From These Roots (History)
From These Roots
Beyond the heritage, which is found in the lives of men and women, stands our Church itself. The seed of existence that was sown by the prophetic leaders of the past has sprung into a tree of reality and spread its roots far and deep into the hearts and souls of mankind. It is from these roots that we reflect, with admiration the efforts of our founders and promoters of the divine human organization - Second African Baptist Church.
The origin of Second African Baptist Church had its beginning as early as 1720 when Negroes, both free and slave, took an active part in the religious affairs of white churches. The foresight of freedom was sown when Deacon Henry Francis and Henry Cunningham were ordained as Baptist Ministers during the early months of the year 1802. The Rev. Henry Cunningham, with many brothers and sisters, received their letters from the White Savannah Baptist Church. The newly ordained Minister and his followers chose a site for their church.
The edifice, a “comfortable building 67 feet by 30 feet,” was completed by December of the same year and officially established as the Second Colored Baptist Church. The address, which remains the same today, is 123 Houston Street. Some of the more financially able free African Americans of that day composed the pioneer members including Evans Grate, Richard Houston, Susan Jackson, Leah Simpson, Charlotte Walls, and Elizabeth (Betsey) Cunningham.
Armed with Words of God, under the energetic leadership of young Reverend Cunningham, and new edifice, Second Colored Baptist became the Mecca or a sign of hope to young and hopeful Negroes. She trained more black preachers than any other Baptist Church (black or white) in the country. Up to the year 1848, Second Baptist Church had furnished First African Baptist five of her six pastors.
Except for 3 years, Rev. Cunningham pastored Second Colored Baptist Church from 1802 to 1808 and then from 1813 until his death on March 29, 1842. What was the church really like under Cunningham? What were his sermons all about? What were the services like? Few records exist, however in 1833, to “protect” the religious freedom enjoyed by blacks, the name of Second African Baptist Church (previously changed from Second Colored Baptist Church) was changed by its pastor and members to Second Baptist Church. The limited information that exists on sermons in black churches of that time indicates that the sermons provided blacks with the inner strength to persevere until their change came. For baptismal the black churches in Savannah did not have a baptismal pool; hence members were baptized in the Savannah River. The Lord’s Supper was administered quarterly, the business conferences were held monthly and singing was a distinctive and important part of the service. From 1802 until the early 1840's, church membership grew steadily. In 1841, the church membership was 1,454.
In 1841, Rev. Thomas Anderson, a son of the church, returned to replace Reverend Cunningham who had become incapacitated. In 1842, after Cunningham’s death, he was called as pastor. In spite of the fact that he was then the pastor of the First African Baptist Church, Rev. Anderson accepted the call and served well until 1848.
Upon the death of Rev. Anderson, Rev. John Cox was called to the pastorate of the church. He was a masterful minister and served well during the stormy and uncertain years of the Civil War. During the 58th Anniversary of the church in 1864, Pastor Cox and the church were hosts to Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton and General William T. Sherman, during the liberation of the slaves of Savannah, and this section of Georgia and South Carolina. An overflow crowd crammed into Second Baptist Church for the great event. A marker commemorating the event when Rev. Cox and the church were hosts to the emancipation authorities, was placed in Greene Square and given to the City.
Reverend John Cox served until his passing in 1870. The church then selected Rev. H. L. Simpson of Ontario, Canada as it’s pastor. After his death in 1881, Reverend Alexander Ellis was called as pastor. Rev. Ellis completed his service in 1890 and then organized the Beth-Eden Baptist Church of Savannah. Two years later the Rev. J. J. Durham was called to the pastorate of the church from Morris Street Baptist Church, Charleston, S.C. Dr. Durham was a doctor of medicine and divinity, a blacksmith, scholar, lecturer, botanist and preacher. This great leader baptized more converts than any minister before or after his administration. Church minutes for the period also indicates that the church had a rather busy program at this time. A multiplicity of activities were sponsored by the Sunday School, the various clubs within the church, and the regular organizations and committees. Excursions during the summer were among the regular entertainment. It was also during Dr. Durham’s pastorate that Second Baptist Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary in December 1902.
After the resignation of Rev. J. J. Durham on February 14, 1904, a succession of pastors served Second Baptist until 1947. They were the Rev. S. H. Smith, Rev. J. H. May from the Corinthian Baptist Church of St. Louis, MO, followed by Rev. Reid. It was under the administration of Dr. Reid that the Monroe family gave us our first pipe organ. Rev. Bolivia Davis served as pastor, then Rev. Wrenn, and Rev. Solomon Ross, who was pastor when the church edifice was restored following a great fire. Also during the pastorate, the charter was renewed, the constitution changed, and the services were enriched, Ross accepted the pastorate of Shiloh Baptist Church in Detroit Michigan.
Later the Reverends Miles Hunter, C. Norman Perry, I. W. Collins, C. N. Hawks, and L. L. Scott each contributed to the advancement of the church in their own distinct manner.
When Rev. Scott resigned in 1947 to give full time to his law practice, the church needing a pastor called Rev. Edgar Perry Quarterman, a son of the church. The tone of what was to be Pastor Quarterman’s administration was set by the installation services held December 14 through 18, 1949. The services involved ministers and churches that crossed denomination lines. It was an ecumenical, community-oriented, education-slanted posture, which was the permanent posture taken by Pastor Quarterman throughout his tenure at Second Baptist Church.
The Deacon and Deaconess Boards increased their memberships, many new church clubs were organized, the landscape was beautified, many memorial gifts given the entire sanctuary was renovated. An excellent adjunct to Pastor Quarterman’s administration was his wife, Mrs. Wilhelmina B. Quarterman. After thirty-eight years of faithful service Rev. “Q”, as he was fondly called, retired on March 3, 1984. He became the church’s first pastor to have conferred upon him the title Pastor Emeritus. Rev. Quarterman was called to rest on April 2, 1986.
In 1985 the Church called the Rev. James H. Cantrell of Chattanooga, Tennessee as its pastor. Under the guidance of this pastor, the church reinstated the Trustee Board. The church’s name was reversed back to Second African Baptist Church, a church manual was published, the church was redecorated and remodeled and a new organ was purchased. The membership increased and reclamation process for former members was established. Prayer breakfasts, annual planning conferences and several special services were initiated. In 1994 a renovation fund was established for reconstruction and to update the sanctuary. Reverend Cantrell resigned as pastor in September 1997.
In November 1998, Second African Baptist Church called Reverend C. MeGill Brown as its 21st pastor. In 1999, the church, under the leadership of our new pastor, began a major renovation project that included the installation of an elevator, a new public address system (PA), refurbished the lower auditorium, cross, outside sign, and restoration of the main sanctuary and exterior of the church. Also several church ministries have been added which include SASSY (Second African’s Soul Saving Youth) Youth Department, Church Nursery, Senior Saints Ministry, Voices of Hope & Voices of Praise Music Ministry, Video/Tape Ministry, $ and Saints Investments Club, Aerobics Class, and the Women’s Ministry, Travel Ministry, and Evangelistic Ministry.
In 2002, the church celebrated its Bicentennial with many services and activities highlighting the theme: “1802 - 2002: 200 years of Service as Ambassadors for Jesus Christ at 123 Houston Street.
Pastor Brown, a tall man in stature, stands tall in the pulpit and community, telling men, women, boys, and girls that Jesus Christ is Lord. In December, 2004 Pastor and Sis. Brown became the proud parents of a baby boy. It is believed that he is the first pastor to have a newborn while pastor.
During the 2006 year, a number of initiatives were implemented. In January, Casual Dress Sunday was established for fourth Sunday services unless a special service was being held.
In March, the Sons of Solomon Ministry, whose duties include primary responsibilities for the repairs and preventative maintenance of the grounds and physical building, was established. A new gas stove was purchased for the kitchen in November.
There has been a great increase in providing help for the needy. Aside from vast monetary donations for a number of missions, evidence pointed to increased food and clothing drives for donations to individuals as well as to institutions that provided help for the needy.
When the question was asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer was a resounding YES!!! Second African Baptist proudly proclaims: “We are a powerful people, doing little things, to make a difference.”