WHITE POST — Nanette Shepherd fondly remembers attending Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church while she was growing up.
"My religion was instilled there as a very, very young child," she said in a phone interview, a smile evident in her voice.
Ebenezer's style of worship was simple compared to those of many churches today. For instance, Shepherd said, worshipers sat on wooden benches. They sang hymns accompanied by a piano and maybe a tambourine or another simple musical instrument. Sometimes they would create music using non-traditional instruments, such as pots, pans and other kitchen utensils. At other times, they would sing without any accompaniment.
"Some hymns weren't in the book," said Shepherd. "They were just passed down through the generations."
Worshipers would stomp their feet on the wooden floor, keeping time with the music, she recalled.
After services, children would play outside while the adults prepared lunch. Those adults, Shepherd said, helped instill in her morals and ethics.
She wants the church to become a local institution again so people — including youth — can enjoy and keep alive such "old-fashioned religion" experiences.
Near a curve on U.S. 340 (Lord Fairfax Highway) in the unincorporated village of White Post in Clarke County, Ebenezer is a simple, white church building with a green metal roof and stained glass windows surrounded by green trim. The church was established by freed slaves in 1884 on 1½-acres on what was then a plantation. Shepherd said the property was donated by John Alexander, the plantation's master.
The congregation initially numbered around 15, but at one point it was as high as 50.
Attendance declined over the years, and church disbanded in 2007, the same year that the building became part of the Greenway Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Toward the end, Ebenezer allowed some other start-up churches to use its facilities, too.
But the building has gone unoccupied for the past 12 years, and its condition has deteriorated, Shepherd said.
Some recent improvements have been made to the structure, though.
Shepherd, who lives in Maryland but is the property's "trustee care owner," said the interior has been cleaned, new weatherization has been installed, the exterior has been painted, weeds have been removed from the grounds and grass has been mowed. She estimates that a few thousand dollars have been spent on the work.
Now, "it's the major issues we're faced with," she said. These include installing new restrooms and new dry wall in the basement; replacing parts of the roof that are leaking; replacing asbestos shingles on the sides of the church, including some that already have fallen off or been blown off by the wind; and permanently securing windows reinstalled after they fell out due to deterioration of the wood around them. Wood putty is being used to temporarily hold the windows in place.
But these projects will cost more than the church currently has to spend.
A "Go Fund Me" page has been established online in hopes of raising $50,000 to restore the church and its grounds, which include a cemetery. As of Friday, though, no donations had been received.
Along with monetary contributions, Shepherd hopes that professionals such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and landscapers will volunteer to help with the project. Donations of construction materials also are being sought.
Anyone wanting to volunteer or make donations can contact Shepherd by email at email@example.com or by phone at 301-456-3577 and leave a message.
Those involved in the project hope to complete construction and start re-establishing the church by next fall.
Considering its long history, "it will be a glorious occasion to resurrect it," said Apostle Sanford Silver Jr., who will be its pastor.
Silver currently is pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Stephens City. When Ebenezer reopens, he plans to preach there two Sundays each month and at New Hope on the other two Sundays, he said.
Shepherd said she hopes Ebenezer can attract a new congregation by making itself visible in the community, such as by holding revivals, bake sales, dinners and other family-oriented events.
The church is important to history, said Elder Phillip Pollard, because multiple generations of White Post-area families worshiped there.
"Now it's our duty to carry the torch," Pollard said. "Hopefully, there will be generations after us" attending Ebenezer.
Several other churches have expressed interest in meeting at Ebenezer after it reopens, Shepherd added.