The first vital statistics of New Hope Baptist Church were recorded on April 7, 1967, by the Town Clerk of Newington, New Hampshire. Charter members who signed their names to the Articles of Agreement were: Willie M. Matt (Kittery, Maine); Lige A Williams (Kittery, Maine); Frances Satchell (Portsmouth, NH); Bette L. Jarmon (Pease AFB, Portsmouth, NH); Joseph Shaw (Pease AFB, Portsmouth, NH).
On the April 14, 1969, the New Hampshire State Seal was affixed to the legal document that made New Hope Baptist Church a corporate body whose objectives were to promote the spiritual welfare of the community and to foster and encourage belief in God and religion. Promotion of these objectives began under the pastorate of Rev. Raymond Hailes at the Old Town Hall in Newington, New Hampshire. Rev Hailes served the congregation from 1967 to 1969, leaving to accept the pastorate of a church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Prior to its charter as a corporate body, some of the members of New Hope had been part of the congregation of Peoples Baptist Church. Located at 45 Pearl Street in Portsmouth, Peoples had been purchased from the Free Will Baptist Society July 28, 1915. It served the Black Community for fifty (53) years as the only Black Baptist Church in the state of New Hampshire. The Pastor of Peoples Baptist, at that time was Rev. Raymond Hailes. He resigned, and he, with some of Peoples former members, started New Hope. Portsmouth, for the first time, had two co-existing Black Baptist churches.
The members remaining at Peoples Baptist found they could no longer financially support themselves, and on February 8, 1968, voted to transfer all of its property to the United Baptist Convention of New Hampshire, now known as American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire (ABC/VT/NH). The life of Peoples Baptist Church ended when its doors closed in 1968.
In the fall of 1969, at a community meeting, attended largely by Black residents, and officials of the United Baptist Convention of New Hampshire, the New Hope membership was granted use of the former Peoples Baptist Church. Ownership of the building was subsequently transferred to the New Hope congregation at a later date for $1.00. Upon Rev. Hailes departure, Rev. Solomon Stith became New Hope’s second pastor. Residing in Manchester, New Hampshire, and commuting to Portsmouth on Sundays and Wednesdays, Rev. Stith served as pastor from 1969 to 1974. Being a carpenter by trade, several interior modifications were made to the church during his tenure.
When Rev. Stith resigned in 1974, the membership continued services by inviting guest ministers from the area and from the Harvard Divinity School to fill the Pulpit each Sunday. During this period, the church was faithfully led by Deacon Walter Johnson, Chairman of the Deacon Board. Though small, the congregation was able to establish a firm financial base.
In 1975, Rev. Ralph G. Henley was called to serve as New Hope’s third pastor. Rev. Henley, a graduate from Harvard Divinity School, was an advocate for social change and was active in local community issues. Finding a strong financial structure when he arrived, it was under his leadership that the church purchased 16+ acres of land (with parsonage) on Peverly Hill Road. For a period of four years, the church experienced lively worship, and a rapid increased in membership, which, unfortunately began to decline in 1980. In 1981, Rev. Henley’s contract was not renewed.
Minister Elease Gray, a member licensed by Rev.Henley to preach, served New Hope in the interim. She conducted worship services until Rev. Willard Ashley was called as pastor in 1982. New Hope's membership began to grow again, and initial plans to build a new edifice on Peverly Hill Road, began. Architectural plans were prepared, and in early 1984, under Rev. Ashley’s vision and leadership, the church building on Pearl Street was sold. Experiencing difficulty in finding a place to worship, New Hope found itself returning to the Old Town Hall in Newington, NH.
As a result of a misunderstanding about where services would be held—the Old Town Hall or the New Town Hall in Newington, Rev. Ashley unexpectedly resigned in the summer of 1984. Rev Foster L. Covington, Jr. of Pecos, Texas came out of retirement to serve as Minister at Large. In late fall of 1984, it was apparent that New Hope would need another place to worship because the Old Town Hall was not heated. Frances Satchell, a charter member, got permission for church services to be held at Little Harbour Elementary School in Portsmouth. Services were held there until the church obtained permission from the City to hold services in the parsonage, which served both as a place of worship and as living quarters for Rev. Covington. Under Pastor Covington’s leadership, plans were revived to complete construction of the church building which had stopped because of a lack of funds. Through the efforts of some dedicated church members and the assistance of Dr. Robert Williams, Executive Minister of ABC/VT/NH, a loan was obtained from the American Baptist Extension Corporation, allowing construction to resume.
On Sunday, October 11, 1987, after three years of having services in the parsonage, Pastor Covington and several members of the small congregation walked from the parsonage to the new building for their first service. In the summer of 1988, having seen the completion of the new building, and, having reached the age of 82, Rev. Covington resigned to return to retirement.
During Rev. Covington's pastorate, he had been assisted faithfully by Rev. Frank Parker. It was Rev. Parker that the church called in the interim until a new pastor could be selected. He served unselfishly until Rev Garth Baker-Fletcher was called in October 1988. Bringing a musical talent that greatly enhanced the church’s music ministry, Pastor Baker-Fletcher, resigned in 1990 to complete requirements for his doctorate at Harvard Divinity School.
Deacon Nathaniel Holloway, Chairman of the Board of Deacons, and the Diaconate diligently carried on until a call was extended to Dr. Arthur L. Hilson, who began his pastorate March 31, 1991. Under his leadership, New Hope has experienced lively worship, growth, community involvement, and continues to be a beacon in the community and throughout the New Hampshire seacoast.
Revised 4/25/08 – Church Clerk - By approval of Church Council/Committee.
Submitted to Web-site for posting: 7/17/08