RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Giving the gift of a new house of worship, Chamberlayne Baptist Church is donating its entire building to Bethlehem Baptist Church — 100% debt-free.
Chamberlayne Baptist Church has been around since 1953 and they will be handing the keys off to Bethlehem Baptist during a joint service next Sunday, June 13.
Brenda Ellis and Carrie Woodall are long-serving members of Chamberlayne Baptist, and they said God told them it was time for their next journey in faith.
“I’ve been here since I was 6 years old,” Ellis said. “There are lots of tears, there are lots of memories here that we’ll take with us. But we have come full circle and are totally excited for Bethlehem to come in and see what they can do. The work we started that they can carry on.”
“Our whole church has blessed that confidence,” Woodall said. “We voted to gift and disband so we feel like our church has accepted that.”
The Chamberlayne congregation is disbanding along with the building’s donation — and Bethlehem will move in from the East End after 128 years and three different buildings.
The Bethlehem Baptist Church congregation has been in the heart of the city and hasn’t been able to expand their ministry.
“We were landlocked, so we could not expand,” Jamet Jackson said. “Even if we had the funds to do so, we could not expand. Our hands were tied.”
But Jackson said she is completely overjoyed at the decision to move locations.
“When I first heard the vote that we actually had the church, I was like ‘thank you Jesus, Hallelujah!’ Because there were so many things we needed to do at Bethlehem that we were not able to,” Jackson said.
Reverend Tony Webb of Bethlehem Baptist Church said he is grateful for the donation.
“I could be here all day and I just could not say enough about the gift,” Webb said.
He said the congregation is moving on in memory of their late Senior Pastor, Rev. Victor Davis, who passed away on May 10.
“One of the last things, in conversation, I had with him is ‘what about Chamberlayne? What do we do?’ And he said, ‘move on.’ Those were the last words he said to me. ‘You all need to move on,'” Webb said.
The new building will offer more parking, classroom space and a new gym for youth basketball, something Chris ‘Pav’ Crowley is well-known to be a fan of. Crowley is Director of Music Ministry at Chamberlayne Baptist.
“If anything it is a fantastic example of death, new life, resurrection, all those fantastic things that we say if we are going to preach it, let’s live it,” Crowley said. “You never know entirely what is next, but to know it is going to happen with love, with Christ — that is a powerful feeling.”
Bethlehem Baptist extended an invitation to the Chamberlayne congregation to come worship with them for the future, and Woodall said they plan to attend.
WATCH: Bethlehem Baptist Church’s 125 anniversary video to gain context of the congregation’s history