A HISTORY OF LAKESIDE BAPTIST CHURCH
In Rocky Mount in the mid-1950s the thundering trains of the Atlantic Coast Line snaked their way through the middle of our town. The chant of the tobacco auctioneer punctuated the hot summer days. Sunset Avenue was still a two-way street. The western city limits extended only to the Tar River. "Downtown" was still the center of business and the site of most of the city's churches. The young couples who had come back home after World War II and now had young families sensed a need for churches in the communities where they lived.
Such was the setting when, on February 20, 1955, a group of fifteen persons met at the home of Austin Robbins to discuss the need for a Baptist church on what was described as the "western edge" of Rocky Mount. Austin Robbins and Joe Sugg served as co-chairmen of the organizing committee. Webster Henry headed the fund-raising efforts as the group raised funds to purchase its first property. Sam Hayworth chaired the church's building projects as they materialized.
The young church acquired a stately home located at the intersection of Sunset, Piedmont, and Western Avenues, across from City Lake. The building was known to our original members as the "Skeels Building," named for the family who had owned it. The first services in the newly-acquired home were held on April 24, 1955. The house served as sanctuary, educational building, and kindergarten until its demolition in 1979.
After only six weeks as a mission, Lakeside Baptist Church was constituted on June 5, 1955 with 252 charter members.
The new congregation quickly addressed the matter of facilities. In 1956 the church built a temporary sanctuary which currently serves as a fellowship hall. The building was named in honor of Dr. John W. Kincheloe, long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church, who served as a guiding hand and temporary pastor of Lakeside Church.
In 1960 the church began construction of a sanctuary, which was dedicated on September 3, 1961. In its significant Sunset Avenue location, the sanctuary has become a Rocky Mount landmark and an inviting Christian witness to the thousands who pass by daily.
Additional property was purchased lot by lot until the entire block was acquired. In 1968 the Youth Building was erected. In 1979 a new educational building, providing facilities for adult education and preschool children, was completed.
In 1990 memorial stained glass windows were installed to enhance the beauty of our sanctuary and our worship. In our fortieth anniversary year in 1995, the church facilities underwent extensive renovation with the creation of a new and enlarged narthex, the addition of a courtyard, and the construction of a music suite for choir and handbells. The Columbarium and Memorial Garden were completed in 2002. In 2008 the church renovated the sanctuary by redesigning the chancel and adding slate to the floor in preparation for a new Casavant Frères pipe organ which was installed early in 2009.
As a way of giving our church a wider witness and uniting families of different denominational backgrounds, in 1968 Lakeside modified its membership policy to receive members from other Christian denominations without requiring their re-baptism. This policy makes us unique among Baptist churches in our area and gives evidence of the ecumenical spirit of our congregation.
Over the years Lakeside Church has become increasingly involved in social ministries and missions in the Rocky Mount area, helping to found the Crisis Ministry Center, the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and the Rocky Mount office of CareNet Counseling. In 1994 the North Carolina Human Relations Commission recognized the church's involvement in both the spiritual and physical aspects of life by presenting a special award "For the church's untiring dedication to work for the betterment of the disadvantaged, the at-risk, and for the uplifting of humankind throughout the community."
Our Fiftieth Year
In our fiftieth year in 2005, forty-eight of our 252 original charter members were still living and were members of our church. These include two members of the original Board of Deacons: Joe Sugg and Webster Henry. Mr. Sugg died at the close of 2005 and Mr. Henry died in the summer of 2009. One of our other "original deacons" and one of the significant persons in the founding of Lakeside Church and in its ministry over the years, Austin Robbins, died in 1995.
During its fifty-plus year history, Lakeside has been served by three ministers. Clarence E. Godwin served the church from 1955-1965. Dr. Gaylord Lehman was senior minister from 1966 until his retirement in 1998. Dr. Jody Wright has served Lakeside since the summer of 1998.
1955 Lakeside's organizational meeting held on February 20, 1955 and first services held in a newly-purchased residence on April 24, 1955. The church was officially constituted on June 5, 1955.
Rev. Clarence E. Godwin called as first minister.
1956 Kincheloe Hall erected as temporary sanctuary.
1961 Sanctuary erected and dedicated on September 3.
1965 Rev. Clarence E. Godwin resigns to become pastor of Oxford Baptist Church.
1966 Dr. Gaylord Lehman called as pastor.
1968 Open membership policy adopted, welcoming Christians from other denominations without rebaptism.
Youth Building erected.
1971 Casavant pipe organ installed; Trompettes-en-chamade added in 1984.
1979 Educational Building for adults and preschool children erected.
1990 Stained glass windows installed as memorial gift.
1994 Received North Carolina Human Relations Commission award for community involvement on behalf
of the disadvantaged and the at-risk.
1995 Facilities upgraded: courtyard constructed, narthex enlarged, music suites constructed; Kincheloe
1996 Habitat house built by Lakeside.
1998 Dr. Lehman completes his ministry of thirty-two years.
Dr. Jody C. Wright begins his ministry at Lakeside in August.
1999 Lakeside begins participation in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a partnership of churches who
house homeless families throughout the year.
2000 Lakeside votes to withdraw affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
2002 The Columbarium and Meditation Garden are dedicated on All Saints Sunday.
2003 CareNet Counseling Center of Rocky Mount, part of CareNet Counseling, Inc., an affiliate of Wake Forest Baptist Health, begins accepting clients in the facilities of Lakeside.
2004 Lakeside Involved, a day of service to the community, is held on the first Saturday in November. Involving over 150 people from children to senior adults, this project enables everyone in the congregation to minister to others in a variety of ways.
2005 Lakeside celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a series of Vesper Services and Recitals, two CDs produced by the Adult Choir, and a grand celebration at which Dr. Gaylord Lehman spoke and several former Associate Ministers returned.
The congregation built a second Habitat House in partnership with West Haven and First Presbyterian
2007 The Barabara Bone Biggs Music Suite was dedicated in memory of Mrs. Biggs who was an integral part of the music ministry of Lakeside for over fifty years.
2009 Lakeside completed the renovation of the sanctuary and installation of a new Casavant Frères pipe organ.
2016 GateKeepers Workcamp, a week-long youth ministry in which local homes are repaired and renovated, celebrates its 25th year of ministry.