History of the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church
In 1865, the American Civil War ended and slavery was abolished throughout the land. Members of the white Philadelphia Baptist Church in Northeast Mississippi organized a church for blacks, and named it Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church. Joseph O. Pegues and Aben Sanders founded the new church and donated land for a church building and cemetery. The church was established with strong bloodlines from the Hilliard, Key, Oliver (parent family for the Vaughn, Clayton, Jones, and Campbell families), Pegues, Sanders, and Williams families.
In the early 1890s, a Masonic Lodge Hall was built adjacent to the church. It housed a school on the ground floor, which provided an education for the children of the community from pre-primary through the eighth grade. Joseph Pegues was the first teacher of the one-room school, and educational training continued until Mrs. Evelyn Porter served as the last teacher at the school when it was consolidated in the 1950s.
The church continued to grow with each decade, adding more members and auxiliaries. Twin brothers, Will and Jack Keys, served as Deacons during the early years, and in the 1930s, the church organized a choir, under the leadership of Willie "Dick" Wilson. The church bought its first piano, in the 1950s, and Joe Pegues served as the church pianist.
In January 1953, the foundation was laid for a new sanctuary building (current Fellowship Hall), under the pastorate of the Rev. O.C. Richmond. The new block building was located within 500 feet of the old one-room structure. It was the desire of Pastor Richmond that the church would be paid for as it was built, and the members worked hard to accomplish this goal, donating money as well as seeds, fertilizer and labor for a corporate cotton crop.
On Dec. 13, 1958, the Rev. O.C. Richmond passed away, and the Rev. A.L. Richmond (cousin of the Rev. O.C. Richmond) was elected pastor. He helped continue the construction of the new church building which was completed in 1959.
In 1966, the church added another Sunday of worship, which allowed services to be conducted on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, with Sunday School being held on each Sunday. In February 1972, the church began to remodel the sanctuary and constructed four new classrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen to better accommodate the members and their guests. The first service in the newly renovated sanctuary was held on the fourth Sunday in April 1972.
Pastor Richmond led the church until 1975, when he suffered a stroke in the pulpit during revival services. After a period of mourning and prayer, the Rev. W.M. Kelly Jr. was elected pastor in January 1977.
Under the leadership of Pastor Kelly, the sanctuary was given a facelift that included the purchase and installation of green carpet and pews with green cushions. Green was selected as the official color of the church because its representation of life. A baptismal pool was installed in the sanctuary in March 1984, and the church conducted its first baptism service on Mother's Day 1984. Also, in order to enhance the music ministry, the church purchased a Hammond organ in August 1985, and in 1986, worship services were added to the first Sunday of each month along with the second and fourth Sundays.
In 1989, the Rev. Dr. Theopolis Pride Vinson was elected to serve as pastor of the congregation. Under his leadership, the church began having services on each Sunday in 1990, and a radio ministry was added. After experiencing a great period of growth in membership and service, Pastor Vinson led the effort to construct a new sanctuary building, which was completed in 1994. Pastor Vinson also worked tirelessly to connect the work of the church with the Tallahatchie-Oxford Missionary Baptist (T.O.M.B.) District Association and the Oxford-Lafayette Community. A scholarship established in his honor at the University of Mississippi continues to support the educational pursuits of African American students at the university.
After the untimely passing of Pastor Vinson in March 2003, the Rev. Dr. Alfred Hall II (who had accepted the call to the ministry and preached his first sermon at Philadelphia in 2001) was elected to serve as pastor in June 2003. Under his leadership, the church has continued to experience growth, both spiritually and physically. During this time, the church has renovated the fellowship hall, added a new education building, and purchased a van to assist in community outreach efforts. In addition, the church has retired all debts on all structures and properties in November 2015.
Today, the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church serves more than 450 members and continues to grow and prosper with the addition of many auxiliaries and ministries. The church has supported the calling of men and women into the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and remains active in the T.O.M.B. District Association. Advanced technology equipment enhances Sunday services, and the church continues to identify opportunities to better connect with and relate to the children of God in the 21st Century.
The Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church is grateful to God for His bountiful blessings and prays that the church, its members, and its ministries continue to grow in grace and faith.
A crest for the church was designed to emphasize four key words: Praying. Learning. Growing. Serving. These words express the spirit of the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church for the past 150 years and continue to drive the church forward in the days and years to come. And to remind the congregation and the Oxford-Lafayette Community of its effort to earn its name, the church has adopted the theme: Be Devoted to One Another in Brotherly Love. Honor One Another Above Yourselves - Romans 12:10 NIV.