New Jerusalem Baptist Church
Matthews 16:18 "and I say unto thee that thou art Peter", and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
For 105 years this church has been built upon that rock.
In 1897, a small group of Christian people came together and held prayer services in an old moss factory in "Catfish Town". Although the prayer meeting was small in number, they evaluated their worth of things according to the divine standards of God. They didn't have a lot of money or materials to build a church; they had the faith that God would make a way for them. Therefore, they were inspired to organize a church.
The group asked Rev. Andrew Williams to be their leader. Rev. Williams worked continuously with them and on December 12, 1898 the New Jerusalem Baptist Church was formally organized with only two auxiliaries, Deacon and Deaconess Boards.
The second shepherd of the flock was Reverend Douglas Young. The membership grew under Reverend Young including some members from his other church "St. Mark".
With the old moss factory being braced by planks to keep it from falling down, the city declared it unsafe and had it demolished. This action did not stop the membership of New Jerusalem. They rented space for services in another old building call the "Tin Top" on Howard Street. Reverend Young died in 1923 and the church nominated and installed Reverend Louis Severan as Pastor.
Acappella Singing came to an end partially when the first choir was organized around 1923 with three members and the pianist, being the late Mrs. Ellen Williams. The group worked hard to buy their first organ at the cost of $48.00.
Constantly moving ahead the church secured enough funds to purchase a lot on Julia Street, but weren't able to build because the property was within the city limits and the city ordinances required inside plumbing which once again they did not have adequate funds to provide for the structure.
The late Reverend William Carey located the present site, which then was considered outside the city limits. The lot on Julia Street was sold and the property on East Boulevard was purchased on November 21, 1933.
Under the leadership of Reverend Severan the membership of New Jerusalem continued to grow.The Deacon and Trustee Board consisted of Carol Ross; Head Deacon: Deacon Guy Bell; Secretary and Treasurer; Sie Dixion; Emmanuel McField; Herman Jackson; Allen Buchanan; Eddie Perking and Aaron Jackson. Other Deacons were Eli Wright; Nat Hagan: Ned Hunter; David Dunbar; Isaac Freeman; Dan Collins and Silas Reese. Pernellia E. Hagan Thomas served as the Church Clerk. While under Reverend Severan's Leadership, an Usher Board was organized in 1946.
Reverend Severan died in 1947 which left us with electing another shepherd who was Reverend Frank Rufus Winder. Under Reverend Winder's leadership a building fund was started, with hopes of improving the church's physical appearance. Reverend Winder was a strong and Influential leader. In remembering him in the pulpit, his favorite hymn was "I'll Go If the Lord Wants Somebody, Send Me". Reverend Winder served until his death in January 1985. After his passing, Reverend Don Bradford was then elected and served a short time.
In October 1985, Reverend Van Smith, Jr. began serving as Interim Pastor and in December 1985, Reverend Smith was elected to the pastorate of the Church, becoming the 6th pastor in the history of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, and has served faithfully for the past 18 years.
Reverend Smith is known as a preacher, teacher, builder, creative, multitalented, educator and a caring pastor who is strong leader. He leads the congregation on principles of Missionary Baptist doctrine and theology, giving the church its motto: "The Church where the fullness of God's love is felt". New ministries have been added including An Inspirational Choir; Men's Chorus; Youth Choir; Birth Month Clubs; Prison Ministry; Hospitality Committee; Beautification Ministry; Condolence Ministry; Pastor's Support Ministry; Liturgical Dancers and a Girl Scout Troop.
In 1989 the Sanctuary of the church was completely remodeled. Property was purchased, and a new Building Fund was organized to erect our present facility. With the dedication of Pastor Smith, the aid of his wife Sister Leola Smith and a strong Building Committee which included Sister Connie Hicks as Chairperson; Brother Nathaniel Coleman Board Chairman; Alfred Plant, Rossevelt Hafford; Charles Hulbert; and Sister Mary Hulbert; Hazel Clark; and Lynn Tucker, all persevered and labored to make a long awaited dream come true.
April 2000 the congregation dedicated the facility which included the lounge area; Women's restroom; new pastor's study; Men's restroom; Kitchen and Fellowship Hall that seats approximately 200 persons.
All that has been accomplished by our church cannot be credited to the members alone, but through the will of God and his grace towards us. The Lord has done great things for us and with perseverance and endurance we will continue to press towards the mark of a higher calling in Christ.