At the turn of the 20th century, a small group of faithful bible students probably had no idea that they were planting the seed for a great thing!
In the year 1905, at a typical gathering of the group, a Sunday school was organized with 5 members: The Rev. Marshall H. Payne and wife, Mrs. Georgia Payne, Mrs. Emma Liggins, Mrs. Mary Lomax, and Mr. W.L. Booker. This group of 5 met faithfully and recognizing the challenges facing African American people during the turn of the century, saw a need to spread the gospel and to invite others to join them.
Membership increased to the extent that this Sunday school group became a church.
Thus, the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, a daughter of Ebenezer Baptist Church and under the leadership of Rev. Marshall Payne, was organized on July 27, 1905, on Meadow Street, 2 blocks north of Broad Street.
During the next 9 years, membership grew and a new edifice was erected at the corner of Granby Street and Rosewood Avenue. The first worship service at 1902 Rosewood was held in May 1914.
Rev. Marshall H. Payne, the first pastor of Mt. Vernon, would go on to lead the flock for 34 years, during which time the congregation continued to grow.
Rev. Payne went home to glory on May 2, 1939.
Toward the end of Rev. Payne’s life, the onset of declining health limited his pastoral duties and assistance was provided in 1936 by Rev. Lawrence Roosevelt Taylor (Notis) of First Baptist Church, South Richmond.
Rev. Taylor’s official appointment as pastor of Mt. Vernon occurred on December 8, 1939. During Pastor Taylor’s tenure, the church continued to grow, overcoming obstacles such as the onset of WWII, and an electrical fire in 1944, which caused worship services to be held elsewhere on a temporary basis.
Growth continued to be evident as the Sunday school class exceeded 100 in attendance! The Baptist Youth Planning Union (BYPU) which gave instructional Christian education to young people, also provided an avenue for fellowship, and was well-attended.
In 1949, the church was released from the bondage of debt, with retirement of the $40,000 mortgage.
Mt. Vernon was soon to face another challenge in 1951, when a summer tornado wreaked havoc in the West End. The homes of many members in the neighborhood were destroyed and the church’s steeple was ripped off! But as always, the dedicated membership looked to God for direction and soon the steeple was restored.
During the next decades other improvements were made. In 1964, a new addition on the north side of the church was dedicated and a central air conditioning system was installed. In 1973, land was purchased to provide our present parking lot.
Pastor Taylor and his wife represented Mt. Vernon well and served as role models for the congregation. After nearly fifty years of service to Mt. Vernon, he retired with the distinction of Pastor Emeritus.
When Pastor Taylor retired, Mt. Vernon looked to the Lord for continuing spiritual growth and traditions of accomplishment. The first goal was to secure a new pastor. That goal became a reality when Rev. Sylvester Thomas Smith (Ruby) was called as the third pastor in March, 1986.
Pastor Smith fondly referred to Mt. Vernon as a sleeping giant, as he saw the enormous spiritual potential of the church. Under his leadership, many ministries were newly adopted or revitalized as well as the church’s physical structure. Some of the ministries included: the Church Nursery, Sunshine Seniors, Advisory Council, Men’s Shelter Outreach, Tape Ministry, Kitchen Committee, Moments with the Youth, Prison Ministry, Couples Ministry, ground work for the church constitution, and a church newsletter. As Mt. Vernon endeavored to supply laborers for the harvest, attention was given to expanding the Deacons’ Ministry. In January 1991, 4 female deacons-elect became the first to be ordained deacons by the church.
As in the past, the church continued to thrive under the leadership of under-shepherd, Pastor Smith. In 1992, a challenging project was begun in which to provide an addition to the church edifice. Trustee Chairman, Ollie L. Hatcher, Jr., worked tirelessly on the endeavor even as his health became impaired. Due to his untimely death, and in recognition of his determination to see the project through, the addition was named in his honor as the Ollie L. Hatcher, Jr. Memorial Fellowship Hall.
Pastor Smith helped to lead Mt. Vernon through many momentous occasions in its history, until he received the call to lead another Christian flock in April 1994.
Mt. Vernon’s renovation phase to the main sanctuary began in August 1994 (in the absence of a pastor), and thanks be to God was completed in November, 1994. The congregation offered praise and thanksgiving to God during a heartwarming re-dedication service on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1994.
Yes, God showed favor to Mt. Vernon with the blessings of structural improvements, increased membership, and dynamic leaders. We, in turn, count those blessings as means by which to serve the Lord better and to be a blessing to others. As a body, the need to grow in knowledge of Jesus and to be obedient to His will was ever-present. However, earthly pastoral leadership was missing, and the church elected its 4th pastor, Rev. Ronnie Lee Fleming (Cathy) on July 23, 1995. His installation service was held on November 12, 1995.
Under Pastor Fleming’s leadership, the church acquired the property at 1928 Rosewood Avenue, and a church van. In addition, the church constitution was formally adopted. Pastor Fleming also initiated the Back to School Night Program that is designed to encourage students and parents as well as provide basic school supplies. Pastor Fleming was instrumental in providing vision for the funding and celebration of Mt. Vernon’s centennial in July, 2005.
As Mt. Vernon’s pastor, Rev. Fleming preached his last sermon on May 27, 2007, in pursuit of professional opportunities.
In the absence of a pastor, Mt. Vernon, empowered by the Holy Spirit, continued its ministries and outreach, and souls continued to be saved and revived. A milestone was celebrated on February 22, 2009, immediately following morning service, with a mortgage burning ceremony of thanksgiving and praise (pay-off of the Fellowship Hall, sanctuary beautification, and other consolidated improvements). In recognition of the goodness of the Lord, members were requested to donate food to the local central food bank, and the response was overflowing boxes of food.
On July 12, 2009, the Mt. Vernon family elected its fifth pastor, Rev. William B. Wiggins II (Cherie) of Florida. He brought to Mt. Vernon, a biblically-based approach to structure and order of the 21st century church. Pastor and People sought to meet the great commission of Matthew 28: 19-20. Through a strong evangelical ministry, Pastor Wiggins, through the grace of God, aided in adding to the membership, particularly among youths and young adults. We thank God for those who have accepted Christ, joined the Mt. Vernon family, and for those who have rekindled their spiritual relationships with Christ.
Pastor Wiggins was instrumental in the encouragement and preparation of the first ordination of female ministers (July 4, 2010) in the personages of Rev. Ernestine Smoot and Rev. Barbara Robinson. Pastor Wiggins and his wife helped revitalization of the Couple’s Ministry, and fostered inter-generational fellowship among members of the church. He implemented mid-day bible study as another learning opportunity, as well as continuation of 7:30 p.m. bible study on Wednesday. With the goal of maximizing educational resources, he implemented a Christian Education Ministry.
Pastor Wiggins gave his last sermon as pastor in December, 2011.
In November of 2013, the Rev. Michael L. W. Moore was called as the 6th pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. His pastorage began December 1, 2014.
Under the leadership of Pastor Moore, Mt. Vernon has added many to its membership through the professions of new converts and by statements of Christian experience.
With an emphasis on the welfare of the congregation, Pastor Moore saw the need for a dedicated contact person through the appointment of a Minister of Congregational Care. He also implemented the inaugural (now annual) church-wide Ministry Fair to inform members of the various purposes and functions of ministries, and to motivate more participation in church ministries.
Pastor Moore also fosters partnership and visibility in the local community, and a campaign is underway for Ministry Expansion. He is mindful of the role of the church in the community in meeting the social needs of the underserved, as well as the spiritual saving and edification of all.
The year 2014 finds Mt. Vernon Baptist Church being led by an undershepherd who is energetic, caring, and a God-led visionary. Mt. Vernon embraces the faith journey with Pastor Moore, and receives with gratitude what God has gifted him to share.