Drops of water fell on the bowed head of Jacque Lynn Pittman as she stood at the alter inside the small, white-frame church. Quietly, the nervous 8-year old listened as the minister performed the baptism.
From one of the 14 milk-white pews, Georgia Shepherd, 83, watched intently. Seventy-five years ago, when Shepherd was 8, she stood in the same spot before the same altar and felt the cool baptismal waters on her brow.
Last Sunday; after the most recent baptism, Jacque Lynn Pittman and Georgia Shepherd joined in another cellebration -- the 100th birthday of their church, Accotink United Methodist in Fairfax County.
On a normal Sunday, the church attracts about 30 worshipers. But the centennial service in Accotink, a four-block-long community just off Backlick Road near Rte. 1, brought 150 guests to the modest chapel.
The pastor at Accotink United Methodist Church is H. Eugene Minnick, a balding, bearded man. According to church records, Minnick is the 34th preacher to minister to the Accotink congregation.
At last week's historic service, Minnick worked his voice to high pitch in praising the faith and courage of the families who gathered in 1880 in the sparsely settled Virginia countryside to form Accotink United Methodist. "This is where they bravely announced their devotion to God and to the world," Minnich said.
Although Accotink now is surround by residential development and the sprawling Army base of Fort Belvoir, church members say the community has lost little of its country flavor.
"Everybody here is pretty much the same," said church historian Mary Garris. "They are plain, country people, a certain kind who like this kind of a church. Here you can feel a part of it, not like those big city churches."
Garris is working on a book based on the church's century of service to the community.Although much of its past is hidden in faded memories, part of the story can be found in the church's furniture, graveyard and the recollections of longtime members.
Georgia Shepherd remembers coming to the church when it included a second floor that housed a Sunday school and the Accotink Elementary School. (Later the church was renovated into a one-floor structure).
"I was born and raised on Backlick Road," Sheperd said. "There were no cars then, and when it would rain, we had to put wooden boards across the muddy dirt road to get across the ditches."
Audrey Geesch, 74, said that during the 1940s, a preacher came only once a month to lead a handful of worshipers in song and prayer.
Since then, the membership has fluctuated, according to Garris, and hard times have forced the church to close its doors on several occasions. But they have always reopened.
Inside the church are several items that trace its history. The alter holds two pewter plates and a communion pitcher with the date "1880" inscribed on the bottom. The brown leaves of the Bible used by the church's first minister, Shreeder Mundy, carry an 1880 publication date. Several church members say an ornate mahogany table with an oval marble top and a Mason and Hamlin pump organ have been there since the day the church was built.
On the western side of the church-yard a graying, mossback tombstone bears the initials S.W.M. They stand for Samuel W. Mason, one of the founders.
Last Sunday, as Minnick recalled the proud history of Accotink United Methodist, he spoke of beginnings, including his own. Minnick came to the church only last year, after leaving a teaching job in Loudoun County.
"I really didn't think I could spend the rest of my life in the classroom," said Minnick. "I just felt a calling to the ministry. It has been a rebirth for me. This is my second calling."
Minnick has no regrets that his calling brought him to Accotink. He is particularly proud of the work of his congregation in collecting $12,000 to help repair the church. The money came through bazaars, Sunday morning collections and contributions from the Arlington District of the Virginia Methodist Conference.
"(The building) was falling apart," Minnick said. "The foundation had collapsed completely on one side. The pews would literally slide to one side sometimes during a service."
But today the church is sturdier.
"Now we're ready for our second century," said Minnick. It's a new beginning."