White Rock Baptist Church celebrates its rich faith through film

NCCU Professor Bruce dePyssler stands next to a rack of vibrant African clothing in the Chapel Hill boutique belonging to his wife, Kadiatu. (Staff photo by Liz Chen)

Just down Fayettville St. from the Chicken Hut and Food Lion stands a 152-year-old church that has fostered a community of devoted supporters and faithful followers of Jesus Christ in the Hayti District.

White Rock Baptist Church was founded in 1866 by Margaret Faucette and is one of the oldest community service oriented churches in Durham.

According to Minnie Forte-Brown, assistant clerk and lifetime member of White Rock, the church is writing a book about the history of White Rock and its role in the community. Forte-Brown had the idea to supplement the book with a documentary and sought North Carolina Central University Professor Bruce dePyssler and the Bull City Doc Squad for assistance.

DePyssler’s documentary, “Nothing but Love in God’s Water,” highlights the strength and charity of the White Rock community, while preaching love and faith in God.

According to dePyssler, White Rock Baptist Church has various outreach ministries that include, but not limited to: rent and utilities assistance, food pantries and free monthly meals.

In addition to filming the church’s ministries, dePyssler’s Bull City Doc Squad, comprised of NCCU students, conducted interviews with various members of the church. Through these interviews, the Doc Squad was able to capture the essence of White Rock through its people.

“From the very first day, we started filming all of the congregation, and the people that we would eventually interview welcomed us with open arms,” said Daniel Hargrove, a Doc Squad member.

The Doc Squad’s members noted that the church was extremely accommodating and vivacious.

“[The people] were just wonderful, open, eager to talk to us, proud of their church, enthusiastic about our project, with no issues at all,” said dePyssler. “It was open door, just ‘come in’ and ‘what do you wanna shoot?’ and ‘do you wanna talk to anybody?’”

Forte said she was grateful for the Doc Squad’s opportunity to document a community that is close to her heart. “I think it was a good experience to hear people talk about why they came to White Rock and what White Rock means to them,” said Forte-Brown.

Hargrove stressed that the beauty of the church doesn’t cease at the captivating stained glass windows and stone exterior; but rather extends into the hearts of the community members who heavily emphasize the power of love and prayer.

Hargrove says watching and filming the congregation was unforgettable.

“When you’re actually with these people and watching them praise and worship and interact and joke and laugh and have them talk to you – that’s when you realize that everything that they talk about is truth and that they really are about love and trying to exemplify the best people they can be,” said Hargrove.

“It was definitely a moving experience to see the congregation openly accept people, worship with purpose and most importantly, give back,” said Doc Squad member Autavius Smith.

DePyssler recalls that despite integration’s negative impact on African-American businesses and institutions, churches and funeral homes remained strong. The church persists as the foundation of the African-American community for guidance and support during hardships.

“The one thing I can take away from this experience is the power of the church and the significance of the church to the black community. White Rock is just one church of many,” said dePyssler. “It’s a big successful church, but they’ve all done it. Every black church in Durham has played some role in getting through the tough times of the post-slavery era.”

“Nothing But Love in God’s Water” is one of four documentaries produced by the Bull City Doc Squad, all of which can be accessed online.

The White Rock centered documentary will also be shown at the Hayti Heritage Film Festival at the Hayti Heritage Center at 3 p.m. on February 16th.

For more information visit: https://hayti.org/2018-hayti-heritage-film-festival-schedule/

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Liz Chen is a junior reporting and English major at the UNC-CH School of Media and Journalism. A Madison, Wisc., native, she is a staff writer-photographer for the Durham VOICE.