Mount Vernon Baptist Church
Mount Vernon Baptist Church is an African American Baptist church that started as a small Bible study group. At a typical gathering of the group in 1902, a Sunday school was organized with five members, including the Rev. Marshall H. Payne, Mrs. Georgia Payne, Mrs. Emma Liggins, Mrs. Mary Lomax, and Mr. W.L. Booker. This group of five met regularly, and, recognizing the challenges facing African American people at the turn of the century, the group saw a need to spread the gospel and to invite others to join them. Membership increased, and the Sunday school group became a church. The Mount Vernon Baptist Church, a daughter of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was organized on July 27, 1905 under the leadership of Rev. Marshall Payne, who led the congregation for thirty-four years until his death in 1939. The church was originally located on Meadow Street, two blocks north of Broad Street. Membership continued to grow, and during the next nine years a new edifice was erected at the corner of Granby Street and Rosewood Avenue. The first worship service in the church’s new location was held in May, 1914.
The congregation prospered through the World War I era, success that it attributed to its own commitment and the strength of the Almighty. The church survived a number of challenges through the succeeding decades, including an electrical fire in 1944 and a summer tornado in 1951 that destroyed many members’ homes and tore off the church’s steeple. The church retired its $40,000 mortgage in 1949. Church growth continued during this period as the Sunday school class exceeded one hundred. The Baptist Youth Planning Union, which gave instructional Christian education to young people and provided an avenue for fellowship, was also well-attended. In 1964, a new addition on the north side of the church was dedicated and a central air conditioning system was installed; in 1973 land was purchased to serve as a parking lot.
When Rev. Sylvester Thomas Smith became the third pastor of the church in March, 1986, he fondly referred to Mt. Vernon as a “sleeping giant” because he saw the spiritual potential of the church that lay dormant. Under his leadership, Mt. Vernon began to blossom. Many of its ministries were newly adopted or revitalized as was the church’s physical structure. Some of the ministries established included the Church Nursery, Sunshine Seniors, Advisory Council, Men’s Shelter Outreach, Tape Ministry, Kitchen Committee and Moments with the Youth. The church reached another milestone in January, 1991 when its first female deacons were ordained. The church undertook a project to construct an addition to the church building in 1992; the addition was named Ollie L. Hatcher, Jr. Memorial Fellowship Hall after the church’s Trustee Chairman who provided leadership in this endeavor. Renovation of the church’s main sanctuary was completed in April, 1994.
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church holds a Sunday school and worship service on Sunday mornings, and here is midweek Bible study. The church has about two hundred members; the membership is predominantly working class and middle class African American, with a substantial elderly component.
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church supports a number of ministries. The Senior Missionary is the church’s oldest missionary group, organized over fifty years ago. Its purpose is “to help others at all times and to be of service to all mankind”. The ministry includes providing food at the men’s shelter, delivering clothes and food to those in need, visiting the sick and nursing homes, and conducting the church service quarterly. Wilhelen D. Satterwhite Missionary was founded in 1987 at the home of the late Deaconess, Wilhelen D. Satterwhite. Its stated purpose is “to stay strong and do God’s work and his will, in his way, and in his time.” The women’s Ministry states that it “strives to build spiritual, social, and recreational relationships with all women in this church and the community by mentoring and sharing spiritual gifts.” The church describes the Men’s Ministry as founded to promote spiritual and social unity among the men of the church. The Sunshine Seniors describe themselves as striving to serve God by demonstrating kindness with sincere love. The Women’s Christian League is a group of missionary women who describe themselves as dedicated to God and to the spreading of God’s word through interaction with those who are less fortunate. The Sunday school functions as the primary teaching arm of the church. The church’s youth ministries include Junior Missionaries, whose purpose is to help church, family and others. The Darlene L. Hamilton Memorial Choir is a group of young people serving and praising the Lord through the ministry of song. The Praise Dance Ministry’s purpose is to prepare the way for the word to be preached.
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church
1902 Rosewood Avenue
Richmond, VA 23220
Mt. Vernon Baptist Church website
Profile prepared by Adwoa Yeboah