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The seventh pastor was the well-known and the well-liked

Reverend General A. Ruffin who pastored from 1939-1959



The Official History of

Jerusalem Baptist Church

Jarratt, Virginia


Jerusalem Baptist Church was founded shortly after the end of Civil War, a few years after 1865. The church moved from one half mile northwest 133 years ago to its present location at the juncture of what was called Reese Town Road and the Sansee Swamp Road. The Reverend William Bassett (buried in the cemetery at Hassidiah Baptist) was Jerusalem's first pastor and one of the pioneers in the settlement of the area. Frank Jackson, Stith Parham, Daniel Robinson, and Charles Tyler served as the first Board of Deacons, the fathers of the church and leaders of the growing free-slave population. The congregation was trained in faith and service and encouraged in the acquisition of education and land.

The Bethany Baptist Association convened with the Jerusalem Baptist Church under the leadership of its second pastor, Reverend E.E. Royal. Brother C.P. Parham was elected secretary and was later succeeded by brother Nick Hill.

Brother Robert Taylor served as secretary from 1897-1902 under the leadership of our the third pastor, Reverend C.C. Layne.

Brother Richard Mason served as secretary in 1902 under the leadership of the fourth pastor, Reverend M.P. Sweat.

The fifth pastor was Reverend W.H. Wiggins who served for 18 years. Jerusalem underwent its first improvement. The wood shingles were torn off and replaced with galvanized shingles. A pastor's study was built onto the rear of the church.

Reverend I.H. Ruffin was the sixth pastor. He pastored for a very short time and Brother V.N. Mason served as secretary.

(photo left) Reverend G.A. Ruffin appears in rear right

The seventh pastor was the well-known and the well-liked Reverend General A. Ruffin who pastored from 1939-1959. Under the leadership of Reverend Ruffin, Jerusalem made great improvements and advancements. Brother Joe Stith served as secretary and held this position until his passing in 1956. Sister Florence Wyche Stith was elected secretary and served on this capacity for 45 years.

In 1960, Reverend John Mason Boone was chosen as the eighth pastor. under his leadership, the following improvements were made in the church building:

          1963 -- The church was brick veneered, cornerstone laid, rooms added to the rear of the church and bathrooms installed.

          1965 -- Interior painted.

          1966 -- New pews installed and floor painted.

          1967 -- Floors carpeted.

          1972 -- Repairs remained moderate.

          1973 -- Water fountain and oil heating system were installed. Electric organ and furniture for the pastor's study were purchased.

          1980 -- Paneled walls, lowered ceiling and placed awning over side doors. Made plans for an inside pool and dining room.

In 1965 Jerusalem sponsored Boy Scout Troop #468 and a Girl Scout in 1974. Samuel Rivers, Jr. was honored as an Eagle Scout ceremony in 1974. He was the first black person to receive this honor from the Western District. Deacon Peter Ford was the Scout Master.

Jerusalem Baptist Church completed its lifetime membership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Bi-annual contributions have been made to the Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia and the Baptist Children Home in Ettrick, VA. Jerusalem is in good standing with the Bethany Baptist Association, Eastern Shore.

The Junior Choir and Junior Usher Board was reorganized. A deaconess group, Sick Committee, Communion Set-up Committee, and a Mother's Board was organized.

Reverend Ellis became the next pastor and pastored at Jerusalem for two years.

In 1994, Reverend Joseph A. Simmons, Sr. became the pastor-elect and in 1995 he was installed as pastor. Under his leadership, Jerusalem service moved from 11:30 am to 11 am. A telephone was installed for emergencies and other needs. Pastor Ellis began a Bible study class 10:30 am and began at 7 pm.

Jerusalem has continued to flourish under the leadership of Pastor Simmons. From 1995 to present, we have added four new ministries: Pastor's Aid Ministry, Nurse's Ministry, Women and Men's Ministry. Two new deacons to the Deacon Ministry and a Financial Training conducted to teach us a new way of handling church finances.

Jerusalem has seen a lot of changes over 133 years. . . . Jerusalem will continue to grow.

"Even so faith if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." James 2:17

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Jerusalem Baptist builds new home after 137 years

By Teresa Welsh


[Webmaster note: Above, the congregation seems to be making a prayerful goodbye to Old Jerusalem and assembling to make their walk to the newly built Jerusalem Church.]

January 14 was a special day in Jarratt. Not because it was such a beautiful warm morning, with the birds chirping as the gentle breeze rustled through the treetops.

But because it was a new day dawning for members of Jerusalem Baptist Church.

At 10:30 a.m. several dozen parishioners gathered in front of the old church on Owen Road.

The Rev. Joseph A. Simmons Sr. led the large group in prayer, thanking God for the church’s past home and for the future home that awaited them.

They held hands and sang, “The Road to Zion” as they walked about a half-mile to their new house on worship on Kientz Road. Children’s laughter filled the air as they began their short journey.

Sussex deputy Raymond Bell directed traffic in front of the church as the large group came around the curve into the home stretch.

Jerry Taylor’s Royal blue suit was rustling. He sprinted to the church entrance as everyone marveled at his stamina.

As the others joined him the church bells began to chime.

As more than 100 people filed into the beautiful, new church with its Royal blue carpeting they were greeted by Deacon Jasper Lewis, who had a big smile on his face.

Rev. Simmons, with the help of Rev. Joseph Williams on the keyboard and Royal Turner on the drums, led the group in a song as people of all ages looked for a seat.

“This is a new day for Jerusalem Baptist Church Ministries,” said Rev. Simmons.

“We are here. That speaks volumes. Welcome to the new site of Jerusalem Baptist Church of Jarratt. Praise God.”

The crowd stood, Bibles in hand, as the Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir, dressed in blue and white robes, entered the doors and walked to the pulpit singing praises unto God.

Later that afternoon a formal dedication ceremony was held.

Jerusalem Baptist Church was founded around 1870, a few years after the end of the Civil War.

The church’s former home for the past 137 years was on Owen Road, one-half mile northwest of its new location on Kientz Road at the juncture of what was called Reese Town Road and Sansee Swamp Road.

The church’s first pastor was the Rev. William Bassett, one of the pioneers in the settlement of the area.

The first board of deacons Frank Jackson, Stith Parham, Daniel Robinson and Charles Tyler were also the fathers of the church and leaders of the growing free-slave population in Jarratt.

According to the church’s history, which was compile primarily by the late Virginia Rivers, the congregation was trained in faith and service and encouraged in the acquisition of education and land. . . .

“Jerusalem Baptist has seen a lot of changes over 137 years,” said member Queen Mitchell. “Jerusalem will continue to grow.”

Source: Emporia News

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I'm always filled with wonder what extraordinary things that a few people can do with few resources and great dreams, especially atop the great work achieved by previous generations. This new church edifice is reported to have cost three-quarters of a million dollars. I'm uncertain of the membership of this local church, but certainly it's less than 200 (for that's about the number it will seat), maybe they have 75 active members. Probably most of these are near or above 60 years and few of them are professional men and women.

Until these photos, I have seen the new edifice  only from the outside, for it's been sometime since I stepped across the portal of a church. I'm still rather attached to the old building, its foundations laid by formers slaves and the sons and daughters of former slaves. It was there in the old church I first got religion. Though the Old Jerusalem cost much less even going through numerous additions and modifications, in my eyes it remains much grander in stature: it soars farther up into the heavens, than it's more modern replacement . . .  

But the new always replaces the old whether it has more value or not, it seems. In the new edifice family names (for those who could afford it) have been inscribed into the windows. And rooms have been dedicated to the dead. These southern Virginia people are a very resourceful and proud people. They are anxious to get into the 21st century and leave the slave past behind. I am sure they will find ingenious means of meeting the monthly note. We pray a grander spirit will fill this new edifice, a spirit of true liberation. 

One may note the image behind Reverend Simmons (above). You would think that the black consciousness movement has by-passed the saints of Jerusalem. One reader has already taken note:

"Very interesting pieces. One photo particularly grabbed my attention--that pastor standing at the pulpit with the stained glass window behind him--depicting a praying white Jesus with flowing hair. Ham-mercy. Have you seen the teen-produced documentary, "A Girl Like Me"? It shows another generation of young black children selecting white dolls, as the "good doll"—a reprise of the Kenneth Clark study."

Of course, there are no apologies for this kind of behavior in a black Baptist church in 2007.

In the old Jerusalem (when I was a kid) there were no images on the walls, at all. With these later generations they started putting images on the walls, of a white Jesus. Once I threatened to pull them down. But my aunt became upset. I made sure that I scanned the white Jesus and included it in my expose of the new Jerusalem. . . .

Yes, I discussed this psycho-social racial programming with a couple of the members. And told them about the Black Doll Video and the 1954 Brown case. But it seems democracy (and maybe good sense) has left this black Baptist church and the spirits of the ancestors have long since departed. What is worse there is no shame in any of this, no racial self consciousness. It's as if the 60s and 70s never happened. I'm happy to say that not every person in the congregation is so mentally situated.

As of yet no member has had the courage to stand up and say, "Take those abominations down from our walls!!!"

It's almost certain that the local contractor feels quite blessed by this new backsliding black Baptist leadership -- Rudy

posted 18 February 2003

Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

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Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

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Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, "You were capable of making the 'mistake' of thinking that you could be the leader in a the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification."

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The White Masters of the World

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Ancient African Nations

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update 3 April 2012




Home  Fifty Influential Figures  The Old South  The Education of Black Folks in the South: 1860-1935

Related files: Sussex County: A Tale of Three Centuries / Public Education in Sussex County / The Official History of Jerusalem Baptist Church   

Fraternal Lodges Developing & Expanding the Village  Rainbow Tea at Jerusalem  50 Years of Progress Since Brown   Virginia Expresses  Profound Regret 

Virginia Prohibits the Teaching of Slaves. . .  1831