New Hope Baptist Church near Bullard has nourished many generations since its founding a few years after the Emancipation Proclamation set slaves free.
From ministering to former slaves, the church has gone on to have major impact on the community and produce leaders in all walks of life, such as doctors, lawyers and others, including its current pastor, the Rev. Vincent Bowie, who grew up in the church.
New Hope Baptist Church is “like a staple in the New Hope community,” Bowie said. “We have a lot of successful people in that community and I believe that’s because it (the church) stands for integrity, treating people right and caring for people. I thank New Hope for what they taught me and what they instilled in me to work hard and be honest. They gave me the courage to believe in myself and to stand in front of people and tell the world about Jesus.”
New Hope will celebrate its 150th anniversary at 3 p.m. Sunday. The theme will be “We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Guest speaker will be the Rev. Bruce Lyons, a former member of New Hope and pastor of Walnut Springs Baptist Church in Lindale.
Originally called Old New Hope, the church was organized in 1867 in a small settlement called Gum Springs a mile east of Bullard.
Zenobia Hicks, publicity chairperson, who has served the church in many capacities, said at least 15 families founded the church.
The church has had three locations in its history. On June 25, 1898, it moved to its present location at 20940 County Road 145 about two miles northeast of Bullard on four acres donated by the Jack Mosley family. At that time, the word “old” was deleted from its name and the church became known as New Hope Baptist Church.
The church has been renovated and new buildings added over time.
Winford Bowie, a deacon for 60 years who grew up in the church, remembers the first frame church was built on pillars so high off the ground that he and other children ran underneath the church playing. Eventually the church was rebuilt on low pillars but it was still a frame structure.
In 1962, the old frame building was torn down and replaced with a new modern brick church. The Family Life Center was built in 2006 and dedicated in 2008 adjacent to the church.
“The church is a centerpiece for Bullard and Whitehouse and it’s a growing church,” Winford Bowie, 81, said.
The church has had eight pastors, with most staying from 10 to 15 years, although one stayed 18 years and another for 28 years.
“New Hope Baptist Church means everything to me,” said Winford Bowie, who joined when he was 6. “It was the cause of me being what I am today. I owe it to God and New Hope Baptist Church. We are growing and getting more younger people to come in now.”
The church has between 100 and 150 members from Tyler, Whitehouse, Jacksonville and Bullard.
Lately, New Hope purchased another four acres for future improvements, possibly more parking and construction of a new facility.
Years ago, the church had services only on two Sundays per month. Around 1945, the church began having services every Sunday.
“It’s just an extended family thing,” Bobbie Bowie, 84, said, pointing out her grandparents, she and her siblings and their children all grew up in New Hope.
Vincent Bowie, the pastor, remembers having different duties as a child active in the church all the time.
Dressed up, he walked to church where he sang in the youth choir, was a youth usher, ate on the church grounds, and attended Vacation Bible School, revivals and Sunday school. Giving speeches at Christmas and Easter in those days “was preparing me at a young age to stand in front of people and talk and it built my confidence,” Vincent Bowie said.
But he added, “I never thought I would be pastor of that church. Sometimes God takes you through some things to get you where He wants you.”
Vincent Bowie said he wants New Hope to be a giving and loving organism that cares, comforts people and represents God.
“I want (New Hope) to be seen as a beacon of light to our entire community,” he said. “So my goal is for us to go out and present the Gospel and let everyone know we are here for your spiritual needs. We are open to everybody.”
Before getting the call to be a minister in 2001, Vincent Bowie drifted away from the church after playing college football one semester and worked 19 years as a forklift driver and order selector at Brookshire’s warehouse.
Then he went to Texas College to become a math teacher and also earned an associate’s degree from the International College of Biblical Studies.
Vincent Bowie credits what he learned at New Hope Baptist Church as a child about doing what is right and working hard for his having been named the 2017 Dogan Middle School Teacher of the Year.
Before being named pastor of New Hope two years ago, he served stints as associate minister of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in Tyler, County Line Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler and Galilee Baptist Church on Lake Placid Road.
“It means a lot to come back home as pastor of New Hope,” Vincent Bowie said. “Some of the people that taught me, I’m back teaching them. Being pastor of the church is an awesome responsibility. It’s something that I enjoy and love.”
IF YOU GO
New Hope Baptist Church
Sunday school: 9:15-10 a.m.
Sunday school overview: 10-10:30 a.m.
Worship: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Anniversary celebration: 3 p.m.