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First Baptist Church of College Park, Maryland

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  • College Park, Maryland 20740
  • 301-474-3995

    Church History

    The History OF First Baptist Church of College Park

    In 1890, a few Baptist and Methodist believers in the Lakeland area of College Park, Maryland and nearby communities thought it worthwhile to have some form of worship. The few Blacks, who lived in Lakeland, decided to hold prayer meetings in the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, Mr. and Mrs. Larkin Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. James Gray, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Richmond, and Mrs. Melvina Johnson. Because these Christians were of two different denominations, they eventually decided to separate into two congregations. The Baptist believers organized, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, to become the First Baptist Church of Lakeland. Members continued the tradition of hosting prayer meetings in their respective homes because they had no building.

    In 1891, the congregants purchased a frame building for renovation. Subsequently, the cornerstone was laid and the newly repaired building became the first church in the Lakeland area. Rev. Robert Taylor became the Church’s first pastor. The exact date is uncertain; however, he resigned in 1901. That same year, Rev. Thomas Hall was called to pastor the small congregation. Under Rev. Hall’s aggressive leadership, a parcel of land was purchased from John C. Johnson, who was a deacon of the church and the principal of Lakeland School. After ten years of residency between the railroad and street car lines, the church was relocated to its current location at 5018 Lakeland Road. The land purchased from Principal Johnson would prove to be beneficial to the members of First Baptist as well as the community. The church and new pastor would later provide classroom space to an overcrowded and segregated Lakeland School. Succeeding Rev. Hall as pastor was Rev. C. R. Alexander. Other pastors included Rev. Frank Carter, Rev. Charles McCauley, Rev. George C. Lucas, and Rev. W. P. Abbott.

    In 1929, Rev. Robertson was called to pastor the church, 52 members were added to the church; the church was stuccoed; the church renewed its membership in the Mt. Bethel Baptist Association; the Sunday School joined the Mt. Bethel Sunday School Convention; the Lydia Missionary Circle and the Women’s Christian Training Union were organized; and, Rev. Kidd Claiborne became an ordained minister. Rev. Robertson resigned in 1933 and was succeeded by Rev. C. V. Brown who served six years. Rev. Brown was succeeded by Rev. J. A. Franklin who served 12 years. Under the Franklin administration many improvements were made. Renovations included extending the pulpit, adding a choir room, choir loft, and pastor’s study. In 1949, a new basement was added to the church which created an indebtedness of $4,372. In addition to the physical transformations to the building, Rev. Franklin organized the Men’s Club, Women’s Club and Ushers’ Board. Additionally, Rev. Franklin presented his congregants with their first ever electric water cooler. Rev. Franklin’s water cooler provided drinking water until 1963 at which time a new cooler was presented to the church by Rev. Harold Pitts and Deaconess Julia Pitts.

    After Rev. Franklin resigned in 1951, the church called Rev. Milton A. Covington, a son of Friendship Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Upon his arrival, Rev. Covington was greeted by curious members of the community and a small membership. The church had an outstanding debt of $3,253 which was incurred during the Franklin administration with the installation of the basement. In lieu of accepting a salary from the small struggling congregation, Rev. Covington suggested that all monies collected on the third Sunday of each month be given to him until such time a regular salary could be afforded.

    Under Rev. Covington’s pastorate, the church paid off their outstanding debt on March 12, 1956 and had its first mortgage burning service. I. L. Bowie became the first son of First Baptist Church under Rev. Covington’s leadership. Thomas L. S. Gross, Jr. became a licensed son of the church; subsequently, he accepted the call to start the True Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Deacon Harold Pitts, after graduating from the Washington Baptist Seminary, became a licensed son and later became Assistant to the Pastor. Rev. Roy Williams, a retired pastor, moved to the Lakeland community, became a member of the church and served as an associate minister of First Baptist. Other associate ministers included Rev. Curtis Gilmore, Rev. Beamon, and Rev. Kidd Claiborne. Realizing the dire need for major renovations to the church, Rev. Covington suggested the erection of a new edifice. Services were temporarily held in Lakeland Hall on Navahoe Street, while Pastor Covington, James Claiborne, Sr, Harold Pitts, and many other members of the church and community labored to complete the work. Church members marched into their new edifice in September 1962. New furniture, new pews and new musical instruments adorned the new sanctuary. The church purchased an adjacent lot to extend the parking.

    Central air conditioning was installed in 1966. The basement was sectioned to include a new kitchen, an office, and classrooms. The installation of bi-fold doors (1965) created four additional rooms which were used for Sunday School classrooms.

    In 1998, Rev. Dr. M. A. Covington retired from pastoring the First Baptist congregation after 47 years of continuous service. Named Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Dr. M. A. Covington passed on July 18, 2004. He was the longest serving pastor in the history of the church. During his pastorate, the church was renovated, torn down, rebuilt, modernized and expanded. New clubs were organized, singing groups were formed, property gained and partnerships established.

    On April 1, 1994, Rev. Stephen L. Wright, Sr., accepted the offer of Pastor M.A. Covington to serve as his assistant with the primary responsibility for organizing and maintaining a Youth Ministry. Rev. Wright assembled a staff and together, they set up a ministry that included annual Vacation Bible School and an Older Youth and Children’s Fellowship. Upon the illness and imminent retirement of Pastor Covington, in July 1998, Rev. Wright assumed the position of Interim Pastor and was elected Pastor on December 2, 1998.

    In 1999, Pastor Wright restructured all organizations and clubs into ministries. With his election as pastor, the ministerial staff grew, and its composition changed to include Felton Price, Jr., licensed March 2000 and later was appointed Associate Pastor in July 2006 and was available to provide support to the pastor whenever needed.; Jo Ann G. Pumphrey, licensed October 2000; Crystal Price, licensed June 2001; Clarence Bostic, licensed February 2003. Ministers Jo Ann Pumphrey and Crystal Price became the first women preachers to be licensed daughters of the church. Ministers Felton Price and Crystal Price became the first father-daughter ministers of the church. In October 2004, Rev. Albert Curry, formerly of Beulah Baptist Church in Washington, DC, joined First Baptist Church and the ministerial staff. In September 2005, Wilma Ogburn accepted her call and was licensed to preach. Under the unction of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Wright announced that Minister Jo Ann Pumphrey and Minister Wilma Ogburn would be set aside for ordination after a period of training with a Catechist. They began training in June 2015 and were ordained on October 3, 2015—making history as the first women ordained in the ministry at First Baptist Church of College Park.

    During the early years of Rev. Wright’s pastorate, the Prayer and Praise Service was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday nights (2000); Lott Carey Foreign Mission was selected to receive and distribute foreign mission funds (2001); a Food Bank was established; and a partnership with Shepherd’s Cove in Prince George’s County, Md., was developed to provide rental assistance for homeless women and their children (2001).

    By the close of 2002, a redesigned music ministry was implemented. Three choirs were disbanded – the Ebony Chorus (2002) after 26 years of service; the Senior Choir (2003) after 75 years of service; and the Volunteer Choir (2004) after 53 years of service. Today, music is provided for worship services by the Cross and Crown (mass choir), the Youth Choir and the Men’s Chorus. However, in February 2016, the choirs were changed to the Youth Choir singing on the second and fourth Sundays and the Men’s Chorus providing one selection on the same Sundays. Additionally, on the fifth Sundays a mass choir provides the ministry of music. From its roots in the late 19th century until the present, the First Baptist Church of College Park has grown tremendously. On May 31, 2006 the church voted to purchase the property at 5017 Lakeland Road to be used as the First Baptist Church Annex. The house was dedicated on July 29, 2007 and paid off in 2008.

    Through the leadership of pastors with foresight and vision, it has truly become a beacon in the Lakeland/College Park community. Ever looking forward, and realizing that where there is no vision the people perish, Pastor Wright continued following the Lord’s guidance and sought to strengthen the ministry at First Baptist. He reordered the morning worship service to include more praise and worship by forming a Praise Team in January 2007 to lead the congregation in praising the Lord on the second and fourth Sundays in each month. He also added liturgical dance to morning worship by having God’s Prayze in Motion dance during the meditation period on the third Sunday in each month. This move allowed the youth to be more active in the worship service, beyond providing musical selections in the Youth Choir. In February 2008, the Adult Dance Ministry (later named Spiritual Praise)—which consisted of older members—was added under the Music Ministry. Pastor Wright appointed Minister Andre Johnson as the Youth Ministry Leader in March 2008; and, in April he started preaching on the second Sunday in the month when the Youth Ministry was in charge of the service. Minister Johnson was later appointed as Assistant to the Pastor in January 2009. Seeking to extend the reach of First Baptist, Pastor Wright appeared live on WAVA 105.1 in May 2008 to discuss the donation of a home for the poor in Haiti.

    New changes continued to take place at First Baptist as the church grew in spirit and grace. Sisters Sheila Hobson, Yvonne Johnson, and Mary Sellers went into training in July 2009 to become deaconess. They were later consecrated for the work of the Lord in January 2010. And, after the passing of the long-term father of the church, Deacon Joseph Williams, Deacon Gene Kennedy was appointed father of the church in April 2010. Brother Gregory Johnson was ordained as a deacon in August 2010; followed by Brothers Leonard (Leo) Cloud and Wilbert Whitaker entering into training to become a deacon in December 2010 (ordained in October 2013). A new mother of the church—Deaconess Julia Pitts—was appointed in December 2010, following the death of Deaconess Hattie Sandidge. Additionally, in November 2012, Pastor Wright appointed Minister Wilma Ogburn to be the ambassador to the College Park community, as the community liaison, keeping First Baptist informed of opportunities to engage with the community in activities in line with First Baptist’s theological and philosophical direction.

    Renovations also took place at First Baptist because God’s house should be a welcoming place to all who come to worship. During 2011-2012, a full renovation of the main sanctuary began. The carpet was replaced, new chairs in the balcony and choir loft were installed, new seat padding was secured and the building interior was painted. To continue upgrading the facility, the parking lot was resurfaced with lines added for parking spaces. Later, the roof was replaced and the kitchen was fully renovated. To ensure more efficiency in operations, the administrative and financial offices were reorganized and restructured to utilize the latest technology.

    Each day, history is being made—that’s why it’s called history. First Baptist is celebrating 125 years of history; and, Lord willing, there’s even more to come. There will certainly be more adjustments as the Holy Spirit leads; more fine tuning as we grow in grace. It’s exciting to see what the Lord has in store for this faithful ship of Zion.

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