By Carol Vaughn —
One of the oldest church buildings on the Eastern Shore was vandalized Sunday.
Chincoteague Baptist Church, on Sign Post Road near New Church, was built in 1858, according to Kirk Mariner’s book, “Revival’s Children: A Religious History of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”
Upon arriving for worship service on Sunday, Jan. 31, churchgoers found stained glass windows destroyed and a newly installed glass storm door broken, according to member Linda Gordon.
The Accomack County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, Gordon said.
Elijah Baker, a Baptist who preached and founded churches on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland from 1776 to 1798, founded the congregation in 1786, according to a 2011 research paper written by Laverne Young Smith for Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary,
It is the third oldest Baptist church still in existence on the Shore, according to Smith.
The church was given the name Chincoteague Baptist Church because Baptists from Chincoteague Island were said to have to travel there to find a Baptist service, according to local tradition.
Another explanation for the name was given by Mariner, who noted that the name Chincoteague in the late 1700s referred to a wider area of the Shore than it does today.
William Benson deeded 1/2 acre to church trustees to build a meeting house for the congregation, which had 132 members by 1810.
The original structure was destroyed and a simple one room structure, the current church, was built across the street, according to Gordon.
In the 1890s, the one-room building was repaired and enlarged and stained glass windows installed.
The church had ups and downs in membership over the years.
In 1897, 24 members left to plant a new church, Horntown Baptist Church. The two congregations since 1966 shared a pastor.
The church in a 2010 report to the Baptist General Association of Virginia reported having 34 members.
These days, around a dozen people worship there on Sundays, Gordon said.
“Our church only houses spiritual valuables of ‘great price.’ There was nothing to be gained monetarily by such vandalism,” Gordon wrote in an email.
“What evil intentions would violate our small sanctuary by throwing projectiles through irreplaceable stained glass windows given by past congregants in memory of their loved ones and to glorify God almighty? What has happened to our country that such destruction to a Church is even contemplated? We pray that the defilers will come forward, offer to repair damages to the extent possible, repent and seek forgiveness and salvation from Jesus, the ‘author and finisher of our faith.’ Why not join our small congregation rather than employ your futile attempts to destroy it. The gates of Hell will NOT prevail against the church,” she wrote.