The Beginning, January 1967
As many creative ideas are born in the minds of several people simultaneously, so did the idea to establish a new church in northeast Jackson. Leland Speed, John Palmer, and Bob Guyton, each with his own reasons, had discussed this possibility several times. The idea finally culminated in a happenstance meeting of these three of the founding fathers on a downtown Jackson street corner. As a result of this meeting, and following a meeting with the Reverend Fred Tarpley of the Hinds County Baptist Association, ten people assembled at the Allstate Insurance Company building on January 19, 1967. This group elected steering committee members Robert Guyton, Atley Kitchings, John Palmer, Rubel Phillips, and Leland Speed. Guyton was subsequently elected chairman by the committee.
Following this initial meeting, the Steering Committee actively pursued organization by meeting with various pastors of other Baptist churches within the city. During this time Reverend Tarpley gave invaluable guidance and counsel to the committee and urged support for the new mission from other churches. At a second meeting on January 31, the initial steps in organization as well as future plans were reviewed. After obtaining thirty-four signatures representing as many families, the mission petitioned for official status before the Hinds County Baptist Association Mission Committee and received approval of the Executive Committee on February 28.
Subsequent work by the Steering Committee and other committees brought the mission to reality. The first worship service was held May 7 in the Chapel of the Hinds County Baptist Association on Lakeland Drive with Dr. Harvey Whaley serving as guest minister. Eighty-six worshipers were in attendance. The Sunday School classes and nursery were housed in the office building connected to the Chapel. Dr. Whaley led workshop sessions on worship for two days prior to the first worship service. From these sessions came affirmation of many ideas near and dear to the hearts of mission members. As a consequence, worship committees through the ensuing years have carefully structured the worship services so that in a spirit of quiet reverence God is exalted in word and music. With the feeling that worship is the first priority of the gathered church, the worship committees have also attempted to reclaim from history the participation of the worshiper in the service. Karen Gilfoy and James Furlow came to the mission in its early days as able leaders of the music ministry.
The mission set about the task of giving itself a name, calling an interim pastor, and diligently searching for a permanent pastor. On May 14, the mission was officially named Northeast Jackson Baptist Mission. On that same day, Dr. Harvey T. Whaley was called as interim pastor to begin service on July 2.
Dr. L. D. Johnson, who was guest minister at Northeast Jackson Baptist Mission on September 17, authored a paper entitled “Southern Baptists in the Seventies” that had a profound influence on the mission. This influence was seen in early discussions among mission members concerning carrying an accurate reflection of the active membership on the rolls, continuing nurture of new Christians, de-emphasizing statistical success symbols, emphasis on historical-critical Bible study, enrichment of worship itself as an active form of evangelism, revision of Sunday evening ministries, and the “open door” policy.
On October 22, the mission held its first service in new quarters at the old Temple Beth Israel on Woodrow Wilson Boulevard. The Temple was graciously lent to the mission by the Jewish congregation, thereby providing the mission with its first sense of a permanent home, and more importantly, beginning a lasting friendship with the Jewish community of Jackson. After much preparation by mission members, worshipers entered the Temple past a banner proudly declaring, “Northeast Jackson Baptist Mission – Welcome.” This happy occasion was also a sad one, as it was Dr. Whaley’s last service as interim pastor. He had made a deep impression, and his words of wisdom to the fledgling congregation are often remembered:
“We agree to differ. We resolve to love. We unite to serve.”
Dr. Whaley stated, “If we could not agree to differ, we have no freedom. If we do not resolve to love, we have no Christianity. If we do not unite to serve, the kingdom of God and the world will suffer.”
The search for a permanent pastor had been proceeding during Dr. Whaley’s interim service and culminated with the installation of Dr. L. Dudley Wilson, former pastor of Fairfield First Baptist Church, Fairfield, Alabama, on October 29. With the historic occurrence of the installation of a permanent pastor, a giant step was made toward obtaining church status. The naming of the church, the organization of the deacons, the adoption of the resolution of constitution and incorporation, and the adoption of the church covenant were all accomplished on December 10.
And thus, with one hundred thirty-three charter members, Northminster Baptist Church was constituted as a church on Sunday, December 17, 1967.