HOLT — Early records show that in 1821 on the lot that is now home to New Direction Church, a handful of settlers gathered to worship together.

Eight years later, 139 settlers came together to establish New Hope Baptist Church.

Fast-forward 200 years to Sept. 12, 2021, current Pastor Rick Lumm and his congregation will honor those early settlers, starting at 10:10 a.m. at the renamed New Direction Church, 21209 NE 188th St., Holt.

“We are going to spend some time looking at the past and where we came from,” Lumm said. “We will look at what the Lord has given us. However, we will look at the present and the future. The community is invited to worship with us as well as for the cookout afterward.”

Dale Jackson, a retired area veterinarian, has been attending the church for about six years. As he recovered from life-saving surgery, church members checked on him.

“This is a church where you can get away from the hubbub and really get to know everyone,” he said. “Rick is also the best Bible teacher I know.”

The church’s history includes the appointment of pastor Robert Sallee James in 1843. James, also a farmer is Kearney, would later father Missouri natives and outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

“Jesse was a toddler when he attended here,” Lumm said. “It’s not unheard of for us to see people hop out of their cars and run up to the church doors for photos. I and a couple other church members have been mowing the yard and watched this happen. They tell us that they are photographing places where Jesse walked.”

James took the church from around 20 congregation members to more than 280. He also assisted in church planting in Ray and Clinton counties along with Clay County. He helped establish Providence Baptist Church near Liberty and was one of the founders of William Jewell College.

“Reflecting on this anniversary, I really do feel a connection to those past preachers,” Lumm said. “I believe I am to carry on what they began on this corner. I am standing on their shoulders. Robert Sallee James, in records, baptized 56 people one day. He was definitely a church planter and a leader.”

Jackson, a self-described history buff, said he often reflects on the Civil War and how much turmoil was being experienced in the area. The Clay County Historical Society named the original church and cemetery a historical landmark.

“We don’t have many records of what happened during the Civil War, but we have seen that church services were scarce and maybe they met for Easter and Christmas,” Lumm said.The church sat empty after World War II. In 1948, the church building along with 6.5 acres, the nearby Hunt House building and $10,000 was gifted to the Clay-Platte Baptist Association for the purpose of establishing the Baptist children’s camp, Camp New Hope. It is now known as New Hope Retreat Center. The old church building saw new life as a gathering place for camp worship services, weddings, fundraisers and the annual Christmas at New Hope service.

During the 2012 Christmas service, an idea came forth to breathe new life into the “dry bones” of the church. On March 16, 2014, New Hope Baptist Church reopened under the name New Direction Church led by Lumm.

“I got an assignment to come here,” Lumm said. “My wife and I are glad we came here. There’s a feeling when you walk into this church. It’s a special place.”

Lumm’s wife, Judy Lumm, said the acoustics are astounding for a smaller building. “It’s a lot like the old song, ‘The Little Church in the Wildwood,’” Jackson said. “This is a small building that is welcoming with people who are accepting of everyone.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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