For more than a century, the tiny Prosperity Baptist Church has been a community hub of southeastern Loudoun County.
Whether the neighborhood is called Conklin—the area’s traditional name—or South Riding—the identity shared by the subdivisions that now surround it—the church is working to continue that role in the face of rapid change.
The South Riding Rotary Club on Sunday stepped up to help that effort.
During an afternoon worship service, Pastor Carlos Lawson reflected on the church’s 117-year history, starting with its founding in 1899 by Jennie Dean, a Loudoun County slave who gained her freedom following the Civil War. The church’s role in the community over the years went beyond tending to resident’s spiritual needs. For example, Lawson noted that when many homes in the area were lacking indoor plumbing even into the 1990s, neighbors would come to the church for water.
Lawson said he worried that history would be lost as people look forward and forget where they came from. That concern helped to build a partnership with historian Larry Roeder, the chair for research on the Friends of Thomas Balch Library’s Black History Committee.
Roeder has developed a detailed six-volume history of Conklin and was given access to the church’s records to help tell the story of the people who lived there.
“When I come here, I feel like family,” Roeder said Sunday when he was invited to speak to the congregation on the importance of recording the history of the black community. “History is about people and how they lived.”
Roeder also is leading the effort to help preserve the small church building. On Sunday, members of the South Riding Rotary Club attended the service and presented a $500 check to help with improvements. Roeder said he hoped it was the first of many donations that would come from community organizations to help the congregation.
Lawson said he hoped his congregation also could work more closely with the Rotary club and others to meet the needs of the community and build a brighter future together.