City's second-oldest African-American church celebrates 150th anniversary

City's second-oldest African-American church celebrates 150th anniversary

August 14th, 2016 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Atheria Freeman dons a bonnet for her 19th century costume before a rehearsal for a celebration of Second Missionary Baptist Church's 150th anniversary on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The church celebrates its anniversary Sunday.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Robert Maddox, center, and his wife Deborah are dressed in 19th century attire during their rehearsal for a celebration of Second Missionary Baptist Church's 150th anniversary on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The church celebrates its anniversary Sunday.

Robert Maddox, center, and his wife Deborah are...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Lillie Wills sets programs on chairs before a rehearsal for a celebration of Second Missionary Baptist Church's 150th anniversary on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The church celebrates its anniversary Sunday.

Lillie Wills sets programs on chairs before a...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Robert Maddox puts on overalls to get into his 19th-century costume before a rehearsal for a celebration of Second Missionary Baptist Church's 150th anniversary on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The church celebrates its anniversary Sunday.

Robert Maddox puts on overalls to get into...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Church membersĀ 100-year-old and older

Second Missionary Baptist Church paid tribute to members 100 years old and older during its 150th anniversary.

Evelyn Elizabeth Robinson Hardin, born April 29, 1914, joined the church in 1924 under Pastor F.M. Hutchinson.

Georgia Ann Harris, born Dec. 13, 1914, joined the church in 2013 under pastor Paul A. McDaniel.

Andrew Leon Jackson Sr., born March 1, 1915, joined the church in 1933 under pastor Samuel Pettigrew.

Ella Mae Savage, born May 12, 1907, joined the church around 1941 under pastor W.W. Taylor.

Second Missionary Baptist Church, the second-oldest African-American church in Chattanooga, home to black civic leaders, retired educators and administrators, is celebrating 150 years of triumph and praising God.

"When you think about a church being established one year after the Civil War and still in existence today, it outlines how we survived with our faith and belief and we're still going strong," said Rayburn Traughber, church trustee.

After a weekend of commemorative events, including an elegant purple and gold anniversary banquet and dramatization of the church history on Friday, the church culminates its sesquicentennial celebration at 10:45 a.m. today.

The Rev. Dr. Paul McDaniel, the longest-serving pastor ,who retired in June 2014, will be the speaker.

"I thought about the labor and sacrifices made over these 150 years," said McDaniel, pastor emeritus and the church's 20th pastor. "We have invested too much of ourselves and resources to think about failure, so I am pleased to see a healthy congregation under excellent leadership."

McDaniel and several previous pastors outlined hopes and plans made in the past that can only be completed in the future.

The church installed the Rev. Ernest Reid as pastor on Oct. 18, 2015.

"We have a bright future," said Reid. "We look forward to doing more in ministry and furthering our outreach in the community."

Reid, a native of Suffolk, Va., pastored two other churches before coming to Chattanooga. He became the youngest elected official in Portsmouth, Va., in 2010 when he was elected to the Portsmouth City School Board. The husband and father of two was also the former NAACP president in Reading, Pa.

Reid said he's motivated to work for social justice for those in need and believes community and civic involvement are vital in the work of the church.

Reid's Second Agenda 20/20 represents a series of goals and objectives including increased membership, capital improvement and community outreach. Specific goals include repairing the facility and parking lot, and upgrading the church's website and social media interfaces for more timely and effective outreach and communication with members and guests, according to church documents.

"We've got a great future," said Traughber. "We have a very young, dynamic pastor and I think he's going to do well, not only being an asset to the the church but the community."

***

Former slaves organized the church in October 1866, a year after the U.S. Congress passed the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.

The church organized in the Wauhatchie area near Tiftonia, but moved to Hill Street in the 1870's to avoid harassment from whites who lived nearby, according to a church history.

D.P. Montague, joint owner of the Rolling Mill where many church members worked, donated land at 10th and Elm streets for the first church building. The Rev. Mason Burt, a charter member of the North Chickamauga and Chattanooga District, was the first pastor of what was first called Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for the cool, refreshing trees that shielded members from the sun as they walked to work. The church's third pastor, Rev. R.C. Richardson, changed the name to reflect its establishment as the city's second black Baptist church.

Second Missionary became one of the largest black churches in the city, moving to 14th and Grove and then to its Third Street location and, in the mid-1980's, a multimillion expansion.

Several of the city's black civic leaders attend Second Missionary Baptist. McDaniel was a Hamilton County commissioner for 20 years. Yusuf Hakeem and Moses Freemen are Chattanooga City Councilmen and Curtis Collier is a senior judge for the U.S. District Court.

Even early on, "Second had a lot of political juice," said Traughber, former director of the Chattanooga Housing Development Organization.

As early as the 1880s, member Hiram Tyree served on the old Board of Alderman, the legislative branch of city government. In the 1930s through the '50s, Walt Robinson was the only black with an office in City Hall, according to Traughber. His job title was truant officer, but he did other things, including helping people get jobs and get into college. He also published the Observer weekly newspaper.

Traughber remembers some 800 active members in the 1980s when the church was at its peak. He estimates there are about 250 active members today, but at least 50 people have joined the church since Reid became pastor.

Charles Green laughed when asked how long he's been a member of Second Missionary Baptist Church.

Then he tried to count the years.

Aside from four years in the military and the 10 years TVA sent him to work in Knoxville, Green has worshipped at Second Missionary Baptist church all of his 76 years.

"That's my home," he said. "I've never searched for anything else. It's my family."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.


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