A Walk Through History - The Making of A Ministry

 

Old St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1905 by Rev. R. H. Drake and was located across the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks one block west of south 8th street in West Memphis, Arkansas.

 

The Deacons who served during his tenure were Bro. George Wiley and Bro. Charlie Sullivan.

 

Rev. M. J. Hardin was elected pastor in 1920 and served until 1927; he left to organize what is now known as New St. Paul M. B. Church.

 

Bro. Hugh Washington was the first elected secretary of Old Saint Paul MB Church. Those elected to serve after him were Sister Gertrude Payne and Sister Rachel Collins. Sister Lucille Roberts-Holbrook who was elected in 1944 and retired in 1996 served longer than any of her predecessors. "Cille", as she was affectionately called, was a faithful servant: she went home to be with the Lord on September 1, 1997.

 

In 1927, Rev. J. G. Randolph was elected pastor and Old St. Paul was rebuilt under his leadership in 1930.

 

Also, our first youth department was organized by Sister Pinkie Richardson in 1935. She was excellent with children and guided many youth in the right direction.

 

Pastor Randolph had a vision in the early 1950's to move the Church from its present location (behind the railroad tracks) to 504 South 8th street. He believed that future construction and rezoning of the property would eventually interfere with the Church at the present location. Therefore, he suggested purchasing property elsewhere: five lots were purchased at the 8th street location for $500.00 dollars cash. A savings account was opened at what was then known as Federal Loan Savings on Broadway and we were able to save $5,624.13.

Rev. Randolph was a good and dedicated pastor. Many souls were led to Christ under his leadership and teaching. On April 12, 1958, at John Gaston Hospital, Pastor Randolph was called home to be with the Lord.

 

Deacons serving during this period were Bro. Lee Paine, Bro. B. T. Toney, Bro. Elaine Williams, Bro. Lee Gilbert, Bro. David Phillips, Bro. Governor Kellogg, Bro. Charlie Johnson #1, Bro. Charlie Johnson #2, Bro. H. Gordon, Bro. Sylvester Freeman, Bro. John Thomas, Bro. Robert Henderson, Bro. Lee Boyce, Bro. Virtue Smith, Bro. Haywood Thornton, Bro. Jesse Miller, Bro. Albert Sutton, Bro. Isaiah Ferguson, Bro. Anderson McGowan, Bro. Luscious Smith, and Bro. Willie Ed Roberts.

 

Mothers serving during his tenure were Sis. Pearlie McNeil, Sis. Lezeaner Garrison, Sis. Maggie Levils, Sis. Mary Purdy, Sis. Eliza Johnson, Sis. Effie Gordon, Sis. Rebecca Hand, Sis. S. W. Willis, Sis. Callie Willis, Sis. Inator Henderson, Sis. Florence Miller, Sis. Beatrice Sutton, and Sis. Vertha Harris.

 

On August 25, 1958, the Church held a meeting to elect a new pastor and elected Rev. Herman Breckenridge. Although he was extremely ill at the time of his election, God healed his body and he assumed his pastoral duties on November 6, 1958.

 

After the election of Pastor Breckenridge, the church officials decided to demolish the old church building (located across the railroad tracks) and build a new one. On October 26, 1958, with $6,004.13 in the treasury, Old Saint Paul Church broke ground to build a new sanctuary. The church was determined not to have a mortgage payment. Therefore, we continued to raise money for the building project and paid as we built. Worship services we held at Beautiful Zion Baptist Church, 420 South 15th Street until our new facility was completed. Thank God they graciously opened their doors and allow us to worship. On the second Sunday in June 1959, with Rev. Breckenridge leading the way, the Old St. Paul Church family marched from Beautiful Zion Baptist Church to its new home at 504 South 8th Street debt free. What a spiritual celebration it was!

 

Deacon Booker T. Toney (a member of the fellowship) was the builder and Rev. J. W. Oliver the brick mason.

 

The Deacons who served during Rev. Breckenridge's tenure were Bro. B. T. Toney, Bro. Frank Purdy, Bro. Leo S. Boyd, Bro. Willie Ed Roberts, Sr., Bro. Lucious Smith, Sr., Bro. Jessie Horton, Bro. Willie Watson, and Bro. Howard Smith.

 

The Mothers who served were Sis. Lula Yarbrough, Sis. Lucinda Coffee, Sis. Aggie Jones, Sis. Carrie Thomas, Sis. Beatrice Purdy, Sis. Devella Kellogg.

 

Reverend Herman Breckenridge was called home to eternal rest in March 1970.

 

In August of 1970, the church elected Rev. George Moore as pastor. Rev. Moore was a loyal and devoted pastor. Under his leadership, the church did major repairs to the cafeteria and parking lot area; also, we installed our first central heating and air units; and carpeted and paneled the sanctuary. He was a generous pastor who often purchased and donated tables, major appliances and other items to the church. Many souls were led to Christ and many needed families were assisted during his tenure.

 

Pastor Moore served this church faithfully for 21 years; and in June of 1991, he announced that he would retire on July 12, 1991. The church accepted his statement. The church did not have any debt and had a bank account totaling $8,942.29. He served as Pastor emeritus until he went home to be with the Lord on March 5, 1995.

 

Deacons serving under his leadership were Bro. William Miller, Bro. Arie Burns, Bro. Porter Ferguson, Bro. James Jones, Bro. Lee Williams, Bro. Alvin Wyrick, Bro. Odie Blakely, Bro. Hallie Davis, Bro. Houston Thomas, Bro. Howard Smith, Bro. Jessie Cozerl, and Bro. Jessie Allen.

 

Mothers serving were Sis. Elizabeth Hammond, Sis. Rachel Williams, Sis. Irene Wyrick, Sis. Maggie T. Moore, Sis. Arbell Freeman, Sis. Louise Garrett, Sis. Johnnie Mae Thomas, Sis. Lucille Allen, Sis. Willie Mae Miller and Sis. Beatrice Purdy.

 

After Pastor Moore's retirement, the Deacons appointed Rev. J. L. Washington, an associate minister of the church, to serve as pulpit manager until a pastor was elected.

 

After many days of fasting and praying, the church elected Minister Frederick S. Anthony to serve as pastor. He assumed his pastoral duties on September 26, 1991. Under his leadership, many souls have been led to Christ and the overall ministry has expanded. In January 1992, we began to worship each Sunday morning and also instituted a mid-week Bible study. The Sunday school and Christian Education Ministries have grown both spiritually and numerically: they offer both traditional and non-traditional courses. Four Assistant Pastors, a Deaconess Ministry, and a Trustee Ministry have been appointed to help facilitate the multiple ministries birthed during his leadership.

 

Pastor Anthony has also been an instrument of change as he recognized Old St. Paul's first female minister. Bertha Mae Lewis answered her call to ministry against much resistance and preached her first sermon here at Old St. Paul. Since then this church has been a beacon to women who have been called to minister the word of God. Many women have followed in the footsteps of Minister Lewis including two female Assistant Pastors who are serving in that capacity today.

 

In September 2004, the church broke ground to build a new sanctuary that included classrooms and offices. The Building Committee Members were Donnaire Granger, Chairperson; Dorothy Seymore, Vice-Chairperson; Natlon Guster, Secretary; George Blakely, Jessie Coleman, Eugene Dickson, Lori Dixon, Johnny Dorsey, Linda Dorsey, James Graham, Edward Granger, Grandon Gray, Jessie Gray, Dennis Hutchison, Alexander Ivy, Rickey McCauley, Gordon McCoy, Alfred Swift, Al Sykes, Joe Thompson, John Thomas, and Alvin Wyrick.

 

 

In spite of the many difficulties, the first worship service was held on January 11, 2009: Hundreds of members marched from the old sanctuary to the new worship center singing, "We have come this far by faith". God has brought us from "Vision to Victory".

 

In 2009, the church opened its office Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM to better serve the members and community. It employs a full-time staff which includes an Office Manager (Eair Anthony), Secretary (Patricia Sykes), Custodial Manager (Tommie Sample) and Custodial Staff (Zelma Tucker).

 

Assistant Pastors serving during Pastor Anthony's tenure are Jackson L. Washington, John Roberts, Jeanette Gant, Lovell Howard, and Bernice Edwards.

 

Deacons serving during his tenure are James Graham, Johnny Dorsey, Alfred Swift, Richard Miller, Alfonso Sykes, Edward Granger, Harrell DeShazier, Brian Gardner, James Tyler, Rickey McCauley, Alvin Wyrick, Joe Harris, Josephus Blakely, Jesse Coleman, Ollie Washington, Dennis Hutchinson, Robert Ruth, John Thomas, Booker T. Toney, Jessie Gray, William Miller, Arie Burns, Porter Ferguson, Houston Thomas, Howard Smith, Jessie Cozerl, Willie Howard, James Jones, and Jessie Allen.

 

Trustees serving during his tenure are Robert Bateman, Jessie Gray, Tommy Williams, George Blakely, Tommy Bonds, Linda Dorsey, Jessie Gray, Alvin Wyrick, Odessa Albright, Ulysses Catha, Lori Dixon, Grandon Gray, Natlon Guster, and Alexander Ivy.

 

Mothers serving during his tenure are Louise Garrett, Lue Virgie Miller, Lucille Roberts-Holbrook, Beatrice Corzel, Ida Mae Ferguson, Rosie Brown, Beatrice Purdy, Mother Hayes, Lucille Allen, Pearlie MaeWillis, Louvenia Washington, Virginia Washington, Maggie T. Moore, Henrietta Clark, Arbell Freeman, Johnnie Mae Thomas, Maple Sturghill, Carrie Mundy, Evelena Ball, Willie Mae Miller, Willie Mae Franklin, Rosie Mangum, Zenobia Graham, Elma Howard, Gwendolyn DeShazier, Ethel Watkins, Dorothy Seymore, Geraldine Cox, Maggie Prater, Liz Watkins, Shenia Harmon, Beulah Owens, Ruby Phillips, Cora Freeman, Shirley Starker, Eldora Johns, and Minister Faye Burns.

 

Deaconesses serving during his tenure are Shirley Blakely, Doristine Brown, Brenda Harris, Brenda Tyler, Billie Williams, Lucille Smith, Zelma Tucker, Joyce Washington, Lisa Coleman, Patricia Sykes, Melvia McCauley, Kay Swift, Mary Alice Catha, Joreatha Gray, Mitzi Hutchinson, and Helen Johnson.

 

We thank God for Old St. Paul: she has been declared the Mother Church of all the Black Baptist Churches in the city of West Memphis. Praise God for all the blessings he has given us. Truly, we have come this far by faith leaning on the Lord!