Brief History of Community Baptist Church
Community Baptist Church was born in February 1945 after the Pilgrims' Progress Club voted to leave its mother church, Messiah Baptist of Yonkers, NY. The church unanimously chose the Reverend Lawrence W. Kay to be its spiritual leader. In those dawning days, services were held in the home of its' 35 dedicated founding members.
By April of 1945, the church began sharing space in a building owned by NYC Mission Society. After two years, word came that the building was for sale and the church agreed to purchase the property. With absolute faith in God and much sacrifice, the property was purchased and the mortgage was burned by late 1948.
Nationwide these were serious times for the African American population. Many returned home from WWI to the harsh realities of Jim Crow laws and brutal segregation in the south; which pushed many African Americans to migrate to northern cities like Yonkers in search of a better life. The Community Baptist Church under the visionary leadership of Rev. Kay, took up the plight for social justice in Yonkers by standing for equality in housing and employment in the city.
As the years went by, Community Baptist Church continued to grow and become a respected member of the city of Yonkers. In 1951, tragedy came when Rev. Kay became gravely ill and had to step down from his beloved responsibilities. During those challenging times, Community needed a steady hand and it came in the person of Deacon James Jenkins. With his devotion and love for God's people, Deacon Jenkins' leadership guided the congregation in that little chapel on Riverdale Avenue until September of 1951 when God sent the Reverend David J. Edwards.
Progress in civil rights in the late 50s and in the decade of the the 60s, spawned a struggling but stable new African American middle class in northern cities and Rev. Edwards was a leader for those times. The gospel he preached was clothed in integrity and upward mobility through self-help. The building on Riverdale Avenue was old and needed repairs. Plans were made for a new building. However, over time the project lingered. Then it was learned that a building at 156 North Broadway owned by the First Methodist Church was for sale. In September of 1966, Community Baptist Church officially took control of the property and by November of that year, Community Baptist celebrated in its' new home. Built in the 1920s, this place of worship is an imposing solid stone structure that resembles the Gothic architecture of old Europe. Inside the high ceiling, wooden beams and hanging lights give the sanctuary that old world beauty and charm that is rarely seen any more. The pulpit area is framed on each side by columns and behind it, above the choir loft are brass pipes from an authentic pipe organ; truly a wonderful setting to thank and praise God. An that is what Community did from that time to the present; lots of preaching, teaching, praying, singing and praising. In 1978 Rev. Edwards told his beloved congregation that he was retiring. Some speculated why but all he would say was, 'you will understand it better by and by".
By the end of the 70s, the result of much blood, sweat and tears began to pay off for African Americans. In many cases it was the African American church that provided both the leadership and the foot soldiers for the hard fought gains, like the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the increase in African Americans seeking higher education as well as making housing and work place discrimination officially illegal. Although there is still more to do, an important by product came out of the turmoil of the previous years; God's people now walk with a certain dignity and respect; African Americans no longer accepted the stereotypical put down that depicted them in the past.
In the spring of 1979, Community Baptist chose Rev. Clarence E. Bolling to be their spiritual leader. "Rev." (as many like to call him) a man of quiet dignity and a son of this Christian community who grew up grew up amongst this church founding members. As only its 3rd but longest serving Pastor, he serves as a person who knows, appreciates and understands his responsibility to God for his congregation.
Under Pastor Bolling's leadership there have been many ministries. More important, there is one Spirit that guides this ministry. It is just as Jesus would have it; look out for the weak and vulnerable . On Sundays snacks are given to the babies at the end of service. During the hot summer months, the church dispatches a team to bring cold drinks to seniors and makes it possible for youth to go away to camp. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, food is packed and sent to those that don't have; money is sent to help with disaster aid and more recently, the annual Community Baptist Street Fair where school supplies, food, health services, clothes, and Christian entertainment is given out to the community in a day long activity. These are just some of the blessings as a result of Pastor Bolling's leadership.
As Community Baptist Church faces the challenges of the 21st Century, it is important that we understand to stand on the Word and the goodness of God. Most of all, appreciate the sacrifice and commitment of those whose shoulders we stand on. There are many, many brothers and sisters not mentioned in this brief history who gave money and time when they didn't have it. They cried and prayed at the altar for loved ones; who clapped, sang and praised God for their blessings. There are those who taught and preached a good Word and those who just came one day and found Jesus. They are worthy because they are the bricks and mortar; the very foundation upon which we must continue to build and carry on our tradition. Remember them when we pray for strength to continue.
Church is a community and Community is our church, it is a relationship between the people God has brought together with His love. Our mission is to grow, not just in numbers, but being an example at this place and in this time of the Kingdom of God.
"Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven..." AMEN
Deacon Alex Young Scripture Lesson: Matt. 25: 31-46