THE PASTORAL HISTORY OF SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH
The pastoral leadership of Second Baptist Church has facilitated us to full partnership in the Lord’s service. We recognize the monumental contribution of the following thirteen men who labored to provide opportunities and enriched responsibilities for members of an evolving church. Pastors who served were: Rev. Charles Augustis, Rev. E. M. Wright, Rev. L. G. Jordan, Rev. J. W. Carr, Rev. Steve Smith, Rev. Reuben Anderson, Rev. C. J: Hardy, Rev. A. W. Smith, Rev. I. H. Kelly, Rev. W. S. Brent, Rev. S. H. James, Sr., and Rev. S. H. James, Jr.
In 1879, the Texas town of San Antonio had a population of about 20,000. There were three Protestant churches for African Americans and the missions. The Reverend Charles Augustus on July 11, 1879, with six men and five women, all former slaves and Christians, met and organized the Macedonia Baptist Church. It was located in a frame house at the corner of Indiana and Goliad Streets.
Between 1879 and 1890, the church relocated to Live Oak and Dawson Streets. Reverend Andrew W. Smith served as pastor from 1890-1904, and led the church in a rebuilding program that included a parsonage that used material from the old church building. On January 30, the church purchased property on Chestnut Street for $420. Macedonia Baptist Church became Second Baptist Church on October 24. The church continued to prosper and purchased property on the corners of Chestnut and Live Oak Streets and Crockett and Center Streets for $550. In 1894, Second Baptist Church relocated to a new frame structure on Chestnut and Center Streets. The church did not have a baptistery so it held the sacrament of baptism in the river near Hot Wells.
In 1904, Reverend I. H. Kelly became the third pastor. On April 19, 1909, a deed was signed releasing the southern half of the property at Chestnut and Center Streets to the church. May 26th members were so eager to have an adequate church that they paid a dollar for plowing a round to break ground for the foundation of an impressive stone structure that became a San Antonio landmark. The church had a panoramic contour, towering steeple and authentic stained glass windows. These outstanding characteristics warranted the historic edifice to be included as an entry in Dulmann’s collections in the Library of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas at the Alamo. Growth brought on division and in 1934,
Reverend Kelly organized the Rose of Sharon Church and many of the membership joined him there.
GROWTH AND TRANSITION-1934-1940
Reverend W.S. Brent, then pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, answered the call to be the pastor of Second Baptist Church. He brought with him exceptional ministerial skills and experience all of which would be needed to deal with pending lawsuits against the church and member hostility. He faced three major problems: reuniting the membership, re-spiritualizing the membership and building the church’s organization structure. He began by inaugurating a teaching and preaching program where he reunited and re-spiritualized the congregation through regular prayer meetings and inspiring soul-stirring worship services. His leadership resulted in the improvement of the financial status, and the church purchased new pews for the sanctuary and home for a parsonage, installed a new heating system and redecorated the church. This creation of unity and prosperity resulted in the St. James Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas calling him in 1939.
In 1940, Reverend S.H. James, Sr., of Nashville, Tennessee became the pastor. He had served as a dean, teacher and lecturer in local, state and national congresses and conventions and had a keen concern for Christian and youth education. He was a man who exhibited zeal, dedication, understanding, warmth, intelligence, courage and congeniality. Highlights of his ministry include: Fellowship Hall was renovated, Sunday School classrooms were added, the kitchen was relocated and modernized, the Vacation Bible School was expanded and the church debt was liquidated. The Teller was started as the church bulletin and communication vehicle to aid in the dissemination and promotion of the church programs and is still used today, church radio broadcasting among African Americans in San Antonio was pioneered and the church became involved in Christian education from the local to the national levels. In February of 1944, after a prolonged illness, the Lord shortened his ministry and called him home.
CONTINUING THE VISION-1944-1960
On February 28, 1944, with brave hearts, courage, wisdom and vision the church called Reverend S. H. James, Jr., the 26 year old son of the late pastor. This election of a pastor so young and unmarried broke a 65-year tradition. He was a soft-spoken but strong man with dynamic plans. By effectively matching talents and church groups with church growth tasks he was able to accomplish many improvement and renovation projects to the church edifice, the landscaping of the church grounds and the equipping of two rooms in Fellowship Hall for the use as a nursery for babies and small children while their parents were in worship services in 1949. There was a new emphasis on the prayer service; the service was divided into four 15-minute segments and included lay leadership. As early as 1953, there were 21 successfully functioning auxiliaries and the membership had almost doubled.
THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE-1960-1968
The steadily growing church continued to plan further expansion, but little did Reverend James and the congregation know that the Texas Highway Department would issue a notice that the church was located in the path of the city’s new expressway and would need to vacate the lovely church they had worked so hard to establish and preserve. After two years of dialogue and protesting, the church sold for $337,896. The church purchased the 5.5-acre location at 3310 East Commerce Street, and it is its present location. The church building was complete in 1968. To keep the visual memory of the former church building, create a memorial to past deeds and accomplishments, and provide inspiration for future generations to build on, they installed eight of the stained glass windows in the wall between the Sanctuary and the Narthex of the new church. In addition, the cornerstone and some wall stones from the old building were used to create a landmark in front of the new church building. Norcell D. Haywood, member and architect, was contracted to lead the project to build a fellowship center, offices and several classrooms around a central courtyard. The final full-day’s service was at the old church on February 18, 1968, with the service text being “The Mystic Pillar.” After a short service at 8:30 a.m., on February 25, 1968, the police escorted the pastor and congregation to the new church where the pastor’s first sermon was “Building the Wall;” this was the same first text used by Reverend James, Sr.
During the first 10 years at the new location more than 500 people joined and nearly three million dollars in tithes and offerings were given. The church built a playground and recreational area adjacent to the parking lot, created new organizations and programs and purchased a three-manual offer pipe organ valued at over a quarter of a million dollars.
On September 21, 1992, after 48 years of service, Reverend S. H. James, Jr., requested retirement due to poor health. He was bestowed the title of Pastor Emeritus on October 18, 1992, and a week later passed from this life to eternal rest. Again, the church had suffered the death of its leader.
INTO THE NEW CENTURY-1993-PRESENT
On September 1, 1993, Reverend Doctor Robert Jemerson, Sr., became the pastor. His dynamic and energetic leadership and influence in the church and outreach into the community have had a tremendous impact on the surrounding neighborhood and greater San Antonio metropolitan area. Among the firsts for the church, community and organizations include: Homework at Second Baptist program-a tutorial program for students in grades first through eighth and Thanksgiving in the Park-a ministry that provided clothing and food for needy families and fellowship between church members. Also, a local residents and community outreach Bible study group in different quadrants of the city (Huntleigh Park, Willow Wood, Garden Ridge and a teen outreach Bible study in the northeast area) was begun. Further, there was collaboration with the “Cactus Pear” members of the San Antonio Symphony who brought classical music to some 800 young people of the Eastside community for the first time.
In March 2005, Second Baptist Church launched “Vision 2008,” which included a series of ministries such as: Ministry for Singles and Married Couples, a goal of 50 percent growth in Sunday School/Christian Education, a new format for the mid-week Bible study and worship service and the funding for design and construction of a new Activity Center. The four principles that underlie its creation are:
1. The church must not only provide for the spiritual needs, but also seek lasting solutions for challenges inherent in rebuilding lives and communities.
2. The African American community must develop and put into action creative ways to support and remedy its underserved.
3. It should not be the primary responsibility of government or charity to meet the needs of “God’s Visionary People.”
4. The times demand that Second Baptist Church continue its quest for excellence in all phases of life, advancing the economic, social and cultural needs of the people.
Reverend Doctor Jemerson began his tenure with these words:
“The accomplishments of the past years would not have been possible without the phalanx of Christian builders who labored in every area of God’s work to enhance the quality of spirituality and life for our church, city, and nation. The ‘Past is Prologue’ is certainly applicable to Second Baptist Church. There are yet challenges in our community that have not been met. Sin, injustices, deprivation and oppression still exist. God is calling us to stand on His solid foundation, the Word of God, and launch new ministries to implement His blueprints for salvation. The Second Baptist Church members, officers, and pastor accept the challenge to translate from theory to practice the work of our God. Many workers are not with us to see the unfolding of their dreams, but their contributions will always be remembered. There were countless men and women who have helped to lay the foundation for our success, and they will never be quoted or pictured in any publication; however, their names are permanently etched in the annals of Heaven and in the heart of those they influenced in ministry.”