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You are now looking at the building that once housed Pilgrim Baptist Church, one of the three churches of this community. Pilgrim Baptist was established in 1913 by Reverend Twyman and his wife, Deacon John Giles and his wife, and several other community members. The congregants of Pilgrim Baptist initially met in a tent on Church Street, just across New London Road from where we stand now. The congregation eventually purchased this building, which had once been a Nickelodeon. Services for Pilgrim Baptist were held here until 1994, when the congregation moved to a new building on Barksdale Road.
Pilgrim Baptist has had five permanent Pastors since 1913 as well as several interim pastors. The house just across New London Road, on the right of Church Street, served as the parsonage for the pastors who have lived here. The Reverend Isaac S. Holmes, one of the church’s longest serving pastors, lived in the parsonage for some time. He also established quite a few of the churches’ ministries, many of which are still active today. Today’s church is located on Barksdale Road and has been led since 2004 by the Reverend Lonnie E. Rector. The church offers services on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as Sunday School, and Bible Study. Pilgrim Baptist is active in the community as well as on the national level, participating in a variety of conferences and ministries.
Church-going has always held important significance for community members, and many people remember Pilgrim Baptist fondly. Alvin Hall recalls,
“Everybody just about in the neighborhood went to church. That was a standard with the black families...The churches were basically well attended. Most of the residents in the area were a deacon or sang on the choir or had some kind of a position within the church.”
But Clarence “Pepper” Wigam recalls that Pilgrim Baptist had the best singers of the community!
As you’ll see through the rest of the walking tour, church holds a special place in this community, and many residents attribute the substantial accomplishments of the community to the three churches. As Arnold Saunders suggests,
“I guess if it wasn’t for the churches, we would have more, I guess, rowdy kids than anything. I think the churches, on account of we had to go to church, played a great part, and I think the children that went to church learned a lot about self esteem, learned about, more about God.”
Now cross New London Road and continue North until you find a set of three stone steps. These steps are the site of Mr. Bobby Saunders’ Barber shop.