snow falling through that church roof.

© Renee Bolden

Mt. Zion AME, Eckman, WV

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Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan WV

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

The first church I was able to visit this year was Sacred Heart Catholic Church, located on route 52 in Powhatan. Emily and I went on Thursday, January

10.

Sacred Heart was dedicated in Powhatan in 1895, making the church 118 years old! The land was donated by the Crozer Coal and Land Company. Sacred Heart will celebrate their 100th parish anniversary next year, as they became an official parish in 1914.

Mr. Jim Copolo met us there to give us a tour. We walked up the many stairs to the front entrance and into a vestibule. I did not notice the stained glass windows in the vestibule doors at first; however, they are beautiful. On each one, there is an angel. Under each angel is a dedication. The one on the left says: “In Loving Memory of Annie Fortuna Brant By Her Family”. The one on the right: “In Loving Memory of Giustina B. Simplicio By Her Family”.

Sacred Heart is deeply tied to the McDowell County coalfields. Mr. Copolo brought my attention to the stained glass window in the back of the church to the right that says: “Donated by J.J. Tierney and Family”. J.J. Tierney was president of the Crozer Pocahontas Company and Powhatan Coal and Coke Company. Tierney had also been a partner of Jairus Collins, one of the Bramwell millionaires. On the other side of the church is a window that bears the name of L.E. Tierney. L.E. Tierney was Treasurer of the Elk Ridge Coal & Coke Company, President and General Manager of Eureka Coal & Coke Company, and Treasurer and General Manager of the Powhatan Coal & Coke Company. These two men donated these windows to Sacred Heart, and were a great influence to the coal mining of our county.

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

We walked up a small set of stairs that led to the balcony. On the balcony is an organ that sits in front of another beautiful stained glass window. From the balcony, one can ring the church bell and look out over the sanctuary.

The sanctuary has been enlarged and remodeled as the years have passed. There are two long rows of wooden pews. To the right, at the front, sits a piano and organ. To the left, are the prayer candles and then a small chapel. An entrance to the small chapel leads to the back of the church, which is handicap accessible. At the front is the altar. On the altar is a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Supper. On the back wall is a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart. Beneath the window hangs a large wooden crucifix, carved by hand in Vietnam.

Because our visit coincided with the Epiphany of the Lord, the church’s Christmas decorations were still present. There was a nativity scene in front of the altar, as well as Christmas trees on either side.

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

Mr. Copolo showed us the rectory that is attached to the church and the fellowship hall underneath. The fellowship hall has a large room for dinners and gatherings, a kitchen, and rooms for the children for religious education classes.

It is evident that the people of Sacred Heart genuinely care about their beautiful church. As all churches in McDowell County have experienced a decrease in attendance, Mr. Copolo told me that the church started praying. As a result of those prayers, the church is once again growing! Parishioners who had to move out of the county due to the flood, but are

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

close enough to attend, have remained loyal to their parish. During the flood, Sacred Heart was able to deliver food prepared by Sacred Heart of Bluefield to those in need in the county. Because there were so many displaced after the flood and in need, Sacred Heart was a blessing to those in the Powhatan and surrounding areas.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Thank you, Mr. Copolo, for the tour and history of your beautiful church.

**Note: God answers prayer. There are a couple more churches in McDowell County that I am aware of that are growing, also!


Review of 2012 Churches

“This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”…….

On January 7, 2012, Buddy and I started this adventure of visiting the churches in McDowell County, West Virginia. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit as many as we would have liked. We still have many more to go.

This is what I have seen….in reality and in my mind’s eye.

All of the houses that we passed to go to one of the churches are standing. The houses are occupied, lights are on everywhere and the community is filled with life up and down the streets and rows! We are prosperous.

First Missionary Baptist ChurchKimball, WV

First Missionary Baptist Church
Kimball, WV

McDowell County is supplying the nation with coal, as we ARE the nation’s coal bin! Welch has one of the first parking garages in the nation built, downtown is full of banks, shops, and theaters. The lights from downtown light up the night sky! It is Little New York, the Free State of McDowell!

It is Sunday and in all the churches, I see people sitting in the pews and standing all around as there are no seats to be had. The children sing, “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is preached, then the pianist plays “Amazing Grace” as the congregation sings. I can see them even now, as their light shines bright into the community.

Time flies as the hands on the clock circle unimaginably fast.

There are some empty houses now in the community, and not as many lights shining on the streets and rows. Many people have moved to find work elsewhere, due to the fact that there are no jobs to be had or because of the raging waters that claimed their home. Coal is still being mined, but the people are not benefiting from it as they once were. A few shops in town have closed and the theaters. Lights are still shining downtown, though!

© Renee Bolden

Long Point Missionary Baptist Church, Spencer Curve, WV

It is Sunday and my view is heartbreaking to say the least. I see a few empty seats, here and there. The hands on the clock continue to move. Then I see a few more empty seats. The hands are never failing on that old clock. It keeps ticking.

In half the churches, I see a few children still singing “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is still being preached, and the pianist still sits at the piano playing “Amazing Grace” as the small congregation sings. I see them leaving now to come back next meeting time to this church house. It’s light continues to shine in the community.

In the other half of the churches, I see a handful of parishioners gathered with the pastor. I hear “Amazing Grace” being sung, but with no music as there is no pianist. I hear them talking. I’m not sure of the words that are being said, although I can tell they are words that these few never wanted to speak. I can feel the ominous meaning of them. I see them leaving now, not to return next meeting time to this church house. It’s light goes out in the community.

That old clock keeps ticking, just the same.

Many of the houses in the community have fallen in. No one has lived in them for years. Just as a body that has no life, the earth claims them with gravity, decay, and flood. There are a few standing. Some are occupied. There are a few lights on the streets and rows. Coal is being mined. There are not many people left to mine coal as machines now do what men used to. Mining is now all evaluations and regulations. Only a dress shop and a consignment shop now remain downtown. There are a few professional offices. The lights still shine at night….though somewhat dimmer.

© Renee Bolden

St. John Baptist Church, Pageton, WV

It is Sunday, and some of those churches that had to close their doors are as the houses in the community. Gravity has pulled in the walls and ceilings. Their steeples have crashed into the pews and beautiful wooden floors beneath. Pianos are underneath the collapsed walls, ceilings, and steeples.  Those ivory keys will never again play “Amazing Grace.”

Down the road, just a little ways, though, I can faintly hear sweet little voices in harmony: “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” A pause as I hear the clanking of a coal train in the distance. Then much louder I hear someone starting to play old ivory keys to the tune of a beautiful song, and on cue, voices singing in unison: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound”…….

Tick, Tock, Tick.

I have always considered myself an optimist; however, before I reviewed the churches we had visited, I was convinced there were more closed churches than open. I was surprised to learn that they are even. We visited 35 churches. Of those churches, 16 are open, 16 are closed, 2 are used for missions, and 1 moved to another building. Those churches that continue to operate are still letting their light shine!

By doing this project, we have met and talked to so many wonderful people. For those of you I have I have met and talked to, thank you for your help, stories and encouraging conversations! For those I have yet to meet, I can’t wait to visit your church! Remember to keep your light shining as we still have amazing grace!

Thanks to all who have read the blogs and newspaper articles, encouraged us to keep going, and those who went with us on the journeys!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.


First Baptist Church Welch

© Renee Bolden

First Baptist Church, Welch, WV

On November 4, Buddy, Emily and I met Beverly Furrow at the the First Baptist Church in Welch.  The church is located beside the courthouse.  I had walked by this church many times, while in town, and had been wanting to see the inside for a long time.  Anyone can look at the building and see that it is huge.  I was unaware of how large this church actually is.

We went inside the activities building door and the first thing you see on the right is a marble staircase leading up. At the top of the stairs, there is a door to the left that leads to a small room, a hallway, and then to the sanctuary.  We found ourselves standing to the right of the pulpit, looking back at three rows of pews and a balcony.  The beautiful wooden pews have green pads, and the carpet is green, also.  Underneath the balcony, is an overflow room that can be sectioned off.  This overflow room has a fireplace, and today is used as a Sunday School room.  Behind the center row of pews, on either side are doors.  Each side leads to the front door and stairs that lead to the balcony.  I was anxious to see the church from the balcony and asked Beverly if it was alright for us to go up there.  She said it was and all three of us went up the steep staircase.

© Renee Bolden

First Baptist Church, Welch, WV Sanctuary

Once in the balcony, Emily was very excited.  She was also taking pictures with my iPhone.  Looking down at the sanctuary, the choir seats are to the right and the baptistry is to the left.  Behind the pulpit is a door that leads to the pastor’s study.  While in the balcony, we noticed a room behind us.  That room that is used as a Sunday School room.  This room is as wide as the balcony itself,  has doors on either side and stained glass windows that is in the front of the building.

We went back down the stairs, to the front door, and I noticed that the stairs led on down into another level, but did not check to see where. I later learned they lead back downstairs to the Sunday School rooms.  We went back inside the sanctuary and took pictures of the piano, the baptistry, and the old organ that looked as if it had ivory keys.

From there, we ventured into the pastor’s study.  Inside the study is a beautiful, built in bookcase with glass doors.  The room itself is quite large and has another door that leads to the right.  This room is the choir room.  The choir robes were in there as well as closed in book cases for the music.

On the other side of the choir room is a door leads back to the small hallway where we entered the sanctuary.  In the hallway is access to the baptistry.  From there, our path led back into the small room that we had entered from the stairs.  In that room, I noticed something that I was very surprised to see.  There was an old turntable built into a wooden cabinet.  I asked Beverly what that was for.  She said that the church used to be on WELC and they would record the church services back there on that turntable.

We walked back into the hallway at the top of the stairs where we had started.  From there, we walked into a large fellowship hall.  On one wall is photos of the pastors of the church as well as some members.  One of the members was Paul W. Jones.  This is the same Paul W. Jones whose name is on the Little League field in Southwood.

The fellowship hall has a piano, many tables, and theater curtains in the front. To the side, behind a wall, is a kitchenette.  In the wall of that kitchenette are two dumbwaiters that lead down into the kitchen.  Beverly showed us how they worked.

We went back down the marble staircase and looked at the many classrooms and large kitchen.  The church also has a library and stored in there are many old scrapbooks that the church has made throughout the years.

What I loved about this church is that it was like stepping back in time.  The old wooden pews, cabinets, bookcases, and coat racks are almost in the same condition as the day they were first used.  Furniture today is not built with the same quality as it used to be.   I had read in a book at the library that on any given Sunday, this church would have over 600 in attendance.  What a blessing this church has been to the city of Welch and the county.  This church, along with the others, were the hubs of our community.

First Baptist Church Welch Men

First Baptist Church Men, Welch, WV

It was and is the largest Baptist church building in McDowell County.  And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.”  Acts 16:5.  If only our churches were still increasing in number…. our cups would be running over.

Many thanks to Beverly Furrow for her time of showing us the church and providing the church’s history.  I hope to visit again.

© Renee Bolden, 2012


Jenkinjones United Methodist Church

© Renee Bolden

Jenkinjones Methodist Church, Jenkinjones, WV

This past Sunday, Buddy, Emily, and I drove to Jenkinjones. There is an operating Methodist church that I had not taken pictures of. When we got there, Emily asked if it was a castle.

I think this little church is beautiful. The sign in the yard is barely readable. You can just barely see at the bottom it says, “Jenkinjones United Methodist”. The most visible part of the sign is the Methodist flame.

I found the cornerstone on the left side of the steps that simply said Dec. 1916. This year will mark it’s 96th year of existence. When I close my eyes, I can see this little church when it was brand new. I can see a cold, wintry Sunday morning. All the houses have smoke billowing from their chimneys. I can see the company store standing, although the doors are locked and closed because it is Sunday. I can see the churches with horses and buggies surrounding them, and a few cars for those fortunate enough to have them. When I look up to the left of this church, I can see the tall and long wooden train trestle that is the highway that carries our McDowell County black gold out. There are people hurrying into church to get warm and hear the Word preached. There is joy everywhere! Here is the new church and better yet, it is almost Christmas! I hear someone shoveling coal and stoking the furnace, the horses stomping and neighing, the church bells ringing.

© Renee Bolden

Jenkinjones Methodist Church, Jenkinjones, WV, Cornerstone

When I close my eyes, I can see all that. But when I open them, all I can do is imagine it. I can see the many old houses that are standing in Jenkinjones. I can see the old company store with no windows or doors that proudly says “Pocahontas Coal and Fuel”. I can see the old train trestle still standing that a train hasn’t passed over in years. But what is that sound? Just faintly, I can hear a ghost whistle and the chug of the locomotive, the whisper of the voices that echoed in this holler, the sound of the cash register ringing up a sale paid with scrip.

This church has stood the time of all those people being in Jenkinjones to the few that still remain today. The good Lord above has made sure that these little churches are still operating to spread the Good News and to give people a Hope. We can never give up hope.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12.

© Renee Bolden

Jenkinjones Methodist Church, Jenkinjones, WV

I would love to know the history and take some inside pictures of this church and all of the churches I have visited. If anyone has any information on any churches, please contact me at (304) 732-7578, (304) 320-5340 or at renee.bolden@me.com.

All photos copyright of Renee Bolden


Gary United Methodist Church

That same day, June 20, I visited another church — Gary United Methodist Church. The pastor who pastored Thorpe had been the pastor here, as well. This was my first visit to this church. However, I have driven past it many times, going through the holler. It seemed to me that it wasn’t much larger than the houses. I was about to be surprised!

Upon entering the church, we went through the basement that is a large fellowship hall. Adjoining the fellowship hall, is a large kitchen that could be used to serve many people, as a cafeteria, if need be. The pastor told me that this church had also been designated as a place for residents to go to in case of an emergency. There are many Sunday school rooms in the basement area that have been set up to serve as a place for overnight stays.

Leading up from the basement is a staircase with a beautiful handrail. I had expected to walk directly into the sanctuary from the staircase, but this was not the case. At the top of the stairs is a large, framed document. The document is a charter that is a beautiful handwritten list of the charter members of the church and where they were from. It is dated June 19, 1964. The signatures look to read “R Howard Berg”, President, and “R.G. Mayfield”, Executive Secretary.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV, Sanctuary

On this same wall is a door. That door opens up to the sanctuary. I was amazed at how large and beautiful it was. Extremely large and beautiful stained glass windows with inscriptions at the bottom from the Junior Missionary Society, the Young Peoples Missionary Society, In Memory of Mr. & Mrs. Eli Clemens, and Presented by Gary Lodge No 297. I can not explain the beauty of those windows.

The altar of the church sits back in a circular space with the offering/communion table, the American & Christian flags, and a pulpit on each side. When I stood in that area, the church seemed much larger. There was a large, opened Bible on the pulpit to the right.

There is a traditional piano, along with an electric one to the right, looking towards the altar. It looks as if the church had an addition as there are two large doorway areas to the back with additional pews. The front door is in the back of the church to the left. The front of the church has the most beautiful, heavy wooden doors. I’m sure those have been there since the church was built.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV

We walked outside and I took some outside shots. Again, I had to be very careful not to step into the road. For the time being, coal is alive and well in Gary holler and the trucks run constantly.

We went back inside and in the hallway where the charter is are more Sunday school rooms and a large room that is designated as a smaller chapel. This room, also has a few pews, a piano, and a table at the front. This room could serve as a perfect place to hold children’s church.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV, Small Chapel

In the hallway also, is a table that displays old photos of a children’s choir in the church and the combined youth choirs from Gary & Filbert Methodist Churches.

Across from the door to the sanctuary is another door that I thought was a closet. I was wrong. This door opens up to a small staircase and room that was designated for the choir to store their robes and to get ready for worship.

What I thought was a little church turned out to be anything but little! There is so much space and opportunity for this church to grow, be an asset to the Gary community, and most importantly, a beautiful place to worship.

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 96:9

Photos © Renee Bolden 2012.


Switchback Memorial Baptist Church

Our next church hunting adventure was a rainy Sunday afternoon on May, 2012. We had decided to go over to the Maybeury and Switchback area. We rode across Elkhorn Mountain and then south on 52. I like to ride around first and see what churches are opened or closed. I knew there were no churches past Maybeury and I drove towards Me and Mr. Jones Estate.

Me and Mr. Jones Estate is an old mansion that was renovated into a bed and breakfast. (More information about it can be found here: http://www.meandmrjonesestate.com/index.html) Hatfield and McCoy trail riders are welcome there as a trail head is not far from that location.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

We rode around that mountain until we were in Switchback bottom. There is a white church over there that sits on the side of the mountain. The railroad tracks and Elkhorn River are to the left when facing it. There are a couple of old trailers that we passed before we got to the church and I had a bad feeling about them — not sure why. Maybe it was just the atmosphere that day with the rain and overcast sky.

As always, I was nervous when we started towards the church. This church sits quite a distance from any houses or major road and I wasn’t sure what we would find. Since it was May, the weeds had overtook the stairs that led up to the church. As I have stated before, I am completely terrified of bats, rats, and snakes. Buddy was the first to start climbing the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs are two coal houses. They are quite a distance from the church. I’m not sure if they were used for coal for the church or maybe a house that used to be nearby. The stairs were so overgrown that there was one place where we both had to duck to avoid the weeds. We also had to watch our footing on the stairs (anyone that knows me knows that I am not graceful when it comes to walking, at times!).

We made it to the top of the stairs, and looked at the church to determine if it was safe enough to go in. One of the first things we look at is the steeple. If the steeple looks like it is still straight, then we know that the church’s foundation is still sound. This one looked ok, even though it looked like there had been a cross at the very top of it at some time.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Window

We stepped onto the covered porch as it started to rain and noticed a sign on the door. The sign read: “This church has an appointed trustee board that was effective June 2005. For more info call (304) xxx-xxxx.” Buddy checked the door, and again to our surprise, it was unlocked. Again, he walked in first. The first thing I do when I walk into an abandoned church is look up. Those churches have some old bells in those steeples and I like to make sure they are not going to fall on my head! Buddy stepped through the vestibule and into the sanctuary. As I looked in, I was shocked and then terrified! The entire sanctuary was glowing. It was glowing RED. I said, “Why is it red??!!” Buddy looked in and said, “The windows are red stained glass.” I immediately calmed a little and felt somewhat childish! I said, “Oh, OK”.

Like he always does, Buddy started going to the back of the church. Of course, I voiced my warning to him, like I always do, of which he pays absolutely no attention. I started taking photos from the back of the church as I had no intentioned on venturing any further. As Buddy was busy looking around in the back room of the church, and as I was taking photographs, I had the strangest feeling of something walking up behind me. I immediately turned around to see who was standing there. There was no one; however, there was a feeling of evil. I started singing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know”! I yelled to Buddy to hurry up as we needed to get out of there.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Sanctuary

Buddy had found some things and asked if we should take them. I told him yes and I would find someone who would appreciate having them. Our impression of the church was that it wouldn’t be there much longer. I had taken pictures of the sanctuary and a closet to the right in the vestibule. As we were leaving, I tried to get a picture of the basement stairway that was to the left. My camera failed to focus on anything there. There was adequate light, but still no focusing. Buddy told me to hurry up and let’s get out of there.

We left and carefully walked down the weedy stairway. I turned around a couple of times to take a couple of more shots. I was unaware of what kind of church this was. At that point, I really wasn’t concerned. Once we were back to the safety of the Tahoe, Buddy showed me what he had picked up. There was some letterhead that said, “Switchback Memorial Baptist Church”.

We hurriedly got in the Tahoe to leave and search for more churches. We drove to Barlow Holler and I realized that I had to go back. Buddy said, “Go back for what?” I had forgotten to video.

We returned to the church, but I did not have the same feeling of an evil presence being there the second time. I told Buddy that I knew when I said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” that whatever was there was gone. When I called on His name that day, He came to us, in that church, and the devil had to flee. We live in a world filled with spiritual warfare, and I know there were angels all around us.

Psalms 91:10-13

10. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

When we got back to Mom’s house, I called the number that was on the door; however, I had to leave a message. Someone called Mom back and told me to call Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I again called the number on the door and spoke to a lady who had been raised in the Switchback church. She told me that the church had been closed and an attempt had been made to open it again. Before I told her my experience, she had went to the church alone one day and had the feeling of an evil presence. On that day, she had walked to that back room where Buddy had went and the door was closed. She had to push it hard to get it to open. When she started to walk in, there was a copperhead coiled in the corner ready to strike. She slammed the door and rebuked the devil. She later learned that the church had a history of being filled with snakes. At one time, there was one hanging from the ceiling before a church service. During our conversation, I also learned that there had been activities in the basement of the church that are against the will of God. That piece of information was confirmed by niece.

This lady also had me look this verse up with her:

“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12 KJV. She said, “This is what you are doing.”

Weeks before we visited this church, my sister had told me to be very careful. She had a dream where Buddy and I was in an old Baptist church and he had told me to hurry up and get out of there as there was an evil presence in the basement. She told me the church had a lot of rock around it, but she didn’t know where it was.

I called her when we got to Mom’s and told her to come look at my pictures. Before I told her where we were, I asked her if the church looked familiar to her. She said, “That’s it! That’s the church I dreamt about!”

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

***August 28, 2012 — I failed to add this which I should have.  It was evident that this church had done a great work for the Lord.  Inside, was a plaque awarded to the church for their donations in the 1980’s for “Toys for Tots”.  That, in itself, is a great work.

Also, people no longer respect the Lord or these houses of worship.  It is a sad situation and a clear reminder of the times that we live in.  The activities that I mentioned that occurred in the basement of this church were NOT by members.  This had happened long after the church had closed.

© Photos — Renee Bolden


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