The history and landscape of the city of Bullard has undoubtedly changed over the past 150 years. However, there has been one constant in the Bullard community.
New Hope Baptist Church, now located on 20940 CR 145, near Hwy. 69, north of Bullard, recently rejoiced and celebrated the church’s 150th anniversary with a service held Sunday, May 21.
For the celebration service, New Hope Baptist Church sued the phrase of “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” as its theme, with the scriptural text of Matthew 16:18 as its backing – ”Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
Rev. Bruce Lyons, a former member of New Hope Baptist Church and current pastor of Walnut Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Lindale, was the guest speaker for the New Hope Baptist Church 150th anniversary event, while the choirs from New Hope and Walnut Springs provided praise and worship.
“As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we reflect on our past with thankfulness, rejoice in our present, and look with great expectation toward the future,” said Rev. Vincent E. Bowie, current pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, in a written message to the congregation. “Since 1867, members of New Hope Church Family have been preaching, teaching, sharing, and spreading the Good News. In my review of the church’s history, I have discovered so many great and wonderful things about New Hope. Having survived speaks to the incredible resolve, faith, and courage of our founding fathers to establish a church during a period of extreme uncertainty. For all of these blessings, let’s not take this period of celebration lightly… rejoice joyously! We are grateful that God is using us today, the same as He did 150 years ago. New Hope is and always will be a beacon of light, hope, and love to our community.”
Several members of the church recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Bullard Banner News, providing the history of the church, as well as their thoughts of the church’s century-and-a-half legacy in Bullard.
Cora Bowie Christopher, a member of New Hope Baptist Church for almost 75 years, recounted when she first joined the church in her youth.
“I always attended church at an early age,” said Cora Bowie Christopher. “I untied with the church when I was about 12 years old. What motivated me mostly was the elderly people there that would train us on what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. That was very inspiring to me then. We had morning service, as well as BTU (Baptist Training Union), which we could never be late for either one. By the time we had gone from the Old Testament to the New Testament, all the way from Genesis to Revelation, we knew it like the back of our hand.”
Another longtime member of New Hope, Bobbie Bowie, summed up the church’s celebration service as a glimpse into what the founders of the church had dreamed for the church to become.
“The celebration service was just beautiful,” said Bobbie Bowie. “I just could not explain it, it was just amazing. It just reminded me how our forefathers thought it should be for us. To be in the midst of several of our former pastors who were there to celebrate with us was a blessing to come together and celebrate as a church family. We have a great living legacy at New Hope.”
A new aspect added to the church in recent years was a 24,000 square-foot Family Life Center, contracted and built by member Charles Christopher, who credited his father, Andrew Christopher, for the building’s vision. Estimated to be finished in 18 months, the church was completed in seven month’s time.
“More than me being the contractor, God was the actual contractor,” said Charles Christopher. “I’ve built houses before but never anything that big. When we did it, all of the deacons and trustees worked together to save money and went to the bank together. It was definitely a learning process together. It turned out being very successful for us. It was actually my father who actually dreamed of the building for the church. It’s a multipurpose center that we can use for birthday parties, church dinners, and funerals.”
According to Charles Christopher, New Hope Baptist Church was able to help their community in its time of need in August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and forced gulf coast residents to evacuate, holding over 100 beds during the evacuation.
Another member, Yvonne Christopher Jackson, said she hopes the future of New Hope Baptist Church will be led by God and allow the church to continue to outreach.
“Our pastor has a missing statement that we quote each Sunday morning, and it’s something we all strive for,” said Jackson. “I’m certain those who have come before us are proud of us. We pray God continues to lead New Hope and that we continue to reach lost souls and bring lost sheep back to the fold. We want to continue to be an asset for the community.”
According to the church’s history, New Hope Baptist Church began in 1867, just two years after the emancipation of slaves, located approximately one mile east of Bullard, in a settlement called Gum Springs, with Rev. Crenshaw serving as the first pastor of the church. The church history states that the “ancestors decided in order to have a good community and a wholesome environment to rear their children, there must be a common interest and a common place to worship.”
The church moved a few years later to about a half mile away from its present location, known then as The Fowler Field, as became Old New Hope, under the direction of three pastors: Rev. Jack Johnson, Rev. H.C. Alexander, and Rev. R.B. Francis.
In June 1898, the church was deeded four acres and moved to its current site. After moving to the location, the word “Old” was deleted from the church’s name, as the church became New Hope Baptist Church. The move was commenced with a march, in which several members participated. Rev. R.L. Lyons was the pastor during the move, followed by Rev. A. Gordon Dailey and Rev. T.B. Johnson.
Members of the church elected Rev. R.B. Sanford as pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in 1942, a position he would hold for 20 years. Under Sanford’s leadership as pastor, the church erected a new modern brick structure.
Rev. H.L. Overstreet was named pastor of the church after Sanford in 1962, followed by Rev. David Flemons in 1964. During Flemon’s tenure as pastor, which spanned 14 years, several improvements were undertaken to the church’s facilities, including a modern-day kitchen, dining room, and baptism pool.
In 1978, Rev. Cullen Holman was elected as New Hope Baptist Church’s pastor, having served the longest tenure in the church’s history with 28 years as pastor. Holman’s pastorate saw tremendous progress made at the church, including a weekly worship service, and the addition of a Sunday School general superintendent.
Church members elected Rev. Hampton as the pastor after Holman in 2006, followed by Rev. Ray Charles Wren in 2011, serving as pastor for four and three years, respectively. Under Hampton’s tenure, the church renovated to include classrooms, four bathrooms, exercise room, game room, fellowship hall, and gymnasium and family life center.”
New Hope Baptist Church’s current pastor, Rev. Vincent E. Bowie, was elected to fill the pulpit in 2016. Under Bowie’s leadership, he has focused on the congregation having a personal relationship with God through reading the Bible. Bowie has also emphasized the important of community outreach by evangelizing and has a vested interest in the youth and empowering them to reach their potential.
As pastor, Bowie encourages academic success by recognizing students on the A/A-B Honor Rolls and exhibiting excellent conduct. He has also provided enriched experiences for youth through educational events and fun activities, as well as provided senior citizens with “dinners with the pastor” events.
Bowie’s mission at New Hope Baptist Church is “to be a light, hope, and love to the community by transforming lives to impact the world,” while the church’s mission is “to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, and meet human needs by evangelizing and equipping saints for the work of God.”
Currently, New Hope Baptist Church is involved with several church ministries, including deacons and deaconesses, trustees, finance committee, Christian education, benevolence ministry, health ministry, secretaries, hospitality and welcome ministries, hardship, outreach and evangelism, scholarship, mass choir, musicians, male chorus, mission choir, youth ministry, young women mission, senior mission, youth ushers, senior ushers, kitchen ministry, and more.
For their 150th anniversary event, New Hope Baptist Church also received a mayoral proclamation from Tyler mayor Martin Heines citing the church’s long tenure, church history, and ministry to the Tyler area.