The First Virginia Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, Incorporated
3601 Virginia Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40211
According to the most reliable records, The First Virginia Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, Incorporated, was organized under the name of The Nebulan Baptist Church in 1884, instead of the previously reported years. The organizers were: Reverend Jake Oldham, Reverend Charles C. Bates, Reverend H. M. L. Mitchem, Richard Hyman and John Jackson. The meeting was held in the front room of James Jackson’s home, located on Orleans Avenue, presently known as Dumesnil Street. The Church moved from that site to an old school house (Parkland Colored School) on Orleans Avenue. We moved a third time to 36th Street and Virginia Avenue. In 1886, the Sunday School Department was organized under the pastorage of Reverend J. W. Washington.
The following ministers served as Pastor before 1900: Reverend J. M. Mitchell, Reverend T. A. Johnson, Reverend J. W. Washington and Reverend J. R. Simmons. Reverend Charles H. Sands was an Associate Minister. The first choir was organized under the pastorage of Reverend T. A. Johnson.
The name, Nebulan Baptist Church, was changed to Virginia Avenue Baptist Church in 1901. Reverend William Augustus Jones served as Pastor from 1900 to 1909. The first Church building was erected in 1901. The membership increased, and there was a need for additional space. Reverend William Augustus Jones and Deacons Jesse Stewart, George Hill, George White, Will Morgan, Bryant, John Wright and Henry Bybee secured a building called a Paracamp. It was carried down Virginia Avenue on wheels drawn by horses. They connected it to the small building that was turned to face 36th Street. A brick front was added and a small baptismal pool was erected. A Missionary Society, Senior Choir and Young People’s Choir was organized.
Reverend T. L. Ballou served from 1910 to 1913. Reverend G. J. Sebree served for a brief period.
Reverend Albert H. Shumake, from Russellville, Indiana, was called as Pastor in 1913. Again, there was an increase in the membership. Reverend Shumake’s vision was to build a larger church. Many people helped clean the second-hand bricks that were used for the erection of the church. The building was erected in 1919. Reverend Shumake was a strong advocator of religious theology. Ordained during his pastorage was Reverend John Robinson. Associate Ministers were Reverend John W. Wilson and Reverend Edward Guest. The Senior Usher Board was founded in 1922 by Burell Walker, James Tramiell and Otis Tramiell. Reverend Shumake served as Pastor until his death, in 1940.
Reverend Raleigh James Miller became the Pastor in 1941. He came from the Washington Street Baptist Church, Paducah, Kentucky. Under his leadership, the following accomplishments were made: the membership increased, causing a need to make changes to the structure of the church; a parsonage was purchased, which was located at 3216 Dumesnil Street; the mortgage was paid off on the church building; pews were paid off; the sanctuary was remodeled and permastone added to the outside front of the church; an Education Building was added; nine lots were purchased; a parking lot added; installed a pipe organ; purchased robes for the choirs; secured Brock Home; built a parsonage, located at 3621 Virginia Avenue; organized our Mission Church. In 1942, “The Virginian”, our Church bulletin, was first printed by the O’Bannon School, located at 3414 Grand Avenue. In 1950, the Church was incorporated and the name was changed to “First Virginia Avenue Baptist Church”. This change was necessary in order to differentiate our church from the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, located at 26th Street and Virginia Avenue.
Reverend R. J. Miller organized our Mission Church. On September 5, 1953, Reverend Cornelius C. Booker, Sr., one of our Associate Ministers, was placed as overseer of the Mission Church. This Church was named First Virginia Avenue Mission Church, located at 3725 Von Spiegel Street. Some of the members from First Virginia Avenue Baptist Church became members of our Mission Church. These members were Major Robinson, Claude Wilson (first Church Clerk), Naomi Wilson (first Choir President), Elsie Booker, Golden Henderson and Lovett Harris. In 1957, the First Virginia Avenue Mission Church changed her name to Von Speigel Street Baptist Church and relocated to 34th and Kentucky Streets.
The following men were ordained under Reverend R. J. Miller: Reverend Cornelius C. Booker, Reverend William T. Shumake, Reverend John Payne, Reverend Percy Lively, Reverend Ronald Terry and Reverend Joseph Tucker. Licentiate Oscar Sutton was granted a license to preach. Also serving as Associate Ministers were Reverend Ordinary Green and Reverend R. L. Amos.
During this era, we continued to grow in spirit, as well as in members. More than 20 groups were organized and worked actively in the Church. Sister Ruth E. Miller organized the following groups: the Gospel Chorus in 1944; the Jubilee Chorus in 1948; the Sunbeams in 1950; the older youth bible study groups and children’s nursery. Our first Sunrise Sunday School was held in 1951 at 6:30 a.m., under the auspices of the Homemakers Bible Class #2. The Altar Guild was organized on February 16, 1954. Because the Board of Education discontinued kindergarten in the public schools, as an economic measure, the Pre-School Training Center began in September 1956. Our Center consisted of a nursery and kindergarten for children ranging in age from 3-5 years. The Director was Dorothy Richardson. Instructors were Dorothy Trice, Chlora Cosby, Evelyn Howard and Johnetta Finch.
When Reverend Miller’s health began to fail, Reverend Sherman J. Shelton was asked to serve as his Assistant. Reverend Shelton became the Acting Pastor following Reverend Miller’s death, in November 1967. Under Reverend Shelton’s leadership, the following were granted their licenses to preach: Licentiate Michael Cunningham, Licentiate Larry Cunningham, Licentiate Otis Cunningham.
Reverend Shelton also served as Minister of Education. Reverend Shelton served as Acting Pastor until 1969, when Reverend Ollie Alton Hester, from Wilmington, North Carolina became Pastor, in July 1969. Under Reverend Hester’s leadership, the Young People’s Choir was reorganized under the name of O. A. Hester Choir. Reverend Hester served as Pastor until February 1973.
Reverend Mackie J. Caldwell served as Acting Pastor from February 1973 until November 1973. He was knowledgeable, faithful and dedicated to the ministry.
Reverend Carnel Cornelius Cloud, former Pastor of the New Providence Baptist Church, Columbus, Georgia, and the St. John Baptist Church, Lanett, Alabama, accepted the call to Pastor First Virginia Avenue in November 1973. Associate Ministers were: Reverend George Cowan, Reverend Albert Cole, Reverend Mackie J. Caldwell, Reverend Bennie D. Hall; Licentiate Oscar Sutton and Licentiate John W. Page. The Bus Ministry and Education Committee were organized. A new Baldwin Grand Piano, two new buses and two lots, located next to the parsonage and on Hale Avenue, were purchased. A ramp was built to accommodate the physically challenged individuals. Reverend Cloud remained Pastor until 1984.
In 1984, Reverend Ashford K. Bennett became Interim Pastor. He was short in stature, but was a very knowledgeable and respected minister. His famous words to us were, “It’s Prayer Time”, and many in the congregation joined him at the altar. Associate Ministers included those mentioned above, and Reverend Michael George joined us. Reverend Bennett served as Interim Pastor until April 1985.
Reverend Charles H. Duncan, Sr., former Pastor of the Beargrass Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky, was installed on April 4, 1985, and presently serves as our Pastor. He is known for his works as a preacher, teacher, lecturer and theologian. Our unity song is ”Sweet, Sweet Spirit”. Under Reverend Duncan, the following ministries have been organized: Feast of Love; Safe Place for Kids; Family; Nursing Home; Sick and Shut-in; Wednesday Mid-day prayer; Sunday afternoon seminars; Praise Dancers; Bell Ringers; Recorder Choir and the Mass Choir. A reorganization was made of the Film, Children’s Choir and Children’s Church Ministries. Additional properties around the Church were purchased.
On November 12, 2001, an Amended Article was filed to change the Church’s name from First Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, Incorporated, to The First Virginia Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, Incorporated. Associate Ministers include Reverend William Lee (deceased), Reverend William Stocker, Reverend Henry Harris, Reverend Richard King, Reverend Eric Sawyers, Reverend Christopher Gay, Reverend George Cowan, Reverend Kern Richardson, Reverend Leon Graves, Reverend John Malone, Reverend Charles Griffin, Jr., Reverend James Tippett, Reverend John Hall and Licentiates Anthony Sawyers, D’Artagnan Ramsey and James King, Keith Brooks, Robert Lowe and Marcus Webster. Many ministers have received their licenses and were ordained under Reverend Duncan’s leadership. The membership increased; therefore, creating a need to replace the old out-dated and unsound structure. The ground breaking celebration was held on August 29, 2004. The new edifice will be located on the same grounds and is scheduled for completion in December 2005.
Unfortunately, we were not able to open in December 2005, but on March 26, 2006, the members of First Virginia Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, along with dignitaries and friends, were able to motorcade from Lyman T. Johnson Traditional Middle School (where services had been held for the previous 15 months) to the new edifice. “To God Be the Glory”.
(Revised January 24, 2008)