First Missionary Baptist
First Missionary Baptist Church
A beacon for its congregation and community
When Rev. William D. Young was pastor of the church, he stated, “It was - and still is - the people working together that has allowed the church to survive, both physically and spiritually, through times of struggle and destruction.”
First Colored Baptist Church was built on the lot at 250 Clark Ave. in 1870, five years after the Civil War's end. The church was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in its current location just south of the original foundation. It changed its name to First Missionary Baptist Church around 1962.
Through the years, the church acquired additional property surrounding the church, and now owns most of the block between Clark Avenue and Market Street.
Some of the worst growing pains, however, and biggest gains came in the 1960s, recalled the Rev. Nathan Walker Jr., who was pastor of the church for 21 years beginning in 1959. “The church played an active role in the civil rights movement on the Coast and often was a central meeting place for those seekipg a change. Along with Rev. Walker and the Rev. Phillip McLoon, of Our Mother of Mercy, they urged their church members in desegregating War Memorial Park. "There was a time when blacks couldn't go in the park to have picnics," Walker said, "Yet their tax dollars were helping keep it up." The church helped change that.
The church also helped schools before desegregation. When the former Randolph High School in Pass Christian was overcrowded with black students from Pass Christian and Long Beach, the church offered class- room space.
During Hurricane Camille, families stayed in the two-story education building connected to the church. Winds shifted the church building 6 inches off its foundation and waters rose nearly halfway up the stairs of the education building.
"People who stayed there that night told me they prayed the water wouldn't come up any further or they would have drowned," Walker said.
One of the most active members and former Sunday school superintendent and choir president, was Mary Davis. In a special observance she stated, "Things haven't always been pretty — things would come up and they might not always be like we want. But, yes sir, I want to say the Lord was with me to go on this long 88 years."
Rev. Young replied that the church was able to learn from the past and able to avoid some of the pitfalls that predecessors were up against. "We're able to do that because we educate not only our members, but our community," he said.