The Macedonia Baptist Church in Flint Hill marks two proud milestones this year: the church’s 150th year in existence and the 15th year that the Rev. Dr. Donald E. Simpkins has served as pastor — only the fifth in the church’s long history.
According to the written history prepared for the anniversary, “The church was founded in 1865 by Rev. Thornton Hill and two members from the Battle Run Church. Rev. George Horner, the first pastor, organized the church on the third Sunday in July. This minister and the members held their services in the fields and different homes.”
It took 22 years to raise the money to buy the land and many more before the building was complete. Over the years, the church has been remodeled and expanded several times.
The stately exterior of the church reveals little about the joy and exuberance that lie within its walls. The welcoming spirit hits as soon as you enter the sanctuary and receive warm greetings and hugs like long-lost family.
On a recent Sunday, the morning service began with a spirited singalong of “This Little Light of Mine” that had the congregants on their feet. And the music continued on through the service, provided by the chorus, accompanied by keyboards, drums and saxophone.
At the pulpit, referring to both his iPad and his Bible, Simpkins delivered a sermon about the power of renewal — of the spirit and the mind — punctuating his message with humor and thought-provoking stories. The congregants hung onto his every word.
While preaching, he is boisterous, charismatic, his voice rising and falling. In private, he is just as compelling, though quiet and thoughtful. But, as he says, “I didn’t start life that way. If people met me 40 years ago, they wouldn’t like me at all.”
Born and raised in Northeast Washington, D.C., Simpkins graduated from McKinley Technical High School and headed off to the University of Wyoming on an athletics scholarship. “Talk about culture shock,” he says, “I was thrown into the world of cowboys and country music. But I used to do a pretty good Johnny Cash impression.”
After a year there, he attended a junior college in Flint, Michigan before joining the Marines. Although he admits that being in the Marines was tough at times, he also says enlisting “was the best decision I ever made, because while in the Marines, I met my wife Pam and I found the Lord.”
While working for the federal government, Simpkins also attended the Wilber H. Waters School of Religion and Theology and was ordained. He retired from the federal government after 30 years of service, but has served as chaplain at his former agency for the past six years.
He lives in Woodbridge and commutes to Macedonia. “I’m on my fourth car,” he says with a laugh. Pam Simpkins holds a doctorate and is a school principal in Fairfax. Of their four children, one is also a pastor and serves alongside his dad in the pulpit on Sundays. “I knew when Daniel was 6, he was being called to preach,” says Rev. Simpkins. “When he was grown and told me he wanted to preach, I said, ‘What took you so long?’ ”
On Sunday, Sept. 20, the church will celebrate Simpkins’ anniversary with special services throughout the day — to which everyone is invited. “I want everyone to feel comfortable here,” he says.
For more information about the church, the anniversary services, regular services and other events, visit macedoniabcflinthill.org.