Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship is a local body of believers originating out of a Baptist heritage and faithful to the God of Scripture, the God who loves us and calls us to love one another.
In October, 2003, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina (CBFSC) sponsored meetings in Lexington, Irmo, and Northeast Columbia to discuss interest in forming a local CBF church. The Lexington group met at the Lexington American Legion Hut.
The Lexington and Irmo group began meeting together at the Salvation Army Center in Irmo on Sunday evenings in December 2003. On December 7, 2003, Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship had its first “mini” worship service and its first Advent service. On December 21, 2003, we held our first full-length worship service and first Christmas service.
We filed for incorporation papers in January 2004. Our joining service had 25 members.
We soon needed more space and began the search. Scott and Jane Anderson, church members, offered space in their building on Hwy. 378, Lexington, with one year’s free rent. Starting on June 6, 2004, the church met in Suite A while the members renovated Suite B. Suite A offered us space for Sunday morning Bible studies and worship services. Much of our furniture and materials came from other churches.
With Carson Rogerson as our bi-vocational pastor, we observed our first Sunday service in Suite B on August 7, 2004. We were finally able to have a larger sanctuary and classrooms for all ages. As the year progressed, we replaced chairs and added a piano, and also installed a speaker system. All members took active parts in the life of our church, working together as one body of Christ. In October, we had an installation for Carson Rogerson as our bi-vocational pastor and celebrated the occasion with a meal.
May 1, 2005, we celebrated our 1st anniversary with a special worship service and a gathering at the lake home of Anna Beth and Roy Simmons for a baptismal service and a meal. Our membership had nearly doubled to 49.
2005 was a busy year for our newly formed church. We had a combined service with the three other CBF-affiliated churches in our area and a Moravian Love Feast. Our mission projects included conducting “Operation In As Much”, volunteering at Camp Koinonia, participating in “Operation Christmas Child”, and having a Christmas party for the residents of a nearby nursing facility. In September we redecorated our space, including new furniture for the foyer and sanctuary. New handmade banners were hung for the Advent season. The EBF ladies found several times to gather for food and fellowship.
We started 2006 with a joint mission project with Greenlawn Baptist and the SC Hispanic/ Latino Coalition, the Hispanic Health Fair. March saw us accepting Carson’s resignation, as a promotion in his full-time job took him to Greenville.
On October 7, 2006, we dedicated our new piano, an anonymous gift from a church member, with a special service. On October 15, 2006, we welcomed Stephen Robinson as our new pastor. As usual, we celebrated Christmas with a special service and a dinner.
2007 was a year of continued growth, expanded programs for our children, and more mission projects. We had our first Tennabrae service which, along with our Easter service, were especially meaningful to our congregation. We participated in “Operation In as Much” which included donating and fitting carseats for the Hispanic community, and making blankets for the Nancy K. Perry Children’s Home. Our “Mission—Extreme Measure” project collected hats, gloves, scarfs, and socks for homeless people in our community.
December 2, 2007, in partnership with “Joy in the Mourning for Life Losses”, we had a special service: “Christmas Without Them: A Service of Remembering” to celebrate the lives of dear family and friends who had died the past year.
On March 10, 2008, we welcomed our newest and youngest member of EBF as we celebrated the birth of Sarah Charlotte Robinson, daughter of Stephen and Bonnie Robinson and sister of Mary Rose.
Our “Christmas in Lexington County” missional project for April was the cleaning of the yard for an elderly lady in Batesburg. Many EBFers participated. This year we also participated in a Habitat for Humanity project, donating both money and volunteers as we joined the Coalition of Lexington Churches for the building of this home. Barbara McClain, a member, was honored with the Building Bridges Award by the Columbia Community Mediation Center and was attended by the many people who had worked with Barbara and her late husband, Howard, both of whom were instrumental in organizing and supporting SC Christian Action Council.
With all our involvement in Bible studies, Sunday services, Wednesday meals and services, and our ongoing mission work, we still found time for a special dedication for Sarah Robinson, a farewell to Chris Cottingham as he answered a call to ministry in NC, and a reception for newly- wedded Lisa and Hal Brownlee. Another Christmas meal and a meaningful Christmas season ended our year.
Early in 2009, Dr. Michael Hester, a pastoral counselor from Asheville, lead the membership in a church retreat focusing on introspection and outlook – who we are and who we want to be. We were praying for the healing of a rift which had occurred in our congregation. We had established EBF on the inclusion of basic Baptist beliefs, one of them being the separation of church and state. We were asked by the Baptist Peace Fellowship to hang the “Torture Is a Moral Issue” banner. Many members were opposed to this act and further, wanted to celebrate patriotic events and include patriotic symbols in the church. This was a departure from the guidelines which were decided upon by the founding members. We lost almost 30 members during this time.
In spite of our decrease in membership, we had a full year of church activities in 2010. On January 23, we ordained Camille Carpenter and Michelle Wildes. We baptized Dawna Bodin at Lake Murray.
We made and delivered blankets for Nancy K. Perry Children’s Shelter. After a retreat with Suzana Raffield, a young women who introduced us to the need for birthing kits in Kidete, Tanzania, we assembled and sent boxes of birthing kits to help meet that need.
2011 and 2012 continued to be times of introspection for the members of our spiritual community. We were dedicated to doing as much mission work as we were able. We collaborated with Willow Springs Church to pack snack packs for identified children at White Knoll Elementary School. Stephen Robinson resigned November 12, 2012.
On January 27, 2013 Stephen Robinson preached his last sermon with us. Marion Aldridge, retired Coordinator of CBF of SC, served as intentional interim following Stephen’s departure.
In September, Merianna Neely began an interim pastor, which answered our need for a pastor and her need for a course requirement for her degree at Gardner-Webb Seminary.
June 2014 After the pastor search committee concluded its interviews, and with church approval, EBF asked Merianna Neely to became our new pastor. We ordained her in December. In October, Merianna married Sam Harrelson.
2014-2015 EBF was awarded a grant from CBF of SC for continued Snack Packs for White Knoll Elementary School.
Summer 2014, we began “Emmanuel’s Table”, where we offered to feed a meal once a week to anyone who would like to join us. The real success of that program was when we took the meals, which were donated to us from restaurants along Hwy. 378, to the residents at Victorian Lakes. We developed relationships which allowed us to help that community in other ways as well.
We also began a discussion to find a more affordable space for church, since a large part of our budget went to maintain our lease on the space which our smaller membership did not need. We found and renovated a new location in Lexington.
January 28, 2015 EBF dedicated our new space at 117B Park Road and celebrated with a service lead by Jay Kieve, CBF of SC Coordinator. In May, Lisa Brownlee introduced us to Journey Partners, a ministry partner of the Alliance of Baptists, who supports Kutenda Children’s Home in Zimbabwe. Our VBS children from Park North Apartments wrote letters to the children at Kutenda. We prepared a native meal for our church members and guests to raise funds for Kutenda. We sent the profits, along with gifts collected during a month-long special offering, to Kutenda via JourneyPartners. Additionally we sold jewelry made by “Jewels of Hope” and “Alice’s Beads and Seeds”, two other small Zimbabwean businesses assisted by JourneyPartners.
2015 October floods affecting Columbia and parts of Lexington had us gathering and distributing food, clothing and supplies from FBC Orangeburg and Spartanburg Baptist Church, and housing a group of men and women from Virginia Baptist Rescue Team. Floods affected residents at Victorian Lakes. We named this effort “Emmanuel’s Closet”.
Sam Harrelson was ordained on October 11, 2015. Ben Harrelson was born on November 12, 2015. A Community Meal with Victorian Lakes Mobile Homes provided EBF the chance to help our neighbors again with food and other essentials.
March 18-19, 2016, we had a Women’s Retreat at the Neely’s home, with Elizabeth Nance- Coker leading us in meditations. In March, Merianna Neely Harrelson resigned, preaching her last service on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday. We continued with planned activities, such as “May Day—Play Day” for children at Park North Apartments assisted by the youth group from FBC Orangeburg.
Jeffrey Howard, a young African-American seminary student who had been our summer intern in 2015, began a 6-month interim as pastor beginning the first Sunday of May 2016. Emphasizing “Calling All Prophets,” Jeffrey offered a summer series with his fellow students at Lutheran Seminary—Baptist Studies. They preached for us, and we, in turn, provided them with feedback. The process and the relationships established were quite meaningful for all involved. We held VBS with Park North children, assisted by youth and youth leaders from FBC Plymouth, NC.
In August 2016, we found another need at Victorian Lakes: families needing food when money is scarce. With money already designated for Victorian Lakes by other churches’ donations, we started Emmanuel’s Little Free Pantry at Victorian Lakes. We are packing food together to make a meal and are leaving it in the park’s office.
Leaphart Place residents, young adults who have aged out of foster care and are housed by the non-profit organization “Growing Homes, Southeast,” continue to be a part of our outreach. We participate with them, helping with repairs, giving parties, and picking them up for church.
On September 18, 2016, we ordained Elizabeth Nance-Coker.
Beginning in October 2016, we began a meet-and-greet with members of St Paul’s Missionary Baptist, an African-American church about one block from our church. We joined them for Wednesday services and hope to continue that, possibly working with them on future mission projects.
Also in October, we elected a search committee to begin the process of finding our new Pastor. On January 22, 2017, Judith Myers was called as our fourth Pastor of EBF. Judith joined us officially one month later on February 22.
On June 25, 2017, we ordained Shaunna Heule-Seifert.
Throughout the year, we strived to get to know our neighbors better, making ourselves known in the community as a 'unique kind of Baptist'. We marched in the pride parade, assuring everyone of their beloved-ness. We continued to grow our relationship with both Leaphart Place and Victorian Lakes.
In 2018, Emmanuel continues to thrive in its location on Park Road, gaining traction with the Lexington and Columbia communities. We've welcomed new members into our fold, and blessed others as they've moved into retirement. We continue to brainstorm ways to connect to the marginalized and oppressed.