145 Years: To God Be The Glory

On October 19, 1873, Reverend Moses Wilson, Sister Julia Taylor and Brother John Ward met in Sister Taylor’s home. They discussed what was then just a dream in the hearts and minds of these newly freed slaves. The dream was to organize a church where they could practice freedom of religion. At the close of that meeting the dream had become a reality and the First Baptist Church of Rosslyn, Virginia had been founded.

On February 15, 1874, Reverend Wilson was elected as the first pastor of the newly organized church. He served as its Under Shepherd until his passing on January 27, 1883. Under Reverend Wilson’s leadership, Brother Thomas Ford organized the Sunday School in April of 1877.

From 1882 to 1921 the following pastors served First Baptist Church: Reverend J.W. Gaines, Reverend Guy Berkley, Reverend George Cole, Reverend Theodore Williams, Reverend Robert Goff, Reverend Richard Holmes, and Reverend William A. Carter.

In 1920, Reverend Augustus Lewis was called as Pastor and served until 1929. During Reverend Lewis’ pastorate, he established the first building fund and purchased a building site.

In 1921, First Baptist Church called Reverend J. D. Catlett who served for 17 years. During his pastorate, construction of the church was completed and the mortgage burned.

The Church called Reverend Henry Houston as Pastor in 1942 and he served for 13 years. Building improvements were made and new programs were initiated during his pastorate.

In January 1962, First Baptist called Reverend Carl M. Patterson as Pastor. Pastor Patterson soon began to notice a change in the landscape of the area around the church. Rosslyn was changing to become a high-rise business district and was no longer a suitable location for the church. After much prayer and meditation, Pastor Patterson led the congregation to relocate to its present site on Minnesota Avenue in Southeast Washington, DC in November 1965.

The Church paid off the indebtedness of $225,000 and the mortgage burned in 1978. Accomplishments during Reverend Patterson’s 30 year tenure include remodeling of the main sanctuary, the purchase of two apartment buildings, and the establishment of many new church ministries and programs. Reverend Patterson retired in June 1992 and was called from labor to reward September 10, 1992.

From July 1992 to October 1992, Reverend John L. Young who served as Associate Minister to Reverend Patterson, fulfilled the position of Pulpit Supply Minister.

On November 1, 1992, the Church selected Reverend H. Wesley Wiley to serve as Interim Pastor. Reverend Wiley served faithfully and with distinction until June 1994. He provided comfort, spiritual healing and bonding during our time of transition. His kind and concerned mannerism and leadership proved a great source of blessing and spiritual strength to the congregation during the time of pastoral searching.

On Friday, May 13, 1994, Reverend Eldridge Spearman was elected to serve as Pastor of First Baptist Church and began his pastorate on July 1, 1994. Pastor Spearman’s pastorate was one of enthusiasm, motivation, inspiration, spirituality and growth. He served First Baptist consistent with Peter’s exhortation to the elders of the church, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being an example to the flock.” (1Peter 5:2-3)

Our service to the community shows unparalleled growth under his leadership and propelled this church to become an “open-door – seven-day-a-week” service and support to its membership and community.

The accomplishments under Pastor Spearman’s leadership are many. He enhanced our bible study classes and training to include Spring and Fall Bible Institutes; initiated two (2) Sunday Worship Services; a Diaconate (male and female Deacons); revitalized the Youth Ministry. He ordained three ministers and unselfishly supported the training of all those called into the Gospel Ministry. For the first time in the history of First Baptist, we have an ordained female minister. Eleven men and women were ordained into the Diaconate Ministry.

First Baptist was the first church in Washington, DC, “East of the River” to host the one-day evening session
of the Baptist Convention of DC and Vicinity. Another first, the President of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc., the Reverend William J. Shaw, was the guest speaker for our 2001 Annual Joint Ministry Day.

Several new Outreach Ministries were initiated: RSVP (an anti-addictions ministry); Adopt-a-Neighbor project
(Greenway Community), Adopt-a-School project (Kimball Elementary School); Education Outreach which includes computer training, tutoring, education recognition, college tours and an annual Job Fair/Career Day; a Summer Day Camp; an Evangelistic Team to include feeding the hungry, and an annual Tent Crusade; an Angel Tree Ministry partnered with Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia (providing Christmas gifts for children of incarcerated men and women); and began a Prisons Ministry.

Under Pastor Spearman’s leadership, the church’s Home Mission was reinvigorated through the SHARE Ministry,
Clothes Closet and Food Pantry; since 1999, our Foreign Missions Ministry has sent up to four missionaries for
two-weeks in Uganda and South Africa, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and provide assistance to orphans and AIDS patients. We were the first black missionaries from America to visit the area of Lira. In addition, we hosted ministries from Denmark, Uganda and South Africa here at First Baptist.

Pastor Spearman led the Church into a renovation and remodeling program that greatly enhanced the beauty of the edifice in both the upper and lower levels. The church is now completely accessible to the disabled through the installation of a ramp, an elevator, and an accessible rest room on the main level.

A 5’10” grand piano, an electric keyboard and a fifteen-passenger van were purchased; full-time administrative and janitorial services were established.

Pastor Spearman’s vision for First Baptist was built on the pillars of SWEEP – Service, Worship, Education,
Evangelism, and Pastoral Care.

On October 5, 2002, Pastor Spearman was chosen and called to pastor Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. A Search Committee was selected as we prayerfully sought another leader to take us to our next level. The Church prayed for a Pastor who loves God, loves God’s Word, and is obedient to God’s Word – “... For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV).

On December 11, 2004 the prayers and petitions of both First Baptist and the Rev. Dr. Harold N. Brooks, Jr. were answered when First Baptist Church elected Reverend Brooks as Pastor. He accepted the call, and another chapter in the Church’s rich history began February 6, 2005. Rev. Brooks’ visions for First Baptist are capsulated in the Five E’s:

  • Education (establishing Biblically based curriculum for all ages),

  • Emancipation (breaking the emotional, financial and spiritual bondages of the people),

  • Empowerment (implementing programs to address the needs of the members and surrounding community),

  • Enhancement (building upon the power and legacy of First Baptist by establishing higher levels of Christian

  • greatness), and

  • Evangelism (spreading the Gospel inside and outside the walls of the church).

Pastor Brooks’ vision for First Baptist has not changed. Since 2005, he has pursued his vision for First Baptist with diligence, commitment and faith that God would give him the power needed to succeed. John 14:12 says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do..." It comes as no surprise that God has done, is doing and will continue to do great things for our Church under the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Harold N. Brooks, Jr. Following is a listing of some of the most stellar of his accomplishments through the years:

  • Deacon Lizzie Smith was appointed as the first female Chair of the Diaconate and  Trustee Velma Wyman was appointed as the first female Chair of the Trustee Ministry at First Baptist.

  • The Church's website was enhanced.

  • Wireless Internet was installed throughout the Church.

  • Cable TV was installed.

  • The sound system and Media Ministry were enhanced.

  • Our Youth Ministry was revived and a new Bible Study for the youth was initiated.

  • The Children's Church was instituted.

  • The Educational Outreach Ministry sponsored a trip to the White House for sixty FBC youth, parents, mentors, youth leaders and community supporters.

  • Reverend Dorothy Parrish was the first female minister ordained in First Baptist Church - May 2008.

  • An interdenominational partnership was established with other Southeast Churches to address the spiritual and social issues confronting the residents of Ward Seven.

  • In 2009, Pastor Brooks was instrumental in forging "THE CONNECTION" - a unique fellowship wherein First Baptist Church collaborates with Edgewood Baptist Church, Mt. Enon Baptist Church and Potomac Baptist Church to address spiritual, social and economic needs common to our surrounding communities.

  • The male-mentoring component was strengthened with Kimball Elementary School.

  • First Baptist Church was awarded the Presidential Citation by the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation in recognition and appreciation of our contribution to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Effort.

  • HOPE Ministry, dealing with issues related to HIV/AIDS, was instituted.

  • The United Planning Organization Senior Life Center has been established to meet the growing nutrition and social needs of senior citizens, ages 60 and over, living in Wards seven and eight.

  • Pin Points Theater After-School  Program was established to provide a safe and caring  environment for youth ages 10-18.

  • A Deacon's Family Ministry Plan was established to provide better care for the congregants of the Church.

  • Reverend Walter Oliver was ordained into the Ministry in 2012.

  • The Chairman's Award for Community Service was awarded to the Church from Marshall

  • Heights Community Development Organization.

  • Reverend Dorothy Parrish was the first female appointed as Executive Pastor, Deacon Lizzie M. Smith was the first female appointed as Church Administrator, and Reverend Virginia Williams was the first female appointed as Assistant Pastor.

  • Reverend Lawrence Lane was ordained in March 2013.

  • Ten members of the congregation have been ordained to serve on the Diaconate.

  • To date, seven young people have been consecrated to serve with the Diaconate.

  • Under the auspices of SEOM and the Green Ministry, a Rain Garden was planted and installed.

  • FBC co-sponsored A Mental Health Town Hall Meeting.

  • Continuing pursuit of "A Year of Manifestation," Pastor Brooks has charged the congregation to transform FBC into "A Sanctuary in the Heart of Southeast with a Heart to Serve."

  • In 2014, the focus was on Youth, Evangelism, Christian Education and effectively monitoring; mental health challenges. Steven Baron, the Head of the Department of Mental Health of the District of Columbia, along with seven other professionals participated in an FBC forum. This served as an impetus for the certification of 32 members of our congregation.

  • During the second half of 2014, a forum was held focusing on a major silent issue facing our community - domestic violence. We were addressed by Dr. Glenda Hodges, CEO, Still I Rise. This is a community-based empowerment organization for survivors of domestic violence. One Survivor of extreme violence spoke with us. She has written a play based on her horrendous experience in October 2014, that play was presented at Cramton Auditorium on the Howard University Campus. Support of this noteworthy effort was encouraged.

  • As the roster of graduates of our discipleship training has grown, we have witnessed more people placing their "hands to the plough refusing to turn back."

  • During the second half of 2015, a bullying forum was held. Our special guest was Ms. Nakanya K. Magby, MA. She is a specialist in Student Discipline and School Climate, District of Columbia Public Schools. Since bullying has become a major problem, it is imperative that measures be taken to address this dilemma. Ms. Magby was able to give insight into the magnitude of this pressing problem. Several other professionals participated in the forum and discussed such topics as reporting bullying, special investigations, creating a safety plan, and disciplinary consequences of bullying.

  • Additionally, there was a forum on Caregiving presented by the District of Columbia Office on aging. As our population grows, it is essential that the community become aware of what is involved in this vital service. This, and other forums, were informative and beneficial to the congregation and the community.

  • Seven Youths were selected to train to become Junior Deacons, and five adults were selected to train to become Deacons. The Youth Ministry re-instituted the Soul Cafe - a ministry comprised of youths of the congregation as well as youth from the community. This ministry serves to help youth to deal with the challenges they face in today’s society.

  • On the third Saturday of each month, a Club Thriver’s Cancer Ministry meets. Its goal is to teach and support the needs of Survivors, relatives and others. In 2016, this Ministry continues to actively serve First Baptist and community.

  • In 2016, the First Baptist Church continues to vigorously address community challenges and concerns. A forum, chaired by Dr. Raymond Petty, resumed the discussion of major concerns on Mental Health, Bullying, Care giving and Domestic Violence.  In addition, the 61 District Police Department sent officers to meet with churches in The Connection to address concerns of crime and violence in the community.

  • On October 9, 2016, a Diaconate Service of Ordination and Consecration was held. Deacons installed were: Brothers James Sullivan, Robert Sullivan, Jr., Gregory Lee Young and Sister Linda Watkins-Forrest. Five Junior Deacons were consecrated: Brothers Harold Brooks lll, Torin Camlin Brown, Crawford Harris V, Darius Mitchell White and Douglas B. Williams, Jr. It was a most inspiring celebration.

  • On February 12, 2017, Reverend Donna Heatley was ordained into the Ministry.
    Pastor Brooks' vision of "A Sanctuary in the Heart of Southeast with a Heart to Serve" continues to forge ahead. A Back to School Fair, to be held annually, provides school supplies, shares health information, offers workshops, hosts a mini College Fair, provides wholesome food and furnishes fun and entertainment for the neighboring community.

  • On March 28, 2017, Sister Marlene Fleming-Dillon and The Music Ministry had a Music Workshop with Phillip Carter, Musician, Gospel Recording Artist, Stellar Award Winner and Entrepreneur as Clinician. Topics included: What Makes Singing a Ministry, The Role/Relevance of Music in the Church, and How to Connect the Congregation to the Music.

  • On July 9, 2017, A Graduation Ceremony was held for the 2.7 Series Discipleship Training under the auspice of the Bible Institute. More disciples were added to further advance the Kingdom of God.

  • On July 23, 2017, A Diaconate Service of Ordination and Consecration was held. One Deacon was installed Brother Arthur Lemmon, and one Junior Deacon was consecrated: Sister Jazmyne Brooks.

  • On September 10, 2017, Pastor Brooks began teaching on "The Movement is Happening" - a phenomenal series on "The Christ Movement: The Community Paradigm."

As we celebrate 145 years of service to God, and as we serve God's people, we acknowledge that without Him, "We can do nothing." Most assuredly God has looked upon us with much favor.