The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
By Kendall Junck, Fall 2015
Baptist churches have been around since the early 1600s and have expanded tremendously over the past centuries. According to the Baptist Word Alliance1 there is approximately 43 million Baptists worldwide, and 33 million of reside in the United States. This branch of Christianity is often commended for their willingness to give back and stand up for causes they deem important to them. The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida honorably represents the values held throughout the 150,000 United States congregations. This institution goes above and beyond to help the members and community flourish while providing a meaningful and proper Baptist religion.
The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church was founded in the 1830s when the enslaved would worship in an old building on John Parkhill’s plantation in Leon County. When John Parkhill sold the plantation he donated the section of land used for services to the congregation. Although the current church is not located on the property, the Church still holds the rights to the land and uses it for special event such a ceremonies. Dr. R. B. Holmes JR, the current pastor, explained that the land holds a special place in the congregation’s heart and is a symbol of strength and hope. The church purchased their first building in 1870 under the supervision Reverend James Page, with this opening came an expansion of the church’s membership. Additionally, this building became a meeting place for many other organizations and groups. For more than a century this building acted as a place of comfort, shelter, organization and opportunity; in October of 1974 the Church closed its doors and began construction of a new building, which is still used to this day.
The members of The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church have made improving the community life one of their main focuses. Encouraging their members to give back to the community has been a prominent quality of the church since their opening. They do so in various ways, such as opening an academy, assisted living facilities, raising money for various organizations, and supporting important political movements. The growth of the institution, along with the political changes in society has allowed this institution to accomplish more than they ever imagined.
Opening The Bethel Christian Academy (BCA) was one of the original aspirations Pastor Reverend DR. R.B Holmes held. Unfortunately, due to many restrictions this objective was unattainable for many years. The determined officers and congregation In August of 1992 The Bethel Christian Academy was finally welcomed their first class of 34 students. The academy’s mission statement read, “We provide an environment that is conducive to learning; a staff that is sensitive to the needs of the children; and a well-balanced program that is child-centered, is academically challenging, and is based upon Christian principle.“
The academy was based off of four main objectives:
•To instill moral values self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, and respect for other.
•To encourage academic appreciation and excellence
•To build and maintain positive attitude.
•To develop good and decent law-abiding citizens
The faculty and staff today uphold the same objectives and have proven success. This private institution has grown, but still remains a smaller, more exclusive educational institution. The children and community have benefitted greatly from the academy and will hopefully continue to do so for years ahead.
Continuing their dedication to improving the community that they have called home, the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church opened their third facility. The idea of creating an assisted living facility for low-income seniors was discussed within the congregation for quite some time before becoming a reality. After purchasing and renovating a three-story building, the church opened The Bethel Towers. The mission of the Bethel Towers is “to enhance the quality of life for low income, seniors citizens,” they do so in a few different ways. An onsite resident manager, 59 one bedroom apartments, laundry room, cable, emergency alert system, transportation and accessible location Qualified citizens are encouraged to apply, following their acceptance they have the opportunity to use the provided facilities and amenities. The towers remain open in Tallahassee today and are fully occupied, Pastor Holmes admitted that is was one of his favorite projects to work with, he gloated about how much of a difference he notices in the peoples lives.
In January of 1957 the church received a burning four-foot cross to their doorstep. This disrespectful act was brought on following the bus riding demonstrations the week prior. Instead of acting back in a negative way, Reverend C.K Steele posed for pictures with the burnt cross and informed the public that the disrespectful act will not be accepted and the people of the church will, overtime, resolve this issue amongst society. The church has kept the cross for the past 58 years and uses it as a reminder of the challenges they have overcome. This historical artifact is unique to this church; all past pastors have commemorated its importance. Since so much has changed within society over the last few decades it is important that this memory is withheld in the institution. The Bethel Missionary Baptist Church encourages remembering where they came from while acknowledging all of the accomplishments they have been able to reach.
Bethel Missionary Baptist Church has always held a major role in the community of Tallahassee, over the last 145 years they have proven to be a major asset to the community and further. The members of this church have proven to be dedicated, faithful, and giving followers. The leaders of the congregation have made a tremendous impact on the Tallahassee community, but have also contributed to nation wide success. Beginning and remaining in Tallahassee shows that this church is dedicated to their community. Supporting causes, attending conventions, inspiring the youth, and providing a safe place for members to practice their religion is just a few of the many amazing things this church has accomplished. The very welcoming members will continue to grow and help our community for many years to come. While never forgetting the rich history this church has, the community will flourish and evolve greatly.