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By Suzanne Pollak @SuzannePollak
OLNEY — Members of a Silver Spring church that has flourished from the end of slavery through segregation, the Civil Rights movement, and still going strong today, celebrated its 150th anniversary with the debut of a book about its history.
“History gives us purpose,” said Rev. Lionel Pointer Jr. of Round Oak Missionary Baptist Church. “We need to know who we are, where we came from, who has brought us, and where we are headed. This is what history does.”
Pointer, who has led the church for 43 years, added, “Our history has enriched our heritage.”
With that in mind, Pointer asked four female church members to write a book.
Seven months later, the women proudly displayed their efforts that resulted in, “From Acorn to Mighty Oak; It Can Be Done.”
The celebration and book signing occurred at Sandy Spring Museum in Olney, where the authors began their research. Their efforts also led them to the Patuxent River, where original churchgoers were baptized.
A former slave who became a tenant farmer in Virginia before moving to Spencerville started the church in his own home. Round Oak Baptist has had only six pastors in its 150 years, said Rev. Janessa Grady Fleming.
The church now is located in a 1,000 seat-structure on Good Hope Road in Silver Spring.
Deaconess Annie Hungerford, one of the four women who created the book, said the authors and designers pored through records and talked to older members, including the great-great grandson of the original pastor.
They sorted through more than 1,000 photographs and narrowed them down to the 50 that illustrate the book.
Much of the church’s history was destroyed in a 1910 house fire, but some relics remained, including many that were on display Saturday.
A bible from 1906, a stained-glass window from the 1940s, a silver water pitcher from 1895 and a church bench from the 1870s filled the perimeter of the room in which about 50 people gathered.
Structured around the church’s pastors, the self-published book includes not just the history of the church but also the United States, including Jim Crow laws and Montgomery County’s abolitionist movement.
Following the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson 1896 ruling on separate but equal facilities, Round Oak started one of the first all-black schools in Montgomery County in the late 1800s.
“We were on the front lines,” declared Grady Fleming.
“We have had victories and vicissitudes. We have been on the mountain and we’ve been through the valley,” she said. Round Oak Missionary is one of the oldest African-American Baptist churches in the County.
During the 90-minute celebration, Rev. Haywood Robinson III, of the Peoples Community Baptist Church in Silver Spring and president of the County’s Black Ministers Conference, praised the church not just for its longevity but also “for this legacy of impact.”