BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
On July 12, 1917, the families of Westly Davises, Christian, and McElya, began meeting in the home of Mamie Porter for religious service. Over time, that small congregation would begin to grow into one of Toledo’s oldest, and largest congregation; St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church.
Exactly 100 years later, on July 29, the spiritual descendants of those families, gathered at the Garden Lake Hall, 5359 Dorr, to celebrate 100 years of worshiping God, and serving the community.
Marelen Cook, chairperson of the anniversary, told The Toledo Journal, the banquet celebration would feature praise dancing, a talk from the granddaughter of the late, Rev. Joseph Smith, Sandra Smith-Goldstick. Rev. Smith served as the Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, for 40 years. In addition, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, who is a member of the church, would deliver the keynote address. And lastly, 28 people, who have been members of the church for 50 years, would be honored and given crystal globes as gifts.
Ms. Cook is one of the members who have belonged to the church for 50 years. She said she was raised in St. Paul’s, and would never leave. When asked by The Toledo Journal how it felt to be over the anniversary, Ms. Cook began crying and replied, “I felt honored when they asked me head it.”
Dr. Joseph Sommerville was invited by a friend to visit St. Paul’s over 46 years ago; he has never left the place he called home.
“The message of serving the Lord has always been the consistent theme,” he said. “There’s always good fellowship, and friendliness here,” Dr. Sommerville said.
“It’s been a joy, and a blessing serving as Pastor,” said Rev. James Willis Sr., senior pastor.
He said the founding member’s persistence at making sure the church grew was very impressive, and motivating.
Rev. Willis said his short term plan for the congregation, which honors the legacy of the founders of the church, is to not only continue to lift the name of Jesus, but continue taking his message outside of the church.
One notable that the members of St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church mentioned was the fact that they were the first African American church in Toledo to establish senior housing. The John McKissick Senior Housing is named after the church’s Pastor who served from 1969 to 1985, before retiring.