Church Mission Statement
The mission of the West Durham Baptist Church is to uplift the cause of Christ through the sharing of the Word. We will seek to develop the holistic person in mind, body and spirit by nurturing the saved and being a model of Christ to the unsaved.
History of West Durham Baptist Church
In the autumn of 1892, Reverend W.H. Stanfield of Durham County followed the vision that God had placed in his heart and founded the West Durham Baptist Church. It was organized in a one room box house on Ferrell Street. During his pastorate, there was a small annex added to the little box house, and finally, under his pastorate, a small new building about 20×30 feet in dimensions, was erected.
After the resignation of Reverend Stanfield, Reverend Thompson became pastor and carried on the work for about twelve months. At the close of Reverend Thompson’s pastorate, the Reverend Stanfield was recalled, and he rendered faithful service to the church for the next few years. During this time, quite a number of candidates were baptized and added to the church.
After the second pastorate of Reverend Stanfield, Reverend Simmons was called to pastor. Because of the church’s spiritual and financial growth during Reverend Simmons’ administration, a second annex was built. Reverend Simmons was succeeded by the Reverend J.T. Peace of Oxford, NC. During Reverend Peace’s leadership, the church enjoyed much prosperity. The church grew both spiritually and financially. The last annex was built to the little church building located on Ferrell Street, and many members were added. The successor to Reverend Peace was Reverend Scott. This minister served the church faithfully for a short time and left the church much better organized.
After Reverend Scott, the Reverend H. Johnson of Virginia became pastor. During the shepherding of Reverend Johnson, the church purchased a lot on Thaxton Avenue. Very little had been done to liquidate the debt on the lot when Dr. Johnson became ill, but the membership was in possession of the church, and the church was in a prosperous condition at the time of his death. The next pastor was the Reverend T.A. Grady of Durham, NC. Under his administration, more organizations were developed and the debt on the Thaxton Avenue lot, which was located on a dirt street, was reduced from its original cost of $19,800 to $350.
At the close of Reverend Grady’s pastorate, Reverend Thomas Carr Graham of North Wilkesboro, NC was called in March 1921. In cooperation with the officers of the church, Reverend Graham immediately formulated plans to finish paying for the lot and outlined a building program. In presenting this program to the people, the pastor stressed the importance of true Christian stewardship. He emphasized that the church must be financed only by free-will offerings. This new church, located on Thaxton Avenue, was completed in August 1924. Funding for the building was raised from a membership of less than 200.
Through the faithful and progressive leadership of Reverend T.C. Graham, the church made steady progress. In the early part of 1939, he recommended that a building be erected for the church school. The Education building would provide for religious education and wholesome recreation for the neighborhood. Through the faithful cooperation of the officers and the congregation, an Education building was completed in the Fall of the same year. The West Durham Baptist Church became the first African American congregation in Durham to build an education building. A few years later, the first pipe organ was installed in the main sanctuary.
In 1947, under the inspiration and leadership of Reverend Graham, a brick-veneering project was undertaken and successfully completed which included both buildings at a cost of more than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000). In 1948, Shaw University conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on Reverend Graham in recognition of his faithful and efficient work, his humanitarian service, and his outstanding achievements.
In 1950, a beautification project was completed. This included the installation of new pews, lighting, carpeting, and a complete renovation of the interior of the church building at a cost between eight and nine thousand dollars.
During the years 1950 through 1960, the membership increased from a little over 100 to more than 400 members. A credit union was organized in 1951 and proved to be very beneficial to the membership and the community. The West Durham Baptist Church Nursery School was organized with a large enrollment of children from the Brookstown community and adjoining communities.
A Boy Scout troop was organized and was very active for many years. Many auxiliaries were added to the church under the pastorate of Dr. Graham: The Baptist Training Union, the Brotherhood League, the Ladies Aid Society, the Advisory Council, Vacation Bible School, Senior Usher Board in 1921, and the Deborah Sunday School Class (originally organized by Mrs. T.C. Graham in 1930). The Deborah class was later named the Mary E. Borland Class and is now the Martha E. Graham Sunday School Class. The Miriam Memorial Sunday School Class was organized in 1951.
In 1960, two additional Sunday School rooms and a choir room were added and built by Wanzie L. McAuley. Dr. Graham and the Deacon Board, with the cooperation of the Advisory Council, divided the church membership into Missionary Districts. Dr. Graham served as pastor for 43 years.
After the death of Dr. Graham, the Reverend Frederick D. Terry of Ellerbee, North Carolina became pastor. During his six years (1965-1971) as pastor, great improvements were made in organization and spiritual growth. The mortgage and other debts of the church on Thaxton Avenue were eliminated. The West Durham Baptist Church, central to the community on Thaxton Avenue and the Brookstown community, was displaced by the Durham Freeway and urban renewal. In 1967, the first phase of the building project was completed. The church held a groundbreaking ceremony at the present location on Nixon and Athens on Sunday, April 13, 1969. The present church structure was completed and furnished under Dr. Terry’s leadership. The membership moved to the new church on April 19, 1970.
In 1972, the Reverend Dr. Harold J. Cobb was called as the pastor of the church. The membership increased along with an increase in attendance of the Sunday School. The church parking lot was paved, and the church interior was redecorated. Under Dr. Cobb’s leadership, a day care center was organized and licensed under the Federal Government and the State of North Carolina guidelines. Under his leadership, the first female ushers and female trustees were installed. The Youth Commission was formed, and the church mortgage was paid off.
The Board of Christian Education and several choirs were formed or reorganized – the Children’s Choir, the Chancel Choir, Women’s Choir, and the Men’s Choir. The Hazel B. Plummer Sunday School Class, the Willie Mae Richmond Sunday School Class, and the Burch Coley Class were also organized. A Girl Scout troop was also formed. Under the leadership of Dr. Cobb, West Durham Baptist Church also served as one of the points for the University Without Walls sponsored by Shaw University.
In 1996, Reverend Jerome Anderson became pastor. He was a dynamic leader and speaker who was committed to doing God’s will. During his pastorate, the church membership grew tremendously. Under his leadership, the church office equipment was computerized, Bible Study for adults and youth was reorganized and several new ministries were established. Additional Sunday School classes were added, the liturgical dance ministry was formed, a church van was purchased, and the church had its first female minister. He served until 2000.
In 2001, Dr. Terry Thomas became pastor. He promoted outreach to the community especially for teaching the younger generation. He was a caring and prolific writer. This energetic and passionate leader’s vision for his church family and mankind was to strengthen their faith and trust in God. Under his leadership, the first female deacon was ordained, several ministers were ordained, and several ministries were organized and or revamped including 1stFriday for the youth, the Mature Members Ministry, the Zacharias Prayer Ministry, and the Visual Arts Ministry. A computer lab was set up, a community food give-away program was implemented, and the bathrooms were renovated during his tenure. Each week he shared with the congregation words “From the Pastor’s Desk’ and periodically, wrote and displayed at the church articles on everyday life issues from a theological perspective. Rev. Dr. Terry Thomas served as a mentor for several associate ministers who have become pastors at other churches or moved to other arenas in the gospel. Rev. Dr. Terry Thomas served as pastor until April 2015. In 2015, stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary and dedicated on October 25, 2015. From May 2015 through December 2016, the deacons, led by Chairman Thomas Kincy, provided leadership for the church. The Associate Ministers – Rev. Andre Harper, Rev. Jessie Purdie, Rev. Gladys Robinson, Rev. William Cannon, Rev. Richard Jones, and Min. Michael Cunningham, served the needs of the congregation with Sunday morning sermons, Bible Study, and congregational care.
On January 1, 2017, Rev. Dr. LaMont Josiah Johnson, Sr. preached his first sermon as our pastor. This enthusiastic and multitalented man of God has brought a new vision to West Durham Baptist Church which includes a focus on the 4 Ws: Word, Worship, Works and Witness. In addition to Pastor Johnson’s powerful preaching and teaching gifts, he is an anointed singer and a skilled pianist and organist. Under his leadership thus far, Sunday morning worship and Bible Study attendance have both increased along with an increase in church membership.
In 2017, the church underwent renovations which included painting the walls and carpeting the floors of the sanctuary and other rooms, updating the office furniture, upgrading the exterior signage, and addressing longstanding basement water issues.