Paul Carter had been called to pastor a church in Waverly, Virginia, when he visited the state Baptist offices in Richmond one August day in 1950 to pay a courtesy call on the Executive Secretary, James R. Bryant. Secretary Bryant had another idea in mind for his visitor. For three years, he had been looking without success for someone to plant a church in South Arlington, in particular a fifteen block square area with a population of 10,000. The Secretary believed he had the right man in Paul Carter and God would lay on Reverend Carter’s heart the need for this ministry. A gracious Waverly congregation gave him leave and Paul Carter would begin what would become the first pastorate of Greenbrier Baptist Church.
The Church first met at 5222 Columbia Pike in a house which served double duty as a parsonage for the pastor and his wife, Lois. Neighborhood visitation over five and a half weeks by the Pastor led to the first worship service held on Sunday morning, October 15th. All Hail the Power of Jesus Name would be the first hymn sung and Reverend Carter brought the message “What Is A Church?” Forty-one attendees were recorded in the Sunday School, twenty-four in morning worship , and five in evening worship.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 13, 1952, an organization service under the auspices of the Potomac Baptist Association was held at the Columbia Pike location and the Greenbrier Baptist Church formally came into existence. Fifty-seven men and women would become charter members. One month later the Church elected its first deacons – F. Athey DeVall, Dennis P. Doss, W. Ashley Fry, T. Howard Warren, and Charles A. Turner.
It would not be long before Greenbrier would locate property and establish its permanent home. In June 1952, loans were secured from First Federal Savings and Loan Association in the amount of $40,000,00; the Virginia Baptist Board of Missions and Education in the amount of $15,028.00; and Clarendon Trust Company, endorsed by Westover Baptist Church, in the amount of $10,000.00. Of the amount obtained from Virginia Baptists, $5,000.00 was used to purchase the lot. With additional purchases in 1958, the total site measures 87,059 square feet. Ground for the first unit was broken on July 6, 1952. The first worship service in the new building would be held on January 25, 1953, with formal dedication services following on
March 8th. By the time, the Church had grown to 101 members with a Sunday School enrollment of 233.
Articles appearing ten years apart in the Northern Virginia Sun attest to Greenbrier’s distinctive location amidst apartment complexes and, in fact, states that it was likely the first church in Arlington to be so organized. Greenbrier was recognized as a growing, vibrant church. Its membership numbers, expanding ministries, and the addition to the Education Building in 1956 would give testimony to this recognition.
Eight individuals have served in the office of Pastor. The Reverend Paul Carter would serve Greenbrier until 1968. He would be followed by Dr. James L. Blevins who served from 1968 to 1969. Dr. Bobby D. Box would serve from 1970 to 1973, followed by Dr. Ray F. Cleek from 1974 to 1979. The Reverend J. Finney Williams would serve from 1980 to 1997, succeeded by Dr. Robert J. Tennant III, who would serve until 2006. Dr. Bill McMahon first came to Greenbrier as an interim pastor in 2007, would later be called to the office and serve until January 2009. The Reverend Pamela I. Chisholm was installed in the office of pastor in September 2009.
Greenbrier is a sending church. In January 1958, the congregation voted to launch a mission in the Lincolnia-Barcroft area in Fairfax County. Organized as Grace Baptist Mission of February 15, 1959, its charter members included sixty-four individuals who joined by letters from Greenbrier. Over the years, Greenbrier has raised up men and women called to serve God in the ministry. The following is taken from an edition of The Tidings, the Church newsletter:
“Today is a great day in the life of our church family. We will ordain another Greenbrier member into the ministry. We will ordain Mario Ramirez as pastor. Rev. Mario will join an impressive list of men and women who have been called, by their Lord, into the ministry from Greenbrier Baptist Church. As you are reviewing this list of individuals please help us update and /or correct the list to be as accurate as possible. George and Helen Hardeman as missionaries; Roy and Sara Snell as missionaries; Ann and Harlan Getz as missionaries; George and Sheryl Gera as missionaries; John Carter as pastor; Glen Burke as pastor; Ray Macy as prison chaplain; Rex Stout as a missionary; Chip Hurley as a pastor; Harold Brown as a pastor; Harry Cunningham as a pastor; Winnie Walmsley as a USMC chaplain; and Matt Tennant as a pastor.”
Greenbrier has been blessed with a vital music ministry in its leadership, vocalists, and musicians. Notable to this number is the long and faithful service of William Claiborne who served twenty-four years as the Church Organist. The incumbent Minister of Music, Lisa Payne, has grown in service to Greenbrier’s music ministry, first offering her talents to the glory of God in this Church as a youth.
The sixtieth anniversary is commemorated by the diamond. Greenbrier Baptist Church indeed has been a diamond in the community as a witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ. As a diamond has durability, so Greenbrier can expect to endure as a witness to a lost and dying world today and well into the future.
Prepared by the Rev. David Irwin Moshier, TH.M., S.T.D.