Religion News: December 2018

Piedmont Baptist Church was rebuilt after a fire destroyed it in 2010. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Small Community, Huge Spirit at Piedmont Baptist

A chance trip to a Richmond computer store led Phillip Butler to his first visit to Piedmont Baptist Church, the historically black church he has pastored for more than 15 years. Rev. Butler––a businessman as well as a minister––owned a tire store nearby and his son wanted to look at computers. “I was tired and almost didn’t go,” Butler recalls, but his son prevailed and Butler met Reverend Al Jones, who was then the pastor, about to retire. Rev. Jones wanted to recruit a replacement for himself. “I wasn’t sure, with the distance and all, how it would work.” Butler had never heard of Crozet, knowing only that it was in the mountains.

Once he preached a couple of times, the congregation loved him, and Butler’s reservations fell away. “I guess you could say I fell in love,” he said. “They are so precious to me.” It takes him about an hour and fifteen minutes each way to make the trip, but he finds it refreshes his spirit and raises his faith in his fellow man. He never needs to stop for lunch on his way home, he said: long-time church members Carol and Alice Hill make sure he has a suitable Sunday lunch, usually featuring chicken and cabbage, his favorites, said Carol Hill. 

Anita Washington visits the Piedmont Baptist Church Cemetery. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Rev. Butler preaches on the first and third Sundays of each month. In between, he keeps in touch with the chairmen of the deacon and trustee boards. The day-to-day ministry of visiting the sick and comforting the bereaved are steadfastly carried out by the close-knit congregation. 

“We’re mostly family as well as a congregation,” Carol said. “Most of us are related one way or another.” She is a trustee as well as the superintendent of the Sunday School and an usher. She said the numbers of children have dwindled since her childhood. She and Alice were raised in the church, and it was just expected they attend every Sunday. “One time, my brother had a friend over, and my dad said the friend had to come, too. He said for my brother to find a suit and, whether it was too large or too small, no one who was in the house on Sunday morning was going to stay there instead of coming to church.” That doesn’t happen so much now, she said.

Piedmont Baptist has survived two fires, one in 2010 and one about sixty years earlier. “We stood in the church yard and watched it burn,” Carol said of the second fire. “It was the saddest day of my life.”

Rev. Phillip Butler, Sr., pastor of Piedmont Baptist Church.

The church recovered both times. Ronald Washington, chairman of the trustee board, said his father (Walter Washington)—who had moved away as a young man—was called upon to come back to help with the first rebuilding. “He just never left after that,” Washington said. 

“I never liked living in New York, anyway,” said Anita Washington, Ronald’s mother. She was glad to return and raise her five children in the country. Although she lives in Charlottesville now, she comes often for church services, to prepare communion, to practice with the choir, and to visit the graves of her husband and other relatives. “So many of my family and friends are buried here,” she said of the cemetery behind the church.

The church, first established in 1870, has had a couple of locations. After the second fire, it was rebuilt completely and now has a beautiful, light-filled sanctuary. 

Bethlehem Village at Hebron Baptist

For nearly 20 years, the people of Hebron Baptist Church at 66 Tanbark Drive have planned, constructed and staffed a working Christmas village on the church’s grounds in Afton, with angels, Roman guards, olive pressers, weavers, carpenters, scribes, bakers and blacksmiths, as well as the humble family that takes shelter in the newly restored manger

Animal co-stars are the barnyard beasts who carry on as usual and the camels who arrive with the wise men.

Hebron Baptist presents Bethlehem Village.

It all happens night after night beginning Friday, Dec. 14, through Tuesday, Dec. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. There is a Spanish-language tour Sunday at 7; and early hours (5 p.m.) on Saturday and Sunday. 

More than 6,000 people flocked to the village last year. Find out more on the web site,

Tabor Presbyterian Presents Christmas Concert

The haunting tones of Matthew Spencer and Mei-Li Garcia Beane will fill the sanctuary of Tabor Presbyterian Church Dec. 15 at 6:30. Spencer and Beane use violin, guitar, tin whistle and viola along with vocals to present their versions of ancient and modern acoustical music, including Gregorian chant, Celtic and modern folk traditions. For more information, visit the website, The concert is free and open to the public. 

Festival of Lessons and Carols

Holy Cross Church in Batesville will present a Festival of Lessons and Carols at 4 p.m. Monday, December 24. The church welcomes everyone to this traditional Anglican worship service that was first introduced in the late 19th century to celebrate the Nativity. The service will include short readings from the Bible interspersed with the singing of carols and hymns.

The sanctuary of Holy Cross Church is ready for Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Following the service, guests are invited to enjoy cookies and hot cider in the parish hall. Holy Cross is located at 2523 Craigs Store Road (Rt. 635). Directions are on the Holy Cross website:

Batesville UMC offers Children’s Stories through December

Batesville United Methodist Church has scheduled children’s Christmas story hour every Saturday in December, with Santa appearing December 22. The story hours are from 2 to 3 p.m. each Saturday. 


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