Members of Shiloh Baptist Church have been making joyful noises unto the Lord. Their praise and thanksgiving reached a glorious crescendo at Christmas when they honored the birth of Jesus and will continue fortissimo into the New Year of 2017 as they celebrate Shiloh’s 150th anniversary.
For more than 30 years, Reverend Herman Nelson, the ninth Pastor of Shiloh, has led by example and active involvement with his congregation, locally and throughout the northern Virginia community of Baptist Churches. He has seen many changes throughout the course of his life but spoke with a reassuring calmness about the world going through troubled times.
“I stop and think about what was, what is and what shall be — it’s a humbling experience,” said Rev. Nelson. “I have grown through all these experiences, personally and professionally. It’s troubling from the humanity perspective, but not in the spirit. Everything is going to be all right because I know that God is smiling on us. The Lord is in control. That’s the comfort that I get. Faith, pure faith in Jesus — that’s all we need.”
Finding comfort in the Lord is why Shiloh Baptist Church began. Before the Civil War (1861-1865), slaves risked their lives to attend secret prayer meetings. On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that declared, as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states were freed. Granted, it was a war strategy to weaken the Confederates and reunite the Union, but the president personally abhorred slavery, and the country was divided and at war because of it. The Emancipation Proclamation proved to be Lincoln’s greatest presidential achievement. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in January 1865, forever ending slavery in the U.S.
Emancipation gave wings to the growing Christian movement that was taking place in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties. Leland Warring, a young man with a calling to preach, received the official endorsement of white ministers and made his way to Middleburg where members of the black community were relegated to the balcony to attend services of the then all-white Middleburg Baptist Church. In 1867, Rev. Warring founded Shiloh Baptist Church with a congregation of eight members. About 20 years later, under the new pastor, Rev. Richard P. Dawson, Shiloh moved into its newly built complex in Middleburg. The rest, as they say, is history.
Shiloh’s earliest congregation believed that Christianity would give dignity to their labor, bestow sanctity on their marriages and serve to inspire a spirit of Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. Those beliefs still ring true. The messages of the Lord tend to be powerful and fundamental: that the presence of God is within all of us and all of creation.
Fortified and sustained by faith, hope, and love, Shiloh Baptist Church has endured good times and bad throughout its 150 years. Today’s congregation is comprised of people from diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds.
“Our coalition of local black Baptist churches consists of family-oriented congregations, and we are worshipping with daughters and sons, grandchildren, aunts and uncles of generations past,” said Mrs. Geraldine Nelson, the Pastor’s wife, and Shiloh’s First Lady. “At Shiloh, we really are like a very large family. Our small choir makes big music, and they produce joyful noise using various musical forms — gospel, anthems, hymns. If no pianist is present, they enjoy singing a cappella. Shiloh will have musical ensembles and soloists from four community churches to help celebrate our anniversary.”
Rev. Nelson takes part in various local Ecumenical Services, including the Free Church Homecoming and Middleburg Easter Sunrise Services. He also travels by invitation across the U.S. and internationally to preach the gospel for special services. Under his leadership, Shiloh’s Missionary Outreach Ministry has partnered with the local Middleburg churches in support of F.I.S.H. and Seven Loaves Food Pantry. These collective Ministries provide funding for the purchase of food and other aid to low-income families, as well as offering financial assistance to the elderly to help with utility bills and other emergency expenses. Shiloh also supports the Virginia Baptist Convention, which helps fund The Children’s Home in Richmond, Va.
The Ministry’s Hospitality Committee provides delicious hot meals with an ethnic influence at no charge to hundreds of people during “Christmas in Middleburg” on the first Saturday in December. Visitors from as far away as Canada and France, who attended the most recent Christmas in Middleburg, enjoyed the fine food and hospitality in Shiloh’s Fellowship Hall. The French couple returned on the next day for the 11 o’clock Sunday service: Shiloh’s doors are open to all.
Shiloh Baptist Church’s 150th-anniversary celebration kicks off on January 28 with a banquet at the Middleburg Community Center. Due to limited seating, it’s by invitation only, but keep the faith! Shiloh will continue its celebration on one Sunday each month from February through September. They will hold special ministry services, including their famous food (at no charge), at 3 p.m. after the regular 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship. Be prepared for a warm welcome, fellowship, fine food, family, and making as much joyful noise as possible.
“God Has Smiled On Me is the title of a song written by the late Presbyterian pastor/musician, Isaiah Jones, Jr.,” said Rev. Nelson. “Through this song, I better understand the prophetic truth of Psalm 16, Verse 11. God shows us the path of life. In His presence, we find a fullness of joy and, on the right side of His truth, we continue to experience His pleasures, which are eternal. God, indeed, is smiling on us. This is our life in Him. Please come and join us at Shiloh.”
For more information (especially if you aren’t on Shiloh’s phone, email, snail mail lists), please contact: 703-501-8787