We all know that a church is not a building but rather the people who have purposely joined together as a body of believers. However, a building is significant—a visible witness to the presence of God in a community and a connecting point for those who are seeking to find fellowship with others of like faith. One church has been that visible witness in its community since 1855. Even today it remains a spiritual leader for the residents of Panola County.
May 31, 2009, Woods New Hope Baptist, Tenaha, TX, unveiled and dedicated a Texas Historical Commission marker recognizing this church as one of the remaining vestiges of the once thriving community. During the service Keith Crouch, Director of BGCT Church Architecture, presented Pastor Rodney Puryear a bound certificate signed by BGCT Executive Director Dr. Randel Everett. Director of Missions Gerald Edwards made a presentation as well, along with representatives of both county and state governments.
November 11 of 1855 just ten believers chartered this church and built a log cabin for worship, which they shared with the Methodists and allowed it also to serve as the local school house for many years. In time, this group of Baptists built a new facility at its present location at US Highway 59 South and CR 425.
In 1917 a storm ripped through the community and destroyed the building (but not the church!) By 1919 the church members had completed a new church building, which serves as the present facility. It is believed to be the first “church in the round” designed by the Architect Department of the Southern Baptist Convention of Nashville, TN.
Through the past 153 years the church has stood strong in their mission of spreading the gospel and winning the lost. Today the church members are a vital part not only of the community but of Panola County. May God continue to bless the faithfulness of this church for many years to come as they witness and minister in Panola County.