A Brief History quaker memorial presbyterian church lynchburg va

Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church is named in honor of Lynchburg’s early pioneer Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, whose restored eighteenth-century meeting house is located on church property. Sarah Clark Lynch and her son John, founder of the city of Lynchburg, donated land for the South River Meeting House, and the Quaker meeting’s membership grew and flourished. However, financial hardship, accompanied by unpopular Quaker positions on social issues including slavery and their anti-war sentiments, convinced many of the Friends to join the widespread western migration, and the number of Quakers in Lynchburg and the surrounding area dwindled. In 1839, the last meeting was held at South River.

The abandoned stone meeting house soon displayed signs of neglect and began to fall into ruins. In 1856, the roof collapsed under heavy snow and little remained except the walls. Nearby, a stout stone wall protected the cemetery of the Quaker dead. This symbol of peace also became a symbol of war when Union army soldiers encamped on the grounds of the abandoned meeting house during the 1864 Battle of Lynchburg.


1897 - 1927

In 1897, a one-room schoolhouse, located within the fortifications of Fort Early, was moved to the property and placed behind the cemetery as a site for the education of neighborhood children. It was quickly utilized for another important purpose when Mrs. Emily Logan obtained permission to use the structure on Sundays for religious instruction of children. With the help of Rev. Joseph McMurray, pastor of Floyd Street Presbyterian Church, the children’s Sunday School soon grew into preaching services held on rough pine benches under the trees. Forty people attended the first service, and the number grew steadily until it became apparent that a larger building was needed to accommodate the number of worshippers. Plans were begun for a church on the site, and the ten-acre property was purchased in 1899 by Floyd Street Presbyterian from the Richmond Society of Friends for $25 and held in trust by Floyd Street until the new Presbyterian church could be organized.Work soon began to rebuild the abandoned meeting house for use by the Presbyterians who held their first service in the rebuilt building in May 1901, with 100 present for Sunday School and 200 for the preaching service.The completed church was dedicated in October 1904. On May 15, 1910, Montgomery Presbytery organized Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church with 48 charter members. During the church’s early years, it was served by part-time pastors and sustained through many crises by Dr. Arthur Rowbotham, chairman of the presbytery’s Home Mission Board. In 1924 a major crisis involving an unqualified supply minister resulted in a split in the church and the loss of many members. However, with Dr. Rowbotham’s help, the church survived.


In 1928 Montgomery Presbytery created a three-member field of small churches consisting of Quaker Memorial, Pisgah, and Academy and called the Rev. Henry D. Brown Jr. to serve the field. His pastorate saw a period of slow, steady growth at Quaker Memorial during the height of the Great Depression as well as a number of new programs, including Women of the Church, Youth, and Vacation Church School. In 1935, Quaker Memorial was recognized as a Church of Distinction among Southern Presbyterians. Dr. Brown’s wife Douglas Summers Brown researched, wrote, and published Lynchburg’s Pioneer Quakers and Their Meeting House, the most accurate and definitive history of Lynchburg’s Quaker origins. Dr. Brown resigned in 1936 to accept a pastorate in Richmond.


Dr. Bernard E. Bain was called as pastor in November 1936. A farsighted administrator, he immediately recognized that an ambitious building program was necessary for Quaker Memorial to realize its potential. Ground was broken in 1941 for a new building containing a fellowship hall (now Bain Narthex), kitchen, pastor’s office, and six Sunday School classrooms. English parish-style architecture was chosen to complement that of the meeting house. Completed in 1943, the building was constructed with primarily volunteer labor of the congregation at a cost of $40,000. Returning WWII veterans and their families and new residential areas in the Fort Hill section of the city resulted in rapid growth in membership (248 members by 1946). Construction of the sanctuary and additional Sunday School classrooms began in 1947. Dr. Bain resigned to become president of the Presbyterian Home in Lynchburg. 

1949 - 1952

The Rev. Carl G. Howie became pastor in 1949, and church membership doubled during his tenure. The sanctuary and Sunday School classroom addition was completed in 1950 at a cost of only $30,000 due to volunteer labor from the congregation. Other notable achievements during Dr. Howie’s pastorate included a church organizational plan, a record-keeping system, rotation of terms for Session members, and employment of a secretary. In 1951, the congregation voted to restore the meeting house to its original state, but the restoration was incomplete due to lack of funds. Dr. Howie resigned in 1952 to accept a pastorate in Washington, D.C.


The Rev. James G. Thompson became pastor in June 1953, and his thirty-year tenure was marked by continued growth in membership (783 by 1982) as well as additional staff, facilities, and programs to meet the growing congregation’s needs. An associate pastor and a director of Christian Education were hired, and Rev. Thompson spearheaded the construction of an education wing featuring a large fellowship hall and kitchen, pastor’s office, and Sunday School classrooms. Completed in 1958, the building was named the Thompson Education Building in honor of Rev. Thompson upon his retirement in 1983. At presbytery’s request, members of Quaker Memorial helped establish two new congregations in growing areas: St. Andrew Presbyterian in the  Timberlake area (1957) and Covenant Presbyterian in Vista Acres (1961). South River Meeting House and the Quaker cemetery were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and named a Virginia Historic Landmark in 1975. A committee to complete the restoration of the meeting house was organized in 1983. Dr. Robert Wilson served as interim pastor following Rev. Thompson’s retirement.


In 1984, the Rev. Bernard K. Bangley assumed the pastorate of a church in transition. He led the conversion from a bicameral governing body of a Diaconate and a Session to a unicameral system of church governance by a Session. Reorganization of committees was undertaken to make better use of the talents of the membership. Significant expansion of community outreach included Meals on Wheels, Churches for Urban Ministry, Daily Bread, and many others.The South River Meeting House interior was restored as closely as possible to its Quaker origins, and the restored meeting house was dedicated in 1989. In 1992, the Foundations for the Future Campaign raised $865,000 for major renovations and improvements, including chancel renovations and a new Holtkamp pipe organ, large multi-purpose meeting room/library, remodeled front entrance, steeple and carillon bells, additional parking and exterior lighting, and air conditioning for the first and second floors. In 2001, a columbarium was built near the cemetery. Following Rev. Bangley’s retirement in 2000, Rev. Frank Avery served as interim pastor. 


Dr. Corey D. Ingold was installed as pastor in 2002. A new strategic plan for the church was implemented, calling for more focused leadership in the Session and within the congregation. An elevator granting access to all three floors of the church was added in 2004. Community outreach expanded through volunteer involvement and financial support of Habitat for Humanity, Great Readers tutoring program, Backpack for Kids’ Sake, area food pantries, and many other organizations. In 2010 Quaker Memorial held a yearlong celebration of its centennial, highlighting a different mission focus each month and culminating in a Centennial lunch in May which attracted hundreds of current and former members and special guests. Dr. Ingold resigned in 2010 to accept a pastorate in Georgia. Following Dr. Ingold’s resignation, Rev. David Gellert and Dr. Burt Newman served as interim pastors.


As a second-career minister, Rev. Edwards brings considerable depth to life in ministry. His business experience and administrative skills complement his pastoral leadership and preaching styles. Rev. Edwards has begun to expand the church's involvement in local and worldwide missions. Local mission outreach includes a community garden on church property to help feed those in need, and world missions efforts are beginning with a focus on Haiti. Under Rev. Edwards' leadership, a partnership has been established with Haiti Outreach Ministry, and a mission trip to Haiti is among the highlights of this new partnership in ministry.


Rev. Dr. Nancy Dawson came to serve as Interim Pastor following Bart's resgination in 2018. Nancy Dawson is an Honorably Retired Presbyterian Minister in the Presbytery of the Peaks. Prior to retirement, Nancy served for 11 years as the General Presbyter for the Presbytery of the Peaks. In 2020, during the pandemic, the congregation initiated an ambitious capital campaign to do major improvements to the building and parking. These improvements will hopefully serve our congregation and community for many years. 

In 2021 the congregation called the Rev. M. Anghaarad Teague Dees as pastor. She was installed in 2022. In 2022 QMPC entered into a partnership with the University of Lynchburg and the Lynchburg City Museum to enhance and promote the history of the South River Meeting House and Cemetery.

Nancy entered the ministry after spending nearly twenty years in health care, education, business and consulting in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati Area.  Rev. Dr. Dawson holds a BS in Nursing, an MEd in Business, an MDiv degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond Virginia, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Church Development at McCormick Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. 



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