Like a light on the hill

North Hills Baptist Church stands at the end of Stonecrest Drive, high on a hillside overlooking Colegate Drive and the surrounding neighborhood in Marietta.

“It’s a beautiful view. I always say it’s to remind us of the Scripture that says we’re to be like a light on a hill for the world to see,” said Pastor Don Kirby.

Kirby, a native of South Carolina, has served at North Hills for the last seven years, and will be presiding over the institution’s 50th anniversary celebration May 25 during the 10 a.m. service.

He said Terrell Moore, the brother of North Baptist’s first pastor, the late Rev. Keith Moore, will be sharing stories about his brother and about their experiences planting churches in this area.

North Hills was a church that came from some humble beginnings, originally started by an area Southern Baptist missionary, Bob Hall, and a group of student summer workers who were conducting a vacation Bible school and revival.

Grace Baptist Church in Parkersburg sponsored the fledgling church that was first known as the Marietta Chapel, according to church records.

“The church first met in downtown storefronts back in the early 60s, first on Greene Street, then they moved to a location on Second Street,” Kirby explained.

In the summer of 1964 the congregation purchased land in the Colegate Woods Estates area, and groundbreaking services were held in November 1966.

In a May 18, 1964, letter to the congregation, Keith Moore said the missive would be the last referring to the church as the Marietta Baptist Chapel which from then on would be North Hills Baptist Church.

“I feel that we are on the threshold of one of the greatest advances for the Lord’s work that any of us have ever experienced,” he wrote. “The Lord is blessing. The road will not be an easy one but will be a joyous and rewarding one. It shall take all of us working together to make the impact on the city of Marietta that the Lord would have us to make.”

Church members built the facility, except for the foundational block work. And on March 24, 1968, the new church was dedicated. An educational wing was added, again with the majority of the work being done by members.

Kirby said many of the original members had come to the Marietta area to work with industries that were located up and down the Ohio Valley in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

“The church averaged 90 or so members at that time-many had come to work construction on the industrial sites and were here for several years,” he said. “But when that work was completed some moved out of the area again.”

The congregation now numbers around 45 members, Kirby said, adding that the church does reach out to the community and welcomes new members.

Although there are several signs along Colegate Drive directing visitors to North Hills Baptist, he said the church isn’t easily visible from the main road and some people who have lived in the community all their lives don’t know where it’s located.

“We have to work hard to let people know where we are,” Kirby said. “I’ve had people tell me they’ve lived in the community for several years and didn’t know this church was here. We’re kind of tucked away in this residential area off Stonecrest Drive.”

North Hills Baptist is situated on seven acres that includes a playground and fire pit at the rear of the church where picnics and other gatherings may be held.

“It’s a small church, but the people are warm and friendly and everyone is involved,” he said. “If people aren’t involved, we couldn’t have a ministry.”