The early members came from several churches, two of which, Round Hill and Hamilton, traced ancestry to the Ketoctin Baptist Church. Some members came directly from Ketoctin. The significance for us is that we are in a church proudly descended from one founded on 1751, which was extremely influential during the pre-and post Revolutionary periods of this country’s history in establishing for all the cherished principles of religious liberty, and the separation of Church and State. A widely appreciated Christian activity continued for more than 180 years in the original location. The 1854 building stands today.
In the fall of 1924, E.J. Bulgin, an evangelist, held a community meeting in the Bush Meeting Tabernacle, inspiring a religious revival, an important result of which was the recognition of the need of a Baptist Church within the town of Purcellville. (The Story of Purcellville by Eugene Scheel, Pg. 17)
In early December an exploratory meeting was held “at the behest of Fleet H. James, Dr. C.P. Hutchison, and Paul Popkins.” Between the time of that meeting and the organizational meeting “thirty persons signed an article indicating their intention of becoming members of the new church.” (Lina Grace Baber as presented in the Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Publication of 1974) The establishment and organizational resolution was then passed on December 21, 1924, with the adopted name, Purcellville Baptist Church, and thirty members.
On January 18, 1925, the first preaching service was held in Hampton’s Hall with a collection of $3.22. A few days later, two deacons were selected, Fleet H. James and Oscar L. Emerick. The church became a part of The Field, consisting of Round Hill, Hamilton, Ketoctin and North Fork with Rev. R.P. Rixey as pastor. Preaching services were to be held once a month on the third Sunday Evening. On February 1, 1925, the first Sunday school was established with enrollment of twenty-nine members in four classes. Then on February 8, the Women’s Missionary Society was organized. The following month of March, two additional Sunday school classes were added along with the following elected officers: Superintendant – Paul P. Popkins; Assistant Superintendant- O.L. Emerick; Secretary – Alice Chamblin; Treasurer – Curtis Paxson. On July 6, 1925, Purcellville was admitted to full fellowship within The Field and later that week, a lot was purchased for a building. In August of that year, they applied for admission to the Potomac Baptist Association. Late in the year of 1925, Rev. Rixey resigned because of failing health.
In April of the year of 1926, Rev. C.T. Taylor was recommended to the churches by the Field Committee and was subsequently called to serve the four churches. The church grew rapidly throughout this year. Early in the year of 1927, discussions began on construction of a church building and continued throughout that year with the appointment of various appropriate committees for funding and construction.
April 1928, ground was broken for the new building. On November 25, 1928, our new building was opened and we held our first Baptismal service, accommodating 225 people.
Through the years of the Depression, the church progressed with little revision to the budget. “The church continued to function in reasonably good financial condition.” During the year of 1934, the beloved Pastor Taylor died and was followed by Rev. Henry B. Cole who “was called to The Field and quickly won his congregations’ hearts.” Then during the summer of 1935, “due to the spread of polio throughout the state, all public gatherings, including worship services, were closed for a period of time.” Finally, on June 21, 1936 the church building was dedicated, the debt was paid, and the notes were burned.
Throughout 1936- 1938, interest and enthusiasm along with mutual love and respect continued to contribute to a steady growth. In 1938 improvements were made to the sanctuary with installing permanent pews and an organ. On April 24, “the first of several sets of chimes were presented.”
On April 24, 1941 the church mourned the passing of another loved pastor, Rev. Cole, who had served The Field for seven years. On November 2, 1941 our church welcomed Rev. H. Lee Scott. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, the country was at war. Fourteen from the membership served in W.W. II.
Rev. Scott returned to his previous pastorate in April 1942, and our church welcomed Rev. Paul B. Watlington, Jr. in August of 1942. He was our leader during the War years, and helped the church to cope with all the attendant problems and deprivations. Rev. Watlington stayed with PBC until Jan. 1950. June 1950 Rev. Ben Stanley Price and his wife occupied the parsonage until he was drafted into the Army chaplaincy. Rev. J. Harold Eaton served as pastor from Nov. 1951-June 1953. In August 1953 the parsonage debt was paid.
In early 1954 Rev. Edward Thomas Clark, Jr. came as pastor. At that time there was quite a number of young people in the church, and Ed Clark’s remarkable talent for relating to and leading them was appreciated in the church and community. He also brought innovative ideas to the Sunday school. For the next three years the church was growing and in recognizing this, plans were begun for enlarging the building for both the present and future.
April 13, 1958 in a “Service of Dedication,” ground was broken and work begun on remodeling and enlarging the then thirty year old structure. During the time of construction, services were held in the Purcellville Elementary School. Round Hill withdrew from The Field leaving Purcellville with its first full time pastor.
In January 1959, in a special service the new building was occupied, and an open house held for the community with a more than capacity attendance. The church also began participating in the WAGE Sunday Morning Service broadcasts – one month in every year, continuing for many years.
Rev. Clark resigned in March of 1959 to give full time to Youth work. The years 1954-1959 are remembered by some of the now older members of the congregation as the high point in the history of the church.
Rev. Luther V. High, Jr was called to serve as pastor in June 1959 thru January 1964. The Family Night Supper followed by mission groups meetings was initiated. The annual church dinner, which was held in the fall at the beginning of the church year, was then discontinued. That dinner was a real occasion, beautifully prepared and graciously served by the women of the church, and organized by the Sunshine Class.
In August 1964, Rev. Roy J. Harris arrived, and remained for the next four years, during his time with Purcellville Baptist Church the decision was made to build a new parsonage. The old parsonage was sold in the spring and a larger brick parsonage was occupied by the Harris family.
Rev. Kenneth J. Schmidt came from Maryland and served as pastor in May 1969. December 1969, a new constitution and by-laws was written to replace the long missing original. August 21, 1974 a strong and growing church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with former Pastor Harris giving the morning sermon, and Rev. Walt Agner giving the afternoon sermon. Many attended and for numerous former members it was a homecoming. A clock on which a small inscribed plate was mounted was presented with thanks to the long faithful organist and Sunday school teacher, Louise Paxson Hawthorne. In the years from 1924 to 1974 the membership had grown from 30 to 364; the Sunday school from 29 to 213; the budget from $350 to $38,020; the regular number of monthly services from 1 to 12.
Under the leadership of Pastor Schmidt a mailing of a newsletter first named “The High Call,” and then in 1990, the "Good News Letter,” was made a greater part of the time since 1957. Also, a bus or van was owned most of the time since the 70’s and a scholarship fund was established for a time, although ceased to exist eventually. Baptist Men of Brotherhood first came into being in the early 70’s. First mentioned in January 1975 was the setting up of a committee to set goals and make decisions, particularly those relating to the church building. Also, the initiation of a tape ministry was first mentioned. The first church secretary was employed 6 hours per week.
Rev. Schmidt resigned June 29, 1975 having served for six years and one month. In that period, 73 came by baptism and 50 by letter. In the recollection of some, the church reached a plateau in that period.
From autumn 1975 to spring 1977, Rev. William Penland of Friona, Texas was called and began in October. Many controversies arose at that time. The Deacon-Flock system was initiated. An air conditioning system, a gift of Mrs. Hazel Hottel in memory of her husband, Dr. Robert H. Hottel, was installed for the sanctuary.
The arrival of Rev. John Carty from the Richmond area came in August of 1977. A successful Renewal weekend occurred March 9 through 11, 1979. In 1983, the Memorial Committee was established with instructions for its functioning. The Sixtieth Anniversary was observed with our beloved former Pastor Paul B. Watlington delivering the sermon on June 17, 1984. Due to low attendance at both Sunday school and Church and a lack of giving, a committee was elected in July 1985. They made surveys and prepared charts. In the spring of 1985 there was an associational crusade for Christ. A committee visited every home in Purcellville extending an invitation to attend the services. The Calendar Committee became the church council, the main duty of which was to coordinate the total program of the church and foster mutual support for separate organizational functions.
In 1987, Rev. Carty resigned after ten years of faithful service to our church family. Rev. Carty had the distinction of serving longer than any previous pastor to the church. Dr. Henry Wade and Rev. Hank Dunn labored with us as interim pastors from Sept. 1987 to December 1988. In late 1988 Rev. Jeff Shanaberger accepted our call to come as our pastor at the beginning of 1989. Rev. Shanaberger, who was felt by all to be possessed of a gentlemanly personality, began to lead us to an understanding of ourselves both individually and corporately as members of the church. In the first months of 1990 we began making progress toward becoming a well functioning and effective church. There were 196 resident members and 133 non-residents.
Since the 1990s, Purcellville Baptist Church has experienced exponential growth, including the addition of a completely new pastoral staff. In 1995, Dr. David Janney committed to serve the church as its Senior Pastor, alongside his wife Pam and their three children. Dr. Janney has faithfully served Purcellville Baptist Church for nearly seventeen years now, and the church has flourished under his leadership.
As the church continued to grow, we were blessed by the arrival of Pastor Kurt Bowman. Having answered the call to ministry in 1996 in his home state of Texas, he followed God's leading to Purcellville in 2002 to become our Pastor of Small Groups. He and his wife Shawn, parents of two children of their own, have ministered to the church in any and every capacity which exhibited need.
In 2006, another Texan joined our family. The youth group was thrilled to welcome Cory Welch as their new pastor, whom God called from nearly 1400 miles away. Cory's passionate leadership has grown the youth group in both breadth and depth. He and his wife Natalie serve our students with a single-minded ardor, seeking to see students take their faith and make it a personal journey with Christ.
In order to accommodate the explosive expansion of our church body from 200 to nearly 1000, we searched out land upon which we could build a new church home. In August 2008, the church held its first service at its new address at 601 Yaxley Drive, excited to house its ministries under one roof at last.
It is our prayer and hope that Purcellville Baptist Church will be a viable force for God, and as good in the twenty-first century as Ketoctin was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.