Carrying on the southern tradition of Old Regular Baptist Church
Along a secluded stretch of SR 160, just beyond Possum Trot Rd, sits a cluster of non-distinct single story homes. Among these little vinyl sided homes sits a hidden gem, home of a group of people continuing a tradition that goes back to the early days of Christianity on the British Isles.
The only thing singling the Chester Hogg Old Regular Baptist Church out as a church and not a private residence is the sign. It’s a simple piece of rectangular wood, painted white, with black lettering. I have to admit, it was the name “Chester Hogg” that got my attention. I couldn’t help but think of the character Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard.
When I set out to look up more about this strange, little building with the funny name, I expected to find out that it belonged to some off-the-wall religious nut who started a church because he didn’t get along with anyone else or had grandiose illusions of grandeur. What I found was a religion and people steeped in cultural history, carrying on traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
The congregation of the Chester Hogg Old Regular Baptist Church belong to a religious sect that derives its religious beliefs from the European Calvinistic Baptist Churches and dates back to the 1820’s on the Appalachian Highlands of Eastern Kentucky and Virginia. Many of the folks in this area can trace their ancestors to Ireland, Scotland, and Great Britain. They are a simple and proud God-fearing folk with many sharing a belief in “election by grace” and predestination. At the heart of their religious beliefs is that man is a sinner who does not have the free will to change his course. His only hope for salvation is through the grace of God and the acceptance of Jesus as the Lord and Savior.
The individual churches form a loose association and practice their religion in a more traditional manner that seems to be of a different era. The preachers are unpaid, and usually have no professional training. Rather preachers are God-called. The churches only meet one Sunday or weekend a month, with the members traveling to other churches in their association. Often there are three or four preachers taking the pulpit, each stepping up as God calls them to speak…their words more improvisational, more from the heart rather than a planned out sermon. Following the Pauline Doctrine, only The followers believe in baptism by immersion, with a preference for performing the ritual in “living waters: such as rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks and include the congregation welcoming the newly baptized into the congregation through songs. A noted feature of the services is the non-instrumental, congregational hymnody called “Lining Out”. In “lining out”, a leader will by singing the first line of a hymn. As congregationalist recognize, or in most cases, feel the spirit of the Lord, they join in with the singing. With some hymns, a leader will sing one line, with the congregation repeating the line in a different, more elaborate tune. The musical style has been described as having no particular rhythm or beat, and is sometimes described more as chanting. It is considered the oldest English language religious music oral tradition in North America.
Today, there are over 350 Regular Baptist Churches with over 6,000 members within eight associations that stretch as far south as Florida and as far north as Michigan. A majority are located in Eastern Kentucky, along the Virginia border with a few located in southern Indiana. They use terms like “Old School”, “Old Regular”, “Old Order” and “Primitive” to set them apart and to show that they of the old form of worship, rejecting modern Christian innovations like Sunday School and theological seminaries.
About Us. (2020, April 27). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://oldregularbaptist.com/About/
Old Regular Baptists. (2020, December 04). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Regular_Baptists
Ramsey, D. (2017, November 21). Tuned Up in the Spirit. Oxford America, A Magazine of the South. doi:https://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/1370-tuned-up-in-the-spirit
Regular Baptists. (2020, June 30). Retrieved December 0, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_Baptists