Little Flock Baptist Church celebrating 140th anniversary

By Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 4/10/24

VIENNA — On April 19, 1884, a group of 15 Vienna residents got together to organize the Little Flock Baptist Church. Now, 140 years later, members of the church’s congregation are …

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Little Flock Baptist Church celebrating 140th anniversary


VIENNA — On April 19, 1884, a group of 15 Vienna residents got together to organize the Little Flock Baptist Church. Now, 140 years later, members of the church’s congregation are planning to celebrate its 140th anniversary.

The church will mark the anniversary on April 21 with an all-day homecoming celebration. The festivities will begin with the traditional morning worship service at 10:30 followed by a luncheon beginning around 11:45 in the church basement. The church will provide a main course, and it encourages attendees to bring a side dish. The Singing Disciples will perform a southern gospel concert during the afternoon service beginning at 1 p.m. During the celebration, attendees will have a chance to view a pictorial history of the church.

In 1884, Vienna residents Robert S. and Harriett A. Crum gathered the original congregation in their home, according to information provided by the church. Rev. J.H. David was the pastor. A year later, they moved into the church’s first building about four miles north of Vienna. The building was short-lived; a fire destroyed the structure shortly after its construction.

With the help of a congregation that had grown to nearly 70 members, the church rebuilt the structure. In 1889, the Crums sold a plot of land to the church for $1, which was intended for use as a Baptist church and burial ground.

Church members donated time, money, labor and supplies to construct the current rock-encased building in 1933 when Rev. Horace G. Miller was the pastor. Teams of horses hauled rock from the Gasconade River near Lane’s Ford for the project, which stone mason Fred Brunk of Meta led. The church held its first service in the new building in July 1934.

The next major addition to the church building was in 1948 when it received electricity. The church added a basement in 1974, which served as the location of wedding receptions, church dinners and youth activities until an expansion of the main floor in the mid-1990s. The addition provided new classrooms, an office for the pastor and handicap-accessible restrooms. During that time, Clifford Wagener, Jr. installed a baptismal in the church. John Reeves painted a mural inside it to evoke Lane’s Ford, where the church previously held its baptisms. Additional renovations included carpeting, new pews and central heating and air conditioning.

Many changes have occurred to the building through the years, but there are still some remnants of the past on the church grounds. Two decaying wooden shacks, former outhouses, stand behind the church. A large rock stands alone beside the building. In the church’s folklore, the rock was a step used by women coming out of carriages as they arrived at the church.

Church records show that throughout the years, the pastors of Little Flock Baptist Church have included: J.H. Davide, Horace Miller, Charles Spencer, James Allen, Cellis A. Crum, Marion Spurgeon, John B. Rollins, Howard Opperman, Bryan Ward, Lou Dunlap, Lindell Patterson and current pastor Chuck Davis.

Despite all the changes through the years, Little Flock Baptist Church maintains a traditional worship style. During services, they sing classic hymns and hear “biblically sound preaching that harkens back to simpler, slower and less complicated times when the church service focused on worshiping the Lord,” according to information provided by the church.

“The first time I walked in was like a throwback in time,” Chuck Davis said. “It was like I was in the 1800s. It reminded me of the church on ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ I expected Rev. Alden to pop out the back.”

Although the church has maintained tradition for more than a century, it has also adapted to timely changes. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to shelter in their homes in 2020, in-person worship services went on pause for a few weeks. Chuck Davis began live streaming his sermons from home for the congregation to view on Facebook until the church was able to reopen. In the post-pandemic world, Little Flock Baptist Church has continued the Facebook streams for anyone unable to attend services in person. The videos remain available on the page after services end. They average more than 50 views per week, which includes local people, people from outside the community and people who moved away from the community but maintain a historical or familial connection.

Brenda Davis, the church’s music leader and wife of the pastor, is a sixth-generation member of Little Flock Baptist Church. She shared many memories of growing up in the church, including one about her baptism.

“It was a hot Sunday morning in the middle of June in 1980, and every window in the church was open because we didn’t have air conditioning,” she recalled. “At the end of the sermon, Brother Cellis (Crum) invited anyone who wanted to give their life to Jesus to come forward and publicly profess their faith in Him. I stepped out of my pew, hurried to the front of the church with tears running down my face, and told him I wanted Jesus to save me from my sins. After the closing prayer, everyone came by the front of the church, hugged and loved on me, and welcomed me into the family of God. A couple of weeks later, after Sunday services, the entire congregation drove to the Swarthout Lake across Highway 63 from the church’s county road, and Cellis baptized me.”

Another memory Brenda Davis remembered was attending the church’s vacation Bible school taught by the women of the church. She enjoyed the classes, crafts, music and closing ceremony when the children got a chance to share everything they had learned with the rest of the congregation.

When Brenda Davis was growing up, there was a large group of kids who attended the church that she considered family.

“Church was our life,” she said while recounting activities they did such as bowling, skating, youth parties, game nights and revival services.

Over the years, the church’s attendance dwindled, both in children and adults. When the Davises returned to the church in 2016 after an extended absence, weekly attendance averaged less than 10 people, and the church did not have a permanent pastor. Chuck began as a fill-in pastor before becoming the full-time pastor by the end of that year.

In the following years, the church’s attendance has grown to average about 30 people in person for Sunday morning services. The number of children has also increased. Last year, the church had enough children to host a one-day vacation Bible school. Brenda Davis said she hopes they can gather enough to eventually hold a week-long program.

The church’s children’s Sunday school class also began last year. This month, it started splitting the class into two so attendees of different age groups could hear lessons more suited to people their age.

“We appreciate all these young people because someday they’re going to take it over,” Mary Lou Ware said. She has attended Little Flock Baptist Church for decades. She married each of her late husbands, Thurman Cahill and Elmer Ware, in the church. Cahill was a carpenter who helped with building several church projects. Mary Lou Ware taught Sunday school for many years.

Last year, the Crum family planted a pin oak tree at the church. The 140th-anniversary celebration will include a dedication of the tree as a way of looking toward the church’s next 140 years.

“As the pastor, I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” Chuck Davis said.

Church members shared their excitement ahead of the upcoming celebration, which provides attendees with a chance to catch up with people who have left the community but planned to attend the event. It will also let them reflect on their experiences at Little Flock Baptist Church and what their time there means to them.

“We’re excited because right now, we do have a congregation that wants to serve the Lord and see Christ proclaimed,” Brenda Davis said.

Sunday school classes begin each week at 9:30 a.m. followed by the worship service at 10:30. The live feed of each service is available on the Little Flock Baptist Church - Vienna, MO Facebook page. Church members also hold in-home Bible studies every other Wednesday. Anyone interested in learning more about the church or the upcoming 140th-anniversary homecoming may contact Chuck Davis at 573-612-9283.