Where is Vaiden, Mississippi?
Newspaper Article About Church Addition in 2000
Photos -- circa 1966
Photo 2 Photo 3
Tradition says that Mary Pleasants gave the
land for the Baptist
Church. It is told that
she ordered a preacher out of the pulpit because he was not preaching Baptist
doctrine. This Church was supposed to have been built in 1845, and the land
at that time was owned by Thomas and Mary Pleasants. It was sold to Dr. C.M.
Vaiden in 1847. In 1848, it was sold to L.W. Herring. After Mr. Herring's
death, it was sold in 1868 to the Vaiden
for $10.00 by Dr. C.M. Vaiden, executor of the Herring Estate. The deed
states that the Church had occupied this land for years. No deed to the Church
can be found prior to this 1868 date.
The old Yazoo
Baptist Association (Primitive) was organized in 1883. The Shongalo Baptist
Church, located about one half-mile
from where Vaiden now stands, was a member of the old Yazoo
Baptist Association, but we cannot know the probable date of the Church
organization. In 1839, the Shongalo Church joined the Old Zion
Association, remaining a member until 1851, when she and several other
churches were lettered out to organize the Yazoo
Baptist Association. The association was organized in the Shongalo meeting
house on November 21, 1851. The delegates of this Church in the
organizational meeting of the association were Z. Oldham, S.J. Durham, and N.
Carter. There are no minutes of the Old Yazoo (Primitive) Association, nor
the Old Zion
Association prior to 1851. The preceding information was gathered from
Leawell and Baileys Complete History of Mississippi Baptists (1904),
which gave only a small amount of information of any one Church. Shongalo Church moved to Vaiden in 1861. The
name was changed to Vaiden
All through the years, delegates attended
the associations. In 1867, there were listed a total of 221 members, of whom
44 were white and 177 black. Within two years, 1867-1869, something happened.
In 1869, delegates J.E. Anderson and L. Benthall attended the association
giving total membership as nine -- two males and seven females, all white.
In 1871, the pastor was P.M. Lyon; clerk
W.T. Anderson; Delegates E.C. Eley and J.L. Anderson. Membership was listed
as 22 (eight males and 14 females). Total gifts were $9.20, as compared to
$6.50 for Winona
with 62 members. In 1872, Rev. H.F. Sproles of Carrollton was pastor and the Delegate to
the association was R.A. Cochram. Total gifts were $16.25. A union Sunday
School was being carried on in the Vaiden meeting house. Rev. Sproles, who
was just back from the Southern Baptist Seminary, and living in Carrollton,
began to assist the women in organizing Women's Missionary Societies in the
following order, as far as information is available: 1873, Kosciusko; 1874,
Carrollton; 1874, Winona; 1876, Goodman, Duck Hill, Mt. Nebo, Vaiden, and
The societies sent delegates to Raymond in
1878, where the delegates from 15 societies organized a statewide
organization with Mary Anderson of West Station as President, and Florence Doty as
secretary. The existence of the Mississippi
Society in Vaiden
Church explained the
rapid increase of gifts in the 1879s. In 1874, the pastor was Rev. R.A.
Cochran. The pastor's salary was $325. Other gifts were as follows: Missions:
$10; Domestic Missions: $11; Orphanage; $5; Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary: $10; Ministerial Education: $25; producing a Grand Total of $386,
which was second only to Lexington's
$500. In 1875, the Church went to half-time. The pastor's salary was $450 and
membership was listed as 37. In 1876, the Sunday School became Baptist with
E.C. Eley as Superintendent with 32 members enrolled.
In 1880, the membership had reached 45.
Sunday School enrollment was 30, with Mr. Eley still installed as
Superintendent, and Rev. Cochram still the pastor. The Church was back to 1/4
time. Property valuation was given for the first time at $1500. In 1882, Rev.
R.L. Allen became pastor, having services three Sundays a month, and all the
other churches in this area having only one Sunday a month. Rev. Allen died
before the year was out and Vaiden dropped back to one Sunday a month.
In 1885, the first woman known to have been
sent as a delegate was sent to the association. She was Mrs. L.S. Cox. After
1900, the women were in the majority as delegates to the association.
Sometimes only women were present as delegates.
Rev. Z.T. Zealy of Winona became pastor and served for four
years. The Church was 1/4 time in 1888, back to 1/2 time in 1889, back to 1/4
time in 1890, then to 1/2 time in 1891. Church membership was 35 and Sunday
School membership was 30. Total gifts for this year were $334.50, including
the pastor's salary. The Church proceeded on an even keel through 1890 and
through the two decades from 1900 to 1920.
In 1920, the Pastor was Rev. D.M. Dukes, a
student. The membership was 53; the
Sunday School enrollment was 50. Gifts
totaled $665.00 including $165.00 for the Pastor’s salary. That year $110.00 was given to the visiting
preacher and singer for their services in the revival meeting. The Vaiden
Church, together with others, were
lettered out of the Yazoo Association to organize the Carroll County
Baptist Association. The Yazoo Association
In 1924, the church was half-time with a
membership of 72, 62 in Sunday School, and a total of $800.00 in gifts,
including $500.00 for the pastor’s salary.
That year the associational minutes state that the Vaiden Church
was constituted in 1835, and that the Church was built in 1855. In 1926, it
is stated that the Church was organized in 1845, and that the house was built
the same year. In 1935, while Rev. W.E. Farr was pastor, the year set for the
organization was placed at 1843, and that date has persisted in the minutes
since then. It is thought that 1835 is a more accurate date of the Church's
organization. The date that the Church house was built is not certain. It
depends upon when Shongalo
Church was moved to
town, and whether they moved the house of worship to the present site from
In 1937, the pastorate of Rev. Madison
Flowers began and lasted until 1947.
This period stands out as progressive and fruitful. Starting out with 114 members, in the ten
years the membership increased to 206.
In 1937 church property was valued at $2,500, and in 1947, nearly
$2,000 was spent on building and repairs, bringing the valuation to around
$5,000. The first Vacation
reported in the Church was in 1943, with 88 enrolled.
In 1948 Rev. A.L. Engel became pastor. Although he served the church only a year,
it was a splendid year in church history.
Total gifts amounted to $2,352 including $600 for pastor’s salary,
$901 local expense, and $792 for missions.
On February 16, 1949, the T.H. Armstrong house and lot was
purchased from Mrs. Ethel McConnico Armstrong for a Pastorium. The purchase
price was $3,500. In 1949, Rev. Percy Magee became pastor. His pastorate had the appearance of a cyclone
passing through. Starting out with
three Sundays a month, with pastor’s salary at $1,258. The church moved to full-time the second
year with $2,262 as pastor’s salary, for the third year a salary of
$3,300. Total gifts his first year
were $7,263, including $598 for missions.
The 1950 total contribution was $3,954 including $356 for
missions. The membership increased to
233. Sunday School enrollment was 121;
Vacation Bible School
enrollment was 203. The Baptist
Record was added to the budget, apparently using the every-membership plan. The W.M.U. moved along steadily with 18
On December 1, 1952, a two
story house located adjacent to the church property, was purchased from Mrs.
Lynn Armstrong (Mrs. S.P. Armstrong) for $3,500 to be used as an Educational Building. On December 8, 1952, the Church
borrowed $5,000 from the Holmes County Bank & Trust Co., Vaiden, MS,
to purchase the house and make the necessary repairs. On January 1, 1954, the Church went
full-time, with no preaching services on the fifth Sunday. On December 29, 1954, the Campbell residence,
located adjacent to the Church property was purchased to be used for a
Pastorium. Property purchased in 1949 to be used for a Pastorium was sold to
Jessie T. Johnson on March
6, 1957, for $3,000.
In 1957, Rev. Cooper resigned as pastor
effective March 31, 1957. On June 1, 1957, Rev. John McBride became pastor. In 1960, plans were made to remodel and
redecorate the Church building. On April 5, 1960, the Church borrowed $15,000 from the
Holmes County Bank & Trust Co., Vaiden,
MS, for this purpose. Two
Sunday School rooms and baptistry were constructed, and the entire building
was brick veneered. The interior of the auditorium was remodeled and
redecorated. Forced air and heating and an air conditioning system was
installed. Rev. McBride resigned as pastor, effective after the evening
worship services on Sunday September 14, 1960. On September 24, 1960, Rev. [Earl] Ezell became pastor. Total Church membership was 303 (189 resident
members). Sunday School enrollment was
204; Vacation Bible School enrollment, 96; Training Union, 96; W.M.U., 52 (2
units). Total valuation of the Church property was $48,000. Rev. Ezell
resigned as pastor effective Nov. 17, 1963.
On January 23, 1964, Rev. John A. Wade and family moved to
Vaiden as pastor of the church. Mr. Wade assumed his duties quickly. The day
he was moving in, Alf Trotter Collins, the father of this web site's author,
along with Mr. Johnson Cooke, Mr. Stephen Downs, and Mr. Avery Peeler, were
involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver while on their way to
work in Winona. Mr. Cooke and Mr. Downs were killed instantly. Mr. Peeler was
badly injured, but survived. Mr. Collins lived until the next day. Rev. John
Allen Wade's first funeral as pastor of the Vaiden Baptist Church, was that
of Alf T. Collins, and his understanding and compassion were unparalleled,
and will never be forgotten.
That year for the first time, the church
began having services on each fifth Sunday, with the offering going into a
special building fund.
Vaiden Baptist Church Membership List
List Courtesy of Ed Briscoe, Vaiden, MS
March 1990 (searchable .pdf)
No matter how much we complained about
school, Vacation Bible School
at Vaiden Baptist Church
was one of those times that we looked forward to learning. The classes were held in the old Armstrong
house (Sunday School Building)
with the various age groups in different rooms. Many Vacation Bible Schoolers were saved
during this special week, and were baptized (including the author of this
website (07/17/1966), usually at the first or second service following the
completion of Bible
Many children attended, and learned to
“paint with beans,” wherein they would use kidney beans to make pictures
(mine was a guitar), finger paint, recite and memorize Bible verses, and have
great fun. For “recess,” Kool-Aid and
sandwiches, cookies, and other treats were enjoyed by all. I don’t remember for sure, but I think Bible School alternated between being one
week long one year, and two weeks long, the next.
On the closing day of Bible School,
a “dismissal ceremony” was held. Most, if not all of the children would pile
into cars and into the back of pick-ups and a “parade” of sorts would take
place, wherein the kids rode through town honking horns, and yelling. No child was ever injured or fell out of
one of the vehicles at that time.
Child safety laws and seatbelt laws were not in effect (most cars back
then didn’t have seatbelts at all), and we all had a great time and learned a
lot about the wonders of God’s love.
Below are photos of the Vacation Bible
School classes of 1961,
and various other photos.
Bible School Group Photo 1 – 1961
Bible School Group Photo 2 – 1961
Class Photo 1 – 1961
Class Photo 2 – 1961
VBS Beginners – 1961
Photo 1 -- Photo 2 -- Photo 3 -- Photo 4
A new Educational
Building was constructed in 1966 at
a cost of $30,000, which replaced the older Sunday School Building. By 1972, a
special day of note-burning was held after the final payment on the Educational Building was made. The church
experienced many wonderful revivals within 12 years. The year of 1969 saw the largest additions
in membership. There were 39 professions of faith for baptism, and 49
additions by letter and statement, giving a grand total of 85 additions that
year. In 1964, the total receipts of the church were about $12,000. There has been a steady growth in Christian
stewardship each year, so that the total budget receipts in 1975 were above
$35,000. The pastor’s salary has been
raised almost every year from $4360 in 1964 to $8700 in 1975. Mission-giving has more than tripled, even
during the time of debt retirement.
Cooperative Program gifts in 1964 were $650; in 1974-1975, the
Cooperative Program gifts were above $3,000.
During the pastorate of Rev. Wade, the sanctuary was completely renovated with
a new choir loft, choir chairs, choir rails, wall to wall carpet, new pews,
and a new baptistry. The Herring Family gave the church new chimes in memory
of Mrs. Elizabeth Herring. The entire parking lot and driveway were
concreted, and a new church steeple was added in memory of Mr. Jimmy
Fullilove. A new International
Church Bus was
purchased and, before the close of the 1974-1975 Associational year, the
Church was completely debt-free. During the Christmas of 1975, the Vaiden Baptist
Church sent her pastor and wife,
Rev. and Mrs. John A. Wade, to the Holy Land and Rome, as an expression of love and
appreciation. May God Bless the work of the Lord in the Vaiden Baptist
In the early 1970s, Rev. Wade moved from the
Pastor's home to a house close to the Vaiden Clinic. The former Pastor's Home
was used by the Baptist youth groups as a recreational room for several
years, before it was finally sold and moved
from its former location.
In the June 30, 1966 issue of The
Conservative (P.3), an article appears entitled "Dedicate
Facility" with a picture (n/a) explaining: "A groundbreaking
ceremony was held recently at Vaiden, dedicating the new $25,000 Educational
Building of the Vaiden
The ceremonies followed a dinner on the grounds. A special collection was
taken, amounting to $2,000, which will be added to the other funds received
for the building construction. Pictured are those responsible for raising the
money (left to right): Coleman Palmertree, Avery Peeler, J.F. Herring,
Chairman of Board of Deacons, Mrs. John C. Calhoun, Mrs. Henry Milner, and
the church pastor, Rev. John A. Wade."
By October 1966, the Educational Building
was complete. The November
10, 1966 issue of The Conservative (P.2), describes the
Dedication." "On Sunday, October 30th, the Vaiden
dedicated their new Educational
Building with all day
services. A large congregation of the local church people gathered for the
occasion along with a great host of visitors. Following the morning worship
service lunch was served in the new fellowship hall. Vaiden Baptists have
always been known far and wide for beautiful church dinners, but on this
particular occasion, they out-did themselves. Six tables extending almost the
entire length of the hall were groaning under the load of the well prepared
"At 1:30 in the
afternoon the congregation gathered again inside the sanctuary of the church
for the dedication service. Following congregational singing, Miss Mary
Louise Hambrick sang 'Bless This House' and Rev. John McBride of Atlanta, Ga.,
a former pastor of the church, brought the dedicatory prayer."
contains almost 4,000 square feet of floor space. It is a two-story structure
and has been constructed at an approximate cost of $32,000. Mr. Joe Couch of Greenwood was the architect, and Garrett Building
Supply of Kilmichael was the general contractor. Landrum Sheet Metal Works of
Kosciusko received the contract for the heating and air-conditioning."
Former Pastors and dates when service began
are as follows: Rev. R.H. Whitefield, 1867; Rev. A.H. Bouth, 1869; Rev. P.M.
Lyon, 1871; Rev. H.F. Sproles, 1872; Rev. R.A. Cochran, 1874; Rev. R.L.
Allen, 1882; Rev. A.P. Pugh, 1886; Rev. J.T. Zealy, 1888; Rev. Z.T. Leavell,
1892; Rev. M.L. Ball, 1900; Rev. J.W. Sturdivant, 1900; Rev. J.H. Cason,
1901; Rev. Hickman, 1901; Rev. Madison Flowers, 1906; Rev. R.A. Eddleman,
1910; Rev. W.I. Hargis, 1914; Rev. W.J. Derrick, 1916; Rev. Gregory, 1916;
Rev. B.M. Dukes, 1920; Rev. J.T. Upton. 1922; Rev. J.G. Murphy, 1923; Rev.
J.P. Neel, 1924; Rev. C.E. Welch, 1926; Rev. I.F. Metts, 1927; Rev. W.A.
Handcock, 1932; Rev. W.E. Farr, 1935; Rev. Madison Flowers, 1937; Rev. A.T.
Engle, 1948; Rev. Percy Magee, 1949; Rev. Joe Cooper, 1952; Rev. John
McBride, 1957; Rev. Earl Ezell, 1960; Rev. John A. Wade, 1964.
Clerks: E.L. Woods, 1867; W.C. Anderson,
1871; M.A. Tucker, 1876; W.C. Anderson, 1877; C.P. Adair, 1887; J.M. Wells,
1888; L.L. Cox, 1890; A.A. McPherson, 1891; J.N. Flowers, 1900; A.A.
McPherson, 1906; W.C. Anderson, 1910; Don Stone, 1913; R.F. Beck, 1916; A.A.
McPherson, 1918; T.A. Brock, 1919; W.B. Smith, 1922; W.W. Milner, 1923; W.R.
Brock, 1926; W.R. Davis, 1931; J.G. Fullilove, 1939; Mrs. C.D. Simpson, 1953;
A.C. Long, 1956; Mrs. J.E. Farrish, 1961; Miss Arice Parker, 1966; Mrs. J.E.
Farish, 1967; Mrs. Hazel Fullilove, 1975.
Sunday School Superintendents: E.C. Eley,
1867; George Anderson, 1881; A.A. McPherson, 1900; J.A. Brock, 1913; A.A.
McPherson, 1916; W.R. Brock, 1925; O.G. Cearley, 1926; W.B. Day, 1933;
Hestert Collier, 1938; J.F. Herring, 1943; I.C. Kitrell, 1960; Herbert
Johnson, 1961; Frank Prewitt, 1963; Herbert Johnson, 1964; Robye Read, 1965;
Herbert Johnson, 1967; Melvin B. Miles, 1969.
Training Union Directors: Dott Porter, 1928;
Pearl McCool, 1930; Christine Carithers,
1951; J.C. McWhorter, 1963; Odell Lenard, 1957; J.C. McWhorther, 1959; Linda
Brooks, 1968; Drew Lenard, 1969.
W.M.U. Presidents: Mrs. A.A. McPherson,
1923; Mrs. C.A. Alexander, 1933; Mrs. P.A. Parkinson, 1951; Mrs. Tom Dulin,
1958; Mrs. Katie Dulin, 1959; Mrs. Louise Caddess,
1963; Mrs. Rosa Wade, 1964; Mrs. Edith Watkins, 1970; Mrs. Rosa Wade, 1971;
Mrs. Dot Weaver, 1972.
Church Staff in 1976 -- Pastor: John A.
Wade; Minister of Music: Ronnie Hunsinger; Minister of Youth: Mrs. Cody Dean;
Chr. of Deacons: Joe Herring; Sunday School Director: Dan Miles; Baptist
Women's Director: Dot Weaver; Church Clerk: Mrs. Hazel Fullilove; Chr. of
Ushers: John Stanton; Pianist: Lydia Strayer; Organist: Nonnie
Miles; Church Training Director: Drew Lenard.
Day Singin’ and Dinner on the Ground
Take my word for it. If you’ve never been to an “all day singin’
and dinner on the ground,” you don’t know what you’ve missed. That goes double for the Vaiden Baptist
Church. Baptist Preachers are known to be the
single highest cause of death in chickens.
Endless truckloads of poultry have been put to death to insure the
survival of the Baptist Preacher, and ours was no exception (see photo 1,
below). Brother Wade was a dear friend
of ours, but you wouldn’t want to show up around him while wearing a chicken
Usually an “all day singin’ and dinner on
the ground,” would occur the last Sunday of a revival. After a week of ‘hellfire and damnation”
both in the morning and evening services (which we needed, and enjoyed), the
church ladies would concoct a feast for the multitudes. Every kind of food imaginable would be on
display. At the Vaiden Baptist
Church, there were long
“picnic” tables, consisting of long planks nailed to the pecan trees, with a
support here and there. These tables
were probably 30 feet long (or more) and several of them were located at the
back of the Armstrong Sunday School building.
After singing for an hour or so, everyone would adjourn to the
outdoors for a feast. While the food
was being prepared, the kids would run and play, and the adults would visit
with each other. A long line would
soon form, and everyone would fill their plates, only to retire under the
shade of the pecan trees, or on the back steps of the church.
After everyone had their fill (and the
aforementioned chicken was long gone), we would go back into the church for a
special sermon. Now, let me explain
“special.” A normal sermon in the Baptist Church during the 60s, was one that
only ran between an hour and an hour-and-a-half. A “special” sermon, was one that could
stretch into infinity, if allowed (which insured some quality nap time for
all of the children that had stuffed at the feast beforehand). Brother Wade
was an excellent preacher, as well as Earl Ezell before him. It could have been Billy Graham. We were still going to drift off. The Church building did not have air
conditioners in the 1960s. People
would sit there with their paper fans, and try to keep cool. We would open the Church windows, and sit
still, but nothing would work inside a non-airconditioned
Church in Mississippi in July. Therefore, sleep we did.
Regardless of sitting upright and alert, or
listening to the sawing of logs from the pew over, we left there with the
Holy Spirit, and an extra 5 to 10 pounds that we didn’t expect.
On the Last Leg – Brother Wade, Hoyt Shirley, and
Coleman Palmertree Compete for Chicken
Wade Probably Won That One)
Some of the Church Ladies (circa 1965)
(L to R) :
Mrs. Avery Peeler, Mrs. J.G. Fullilove, Mrs. McWorther, Mrs. J.A. Wade, Mrs.
A.C. Long, Mrs. Alice Pierce, Miss Lovie Wright. The girl in the photo is JoAnn Peeler.
More of the Church Ladies (circa 1965)
R): Mrs. John A. (Rosa) Wade, unknown
behind Mrs. Wade, Miss Lovie Wright, Mrs. Alice Pierce, Mrs. Alf T. (Juanita)
Collins, Mrs. Avery Peeler.
Meetings 1 2
On February 7, 2009, this author was
contacted by Larry Wade, the son of the late Br. John Allen Wade and Rosa
Wade. Larry has two beautiful
paintings done by his mother during her years at the Vaiden Baptist
Church. One painting os if a little girl praying;
the other of a little boy, also praying.
Click on the links below to see them.
Little Girl Praying Little Boy Praying
In 1960, existed a gathering of children
from Vaiden and the surrounding communities called the Vaiden Sunbeams. The
Sunbeam organization was the first of the Women's Missionary Union's missions organization for children. Mrs. Wilson (Louise) Caddess and Mrs.
Wallace (Bonnie) Welch were able leaders in the organization, which met after
school once or twice a month in the Vaiden Baptist Church Educational Building,
to provide music, guidance and teach the children the meaning of
responsibility during their young years. Many activities were planned by the
leaders, including the preparation and delivery of fruit baskets, linens, and
other needed items at during the Christmas holidays to the Poorhouse on
Highway 82, west of Carrollton, MS, a visit to the American Broadcasting
Affiliate, WABG Television Station, in Greenwood to appear on the local
afternoon cartoon show -- which would invite children as an audience during
the broadcast, birthday parties for the members, creative workshops, and
hosts of other activities to teach and entertain the youngsters. Many
children from the area were members and enjoyed each other's companionship,
away from the schoolyard. In 1970, the "Sunbeams" changed their
name to "Mission Friends." The
current Mission Friends is an organization
for preschoolers, from birth to first grade, that teaches the concept of
missions. The basic objective of this organization is to involve preschoolers
and their families in missions activities in developmentally appropriate
Vaiden Baptist Church Time Capsule -- To
Be Opened in 2043
Be a Little Sunbeam was the official
Sunbeam Hymn, at least from 1918 through 1956. The hymn was mentioned and
sheet music for it was offered for sale in the 1918-1919 WMU Year Book (p.39).
It was last mentioned in the Year Book for 1956-1957 (p.1). In the 1949 Year
Book (p.83), a Sunbeam Watchword Song -- Light of the World (words by
Helen Sneed Parsons, music by Kathryn Sneed Beck) was substituted for the
hymn. IN 1950 (Year Book p.13), both the hymn and the watchword song were
featured. From 1951 (Year Book, p.90) through 1956 (Year Book, p.104),
Woman's Missionary Union offered for sale
sheet music for these two plus two others: I'll Be a Sunbeam, and A
Sunbeam All for Jesus. From 1934 (Year Book p.74), for several years,
Year Books list collections such as Missionary Songs and Hymns for
Children. Since these Year Books are unavailable, the list of songs in
them is unknown at this time. Below are words to I'll Be a Sunbeam (considered by many
former Sunbeam members to have been the "Sunbeam Song") and Be a
Little Sunbeam -- adapted from a summary article prepared by Eljee
Bentley, former WMU Archivist, in 1984.
1. Jesus wants
me for a Sunbeam, To shine for Him each day;
In ev'ry way try to please Him, At home, at school, at play.
CHORUS: A Sunbeam, a Sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam;
A Sunbeam, a Sunbeam, I'll be a Sunbeam for Him.
2. Jesus wants me to be loving,
And kind to all I see;
Showing how pleasant and happy, His little ones can be.
3. I will ask Jesus to help me,
To keep my heart from sin;
Ever reflecting His goodness, And always shine for Him.
4. I'll be a Sunbeam for Jesus, I
can if I but try;
Serving Him moment by moment, then live with Him on high.
1. Be a little Sunbeam,
ev'rywhere you go;
Help to drive the darkness, from this world below;
You will see the shadows, swiftly flee away,
If you'll be a Sunbeam every day.
CHORUS: Be a little Sunbeam,
tho' your light be small,
Let its gleam of beauty, o'er the darkness fall;
You will see the shadows, swiftly flee away,
If you'll be a Sunbeam ev'ry day.
2. Be a little Sunbeam,
ev'rywhere you go;
Shine, O shine for Jesus, with a radiant glow;
Little ones may help this, dark world to illume,
Sending golden sunshine thro' the gloom.
3. Be a little Sunbeam, shining
bright and clear;
Someone may be wand'ring, in the darkness near;
You may help to scatter, shadows of the night,
Leading unto Christ who is the Light.
WMU Celebrates Centennial of Promoting
Preschool Ministry by Teresa Dickens
Birmingham, Alabama, 1986 -- The dream of a
mother and young pastor in 1886 to create an avenue to instill in children a
love for missions, is being celebrated this year, as Woman's Missionary Union marks its 100th year of coordinating such a
The mother, Anna Louise Elsom, taught the
"infant class" -- children ages four through thirteen -- at Fairmont Baptist
Church in Nelson
County, Virginia. She called the class
"Sunbeams," because the sunshine illuminated and warmed the corner
of the church where she taught the children. The pastor, George Braxton
Taylor, was the answer to Elsom's prayer for someone to come to Fairmont who
knew missions and would help her start a missionary group for children.
Taylor, the son of early Southern Baptist missionaries to Italy and nephew of
the first secretary of the Foreigh Mission Board, had a heart for missions
and was willing to help Elsom achieve her dream.
In 1886, Elsom and Taylor started the first
Sunbeam Band at Fairmont
Church. Elsom taught
the class, while Taylor
developed the curriculum and handled the administration of the group.
membership in the band required an initiation fee of one penny, followed by a
contribution of one penny a month, all of which went to support missions.
Historical documents note that Taylor
insisted that the children earn the money they contributed. Most of the
children earned their money by selling eggs and even dedicated the chickens
to the cause by naming them after missionaries.
By early 1887, Taylor had won the endorsement of the
Foreign Mission Board and began promoting the Sunbeam Band movement through
denominational papers. In the March 1887 issue of the "Religious Herald,"
explained his philosophy of the Sunbeam Band. "The Sunbeam movement was
not altogether to do things for children but that children might do things
for others and for Jesus," Taylor
wrote. "Not only can children receive, they can gice. They can do their
part in sending far and wide the story of Jesus. They do not need to wait
until they are men and women to know the romance of modern missions."
words fell on fertile ground. By 1889, "Cousin George," as he came
to be known, was corresponding with 284 Sunbeam Bands from Virginia
with membership of more than 8,000. The financial contribution of the bands
was also significant, growing from $1,582 in the first year to $2,179 during
the second year. Tayloe managed the Sunbeam movement until 1896 when he, in
agreement with the Foreign Mission Board, relinquished the task to the WMU.
This was a natural transition in leadership since the two movements had a
common cause and Taylor
had known Annie Armstrong, corresponding secretary of the WMU, since his
Under WMU's leadership, the focus of
Sunbeams eventually shifted away from fund-raising to learning about
missions. The curriculum included prayer, stewardship, community missions,
telling others about Jesus, and study. The age span also changed, shrinking
first to children eight and under. In 1942, preschool Sunbeams were separated
from school-age children and divided again by 1956, when WMU began promoting
nursery and beginner Sunbeam Bands. The most sweeping change for the preschool
missions organization came between 1964 and 1970, when WMU and other Southern
Baptist Convention agencies adapted their programs to follow a unified
grouping/grading plan. The changes prompted WMU to introduce new
organizational names and lines of operation, along with new periodicals for
each age level.
On October 1, 1970, Sunbeams became Mission
Friends, and leaders began receiving a new magazine called "Start."
IN 1978, WMU added a leaflet for Mission Friends called "Share,"
and in 1995, WMU began promoting a class for parents and Mission
Friends. Today, Mission Friends number
slightly less than 170,000.
. . . .
The past 100 years have brought many changes
in missions programs for preschoolers, but leaders today share a common dream
with Elsom and Taylor -- to instill in children a love for missions.
"Today's child needs to learn, to pray, to give and to do missions more
than ever before so that they will automatically develop a missions lifestyle,"
said Kathy Burns, preschool consultant for WMU. "It's true that as
preschoolers are involved in consistent patterns of helping others, they will
recognize their own ability to reach beyond themselves to touch others."
"I'm thankful for those faithful men and women that have gone before
us," she remarked. "They ran the race set before them and held high
a torch for all to see. I pray that we will continue to be found faithful in
passing the torch to today's preschoolers and to all future generations,"
she concluded, referencing Psalm 22:30, "Our children too shall
serve Him, they shall hear from us about the wonders of the Lord."
In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
of Virginia is the little Fairmont Baptist
"Cousin George" (George Braxton Taylor). "Here years ago there
was a Sunday School class of little folks that had the name of 'Sunbeams.'
They met in a corner not cut off from the other classes by curtains and
having neither organ, blackboard, not little chairs but they did have a noble
teacher. She had big, dark, lustrous eyes and, better still, a loving heart
and winsome ways with children. This teacher was Mrs. Anna Louise Elsom, a
cultured, deeply pious, lovely woman of strong character. From her home two
miles away she came, Sunday after Sunday, to meet and greet and teach her
These were the words used by George Braxton
Taylor to describe the beginning of the Sunbeam Band. Missions education for
preschoolers dates back to 1886 when Anna Louise Elsom was the teacher of the
"infant class." She prayed that God would send someone to help her
teach the boys and girls about missions. Taylor,
with a "heart all aglow with a fire for missions," came right from
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville
to become the new pastor for the Fairmont
was the son of missionaries to Italy. He began telling mission
stories to the children once a month. They organized the children and
established an initiation fee of one penny, followed by one penny a month. He
insisted that the boys and girls earn their money. Most of the children in
this rural area earned their money by selling eggs. They named their hens
In just a few months, Taylor gained the endorsement of the
Foreign Mission Board and spoke to children all across the South through
denominational papers. By 1889, Taylor
was corresponding with 284 Sunbeam Bands with over 8,000 members. It soon
became evident that Sunbeams was growing too rapidly for one man to handle.
With the consent of the Foreign Mission Board, Women's Missionary Union adopted the Sunbeams in 1896. As the women began
to plan for Sunbeams, the focus was taken off fund-raising and was shifted to
learning about missions.
Preschoolers were always included in
Sunbeams. They were separated from school-age children in 1942, and by 1956
WMU promoted Nursery and Beginner Sunbeam Bands.
Next, a new grouping/grading plan was
adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention. WMU, along with ither SBC program
organizations, planned and made these changes between 1964 and 1970.
Preschoolers in WMU emerged from that time of change with a new name and a
new look. Instead of Sunbeams, they were called Mission
Friends. Mission Friends leaders had a new
magazine called Start. In 1978, Mission
Friends gained their own take-home leaflet called Share.
Now, after years of learning how
preschoolers grow and develop, babies through prefirst and their parents
participate in Mission Friends classes in
many settings. Changes have taken place in missions programs for preschoolers
over the years, but the focus is still the same -- missions.
Vaiden Baptist Youth Choir – Circa 1970-1975
Site Design and
Compilation Copyright © by Ron Collins. 2017.