By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
Rev. Howard L. Carter and the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, located at 2300 Grant Street in Gary, recently announced the continuation of their yearlong 100th Anniversary Celebration. The theme of the celebration is “Standing on a Solid Foundation.”
St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, the second Baptist church organized in the City of Gary, was then the portable building of the 21st Avenue School in 1916. Six church members were involved in the organization plan. The members were Bro. and Sis. Julius Collins; Bro. and Sis. Scotty Campbell; Sis. Rosie Pope; and Sis. Leona Roberts.
The church was first established at 1938 Adams Street. It remained there until a suspicious fire destroyed it although there was a fire station less than a block away at 19th and Adams Street. At the time, members were convinced it was arson in retaliation for the church’s progressive role for Civil Rights in the city.
Support from St. Paul was significant for minorities in the community in their efforts for equality and justice. It was Pastor Rev. Lester K. Jackson’s integral efforts to improve employment opportunities and living conditions for African Americans and the Civil Rights struggles in the City of Gary that many whites in the community literally had problems with.
In 1966, the congregation marched into their new edifice at 2300 Grant Street, where the church has remained for 50 years.
Ella Monroe has been a member of St. Paul since she was 10 years old, which she says was 72 years ago. Her entire family were members of the church that joined under Rev. Jackson. She is a member of the choir, the usher board, missionary society, Director of Christian Education for 22 years, Assistant Church Clerk, and a Sunday School Teacher.
Monroe said she and her family chose to become members of St. Paul because her father’s aunt was already a member there and she invited the family to come and worship there which led to them becoming members of the church.
Monroe says she definitely remembers the fire of 1963. She said they believed at the time it was about retaliation for being supportive of Civil Rights in Gary. Monroe said, “We never did find out the true story behind what caused the fire. Because Rev. Jackson talked so much about Civil Rights in the community, the whites did not like it because he integrated many businesses within the community. Some of those he integrated were The Post Tribune, Littons Clothing Store, The Gary National Bank and Marquette Park.”
Monroe says the best thing about being a member of St. Paul is that the members treat you like you are a human being, look out for each other, give to people who are poor and they work together. “It’s like a family neighborhood church. Our pastor always says you love your neighbors as you love yourself,” she said.
Golbie Richards has been a member of St. Paul longer than any other person in the church. She has been a member of the church all of her life. In August, she will turn 84 years old. Her mother was a charter member of the church. She said, “So when I was born I guess in a way I came up through the church.”
Richards says she was baptisted when she was 8 years old when the church pool was in the basement of the old church. “I have been there all my life and my two sons have been there all of their lives. St. Paul to me is the only church I know, the only church my mother knew and the only church my sons know,” she said.
Richards says she teaches Sunday School, plays the piano for the male chorus, and plays the piano for the Sunday School. She said she would describe St. Paul as a loved based Christian Center Church.
She said, “St. Paul is so special because its membership has been together in a spiritual up lifting, soul-based supportive way to one another and to the community. St. Paul has been involved in all kinds of areas in the city that has helped people. We have had soup kitchens at our church and ways of helping with our benevolent fund.”
St. Paul has had six ministers: Rev. Martin Van Buren Bolden, Rev. Perry Whittaker, Rev. William F. Lovelace, the late Rev. Lester Kendel Jackson, and Rev. Everett Gray. Their current pastor since 2009 is the Rev. Howard L. Carter. The church continues to experience a restoration and spiritual renewing under his leadership. The entire congregation believes he and First Lady Daisie Carter have been a blessing to the St. Paul family.
St. Paul is celebrating their Centennial Anniversary throughout the month of August as follows:
- Saturday, Aug. 13 at 4 p.m. – Centennial Banquet at the Marquette Park Pavilion;
- Sunday, Aug. 14 at 4 p.m. – Anniversary service;
- Thursday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. – Anniversary Youth Night Church service;
- Friday, Aug. 19 – Rehearsal for the Reunion Choir Concert;
- Saturday, Aug. 20 at 9:30 a.m. – Meet at The Old Landmark, 1938 Adams St. for a Commemorative Ceremony;
- Saturday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. – Reunion Choir “Take Me Back Concert” and Sunday, Aug. 21 at 11 a.m. – Conclusion of the Main Anniversary Service.