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First Baptist Church, Cedar Grove
In 1888, a group led by Reverend Barney met and organized a new church named Little Hope Baptist Church. The initial congregation included Brother Joe Jonas, Brother Dan Johnson, Sister Pheeba Jones, and Sister Marie Wright. Little Hope Baptist Church grew with the community consisting of Sunday School, a Choir and various auxiliaries. By the early 1920’s, the church became an integral part of the community with diverse and various church-centered activities.
A new church building was erected on one acre of land purchased from Sister Marie Wright’s heirs at a cost of $72.00 to conduct weekly services. The property was recorded at the courthouse as The Little Hope Baptist Church. The church survived the strain of World War I and with stood the struggles of the Great Depression while ministers encouraged members to share their food, clothing, and household goods.
Numerous ministers have served as pastor of such an awesome establishment including Reverend Johnson, Reverend G. W. Brown, Reverend Low, Reverend Penn Short, Reverend Nattie Gains, Reverend G. Y. Young, Reverend E. R. Robinson, and Reverend Alfred Borton.
On February 22, 1926, Reverend I. S. Embers was called as Pastor and served for 3 ½ years. During his tenure, the church constructed a new sanctuary building on the corner of 70th street and Line Avenue. The church’s name was changed from Little Hope Baptist Church to First Baptist Church of Cedar Grove. Following the resignation of Reverend Embers, the church called one of its Associate Ministers, Reverend T. C. Bowie as Pastor. Reverend Bowie rejected the pastoral position; however, he agreed to serve until a Pastor was called.
On February 21, 1930, Reverend J. P. Powell was called as Pastor and served for 13 years. Reverend Powell resigned and was eventually called as full time Pastor of Zion Baptist Church. Reverend O. L. Dunn was called to Pastor at the resignation of Reverend Powell. Reverend Dunn served as pastor for only a few months and accepted the call to Pastor Trinity Baptist Church full-time.
On December 11, 1957, Reverend J. D. Jackson was called as Pastor. Under his leadership, renovations were made to the sanctuary, an education building with classrooms and a dining facility with kitchen was added at a cost of $27,000.00 with state of the art equipment. Prior to resigning and relocating to New York, the $27,000.00 debt was reduced to a balance of $11,000.00. Reverend T. C. Bowie agreed to conduct services until a Pastor was called encouraging the congregation to pray God send the next leader.
On March 7, 1958, Reverend Floyd Sheppard was called as Pastor. After becoming Pastor, Reverend Sheppard changed the order of service which increased the attendance in Prayer Meeting, Worship Service, and membership participation. During his pastorate, the church became debt free on September 6, 1960. Once again the church was without a pastor because of the sudden death of Reverend Sheppard on January 14, 1961. The Assistant Pastor, Reverend T. C. Bowie became leader again until Reverend Warren H. Brown was called as Pastor on August 6, 1964.
Under the leadership of Reverend Warren H. Brown, other activities were initiated such as ordination of ministers, new auxiliaries, annual events, children’s worship and deacons were added to the Board of Deacons, visitation of the sick, bus ministry, nursing home visitation. Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Needy, Outreach Programs, and other social concerns were added also.
On February 16, 1967, the church purchased 4 ½ acres of land on the corner of Line Avenue and East 74th Street for $55,000.00 and on July 9, 1967 the church purchased the First Assembly of God building at 6906 Henderson Avenue for $140,000.00. During the transitional move from East 70th Street location to Henderson Avenue location, services were held in the Eden Garden Junior High School Auditorium for two months. On the first Sunday of December, 1974 the church held its worship service at our present locale of 6906 Henderson Avenue. A Double-Note Burning Celebration was held on January 25, 1976, and two flags (the Christian Flag and the American Flag) were given to the church by Sister Mamie Palmer’s Family.
After thirty-one years of service Reverend Warren Brown died, and Reverend Michael Anthony Brown was called as Pastor. Reverend Brown was installed March 21, 1996 and served for 12 years until his death. Under his leadership, the church membership continued to grow, renovations were made, Board of Deacons increased, Prayer Meeting, Bible Study, and Sunday School were restructured, a Women’s Auxiliary was organized, and a daycare facility opened (The First Step Child Development Center). Pastor Brown serviced the congregation through December 2006.
The church united in prayer to God for the future pastor of our 119 year Christian family and on April 24, 2007, by majority vote, Dr. Henry L. Armington, Sr. was called to serve. Dr. Armington preached his first sermon as the pastor on Mother’s Day 2007. The church has been energized to rise, act, and sincerely accept the challenge of a Twenty-Five Year Vision Plan. Under his cognizance, an additional sixty ministries were added to accommodate future church growth and participation in Kingdom Building. On, November 18, 2007, the First Baptist Church of Cedar Grove installed a man with skills and knowledge of administration, leadership, and management to enhance the membership and community continual “Rising Up, Bursting Out Without Restraints”.
Through continual prayer and obedience to the will of God, Pastor Armington introduced and commenced the labor of a Twenty-Five Year Vision Plan in 2008. During the 1st year of the visionary plan, a church webpage was established (www.firstbaptistcedargrove.org) to keep members and the public informed of important church events and dates to remember, an appointed church board formulated and maintained an accurate copy of the Church Constitution and Bylaws, an organizational chart (Line of Authority) was established outlining the Administrative Staff, Ministry Directors were carefully screened and assigned after completion of New Members Orientation, updates were made to the Charter and Tax Exemption, and The Warren Brown Scholarship Fund was established to financially assist high school seniors with higher education.
Through Dr. Armington’s revitalization of the New Members Orientation Ministry, all new members were armed with bibles and new member’s packages containing information about church ministries and annual activities. All services attendance grew; Sunday School, Bible Study averaged 70 or more each week, and Morning Worship added about 70 new members.
True to the church’s Mission and Vision Statement of Kingdom Building through informing and representing God, Dr. Armington maintained public visibility through ministering quarterly at Wade Correctional Center, the organization and implementation of the Gathering of Eagles 5th Sunday fellowships, the Radio Broadcast (It’s All About Jesus) on KOKA (980 AM), and taking his message on the road to various churches for global ministry. The first church climate control survey was conducted and First Baptist Church, Cedar Grove realized it had its finger on the pulse.
During 2009; the 2nd year of the Vision Plan, membership continued to increase. Through a renewed commitment, the church became debt free. On November 13, 2009, a note burning celebration was held in conjunction with Pastor Armington’s 2nd anniversary. A new scholarship was inducted in care of the late Warren H. Brown, to assist students with higher education cost. Under the direction of the late Minister Vivian Shepherd (sunset March 3, 2010), Mayor Cedric Glover, Police Chief Henry Whitehorn, and other local leaders became active participants in the Prison/Jail Outreach Ministry’s plan to prevent juvenile delinquents from becoming repeat offenders. The Street Ministry was edified and armed with neighborhood maps in an effort to canvas the community with His good news and collect mailing information for future church newsletters. Operation Christmas Child Ministry implemented the Christmas dinner and gift program with displaced families at the Providence House. The year 2009 became the year of community involvement under Pastor Armington’s leadership.
Pastor Armington’s tenure with the First Baptist Church, Cedar Grove, ended April 24, 2011. After successfully completing his God-given assignment for FBC, which included getting the church out of debt and implementing sixty plus ministries to accommodate church growth and participation in Kingdom Building, God saw fit to bless and move Pastor Armington further in the ministry of Kingdom Building to a church in Denver Colorado. First Baptist is forever grateful to God for his many blessings and our spiritual growth under the leadership of Dr. Henry L. Armington, Sr.
Once again the church united in prayer to God for the future pastor of our 123 year Christian family and on November 15, 2011, by majority vote, Dr. Joseph Hall, Jr. was called to serve. Dr. Hall preached his first sermon as the pastor on November 27, 2011. The church was greatly blessed as Dr. Hall allowed the Spirit of God to use him in a mighty way with a powerful message entitled “Do It Again!”— (Luke 5:1-6). Within the short period of time Pastor Hall has been with us, God has blessed us and allowed us to continue growing spiritually, mentally, and physically under our new leadership.
God has brought First Baptist Church, Cedar Grove from a mighty long way and we will continue to prayerfully move forward in Kingdom Building as we build on God’s solid foundation, which stands firm.— (2nd Timothy 2:19).
“THANKS BE TO GOD FOR ALL HE HAS DONE!”