Fifth Baptist Church enjoys a rich heritage of spiritual and physical growth. The roots of Fifth Baptist can be traced to humble beginnings in February, 1865. A small group of slaves sharing a desire to worship the Lord would slip away from their quarters during the late evening hours. A torn and tattered shed located near a trash dump on Navy Hill is where the slaves would gather, risking punishment and death, to sing and offer prayers of thanksgiving and liberation.
Slavery was abolished and the ex-slaves continued their religious journey. In 1872, Warwick stable, located at the corner of Morris and Main Streets, was chosen as the new site for the church. The Rev. Charles Bowles was chosen as the first pastor and services were held on the second floor of the stable without fear of reprisal from the slave masters.
From the beginning, informal groups of men, referred to as trustee, directed the activities of the church. The early trustees sought to build the church on a solid spiritual and financial foundation allowing for orderly worship and growth.
Attendance and support of the church continued to grow and a decision was made to build a church. On February 27, 1894, a parcel of land located at 1400 West Cary Street was purchased and a Gothic design edifice was constructed. The new church featured stained glass windows, a choir loft and a pump styled organ.
The new church building proved to be a catalyst for growth and decision making of the church. Some members of the early Deacon Board included Daniel Brown, James Carter, Ben Minor, John Piercy, Charlie Shannon, Major White and Emmett Alford.
The early church saw the need to keep accurate and ongoing record keeping. A church clerk was elected and was responsible for record keeping, keeping accurate lists of those persons scheduled for baptism, recording information on incoming members and an array of other duties. Some of the early church clerks were Joe Davis, George King, James Orange, and David Cheek.
Sunday School at Fifth is more than 75 years old. Sunday School provides Bible study, religious training and spiritual growth for children, teens and adults. Early Sunday School Superintendents include Junious Orange, Moses Lewis, Robert Lee, Martin Crittenden, Ada Green and Joseph Taylor.
The church had one choir for many years. This one choir later divided and became the Junior and Senior Choirs. Early leaders included Ola Mayo Garrett, Avis Turner, Florence Fields, and Elizabeth Anderson. During the past fifth years, several choirs were formed.
During the past 143 years, God has blessed Fifth Baptist Church with dynamic pastors with a vision of growth. Reverend Dr. Earl M. Brown has served as pastor since 1978. He was preceded by early pastors including Reverends Anderson Taylor, William Dobbins, A.D. Daly, R. S. Anderson, John Clark and James Kelley.
Under the leadership of Rev. Kelly, Fifth Baptist experienced unprecedented growth and a need for a new edifice. A fund-raising drive was launched in 1968 and over $350,000.00 was raised to purchase land and construct a new building at West Cary Street, and in October 1978, the church purchased the land at 1415 West Cary Street from the Richmond Development Commission. The current church building was completed in January 1984 and was dedicated on March 4, 1984.
The church continues to grow in all areas and will need to expand physical facilities in the near future due to optimal growth and program development.
That vision came true under the leadership of Dr. Earl M. Brown. The facility now has a new commercial size kitchen, renovated Secretarial suite, Co-pastor office suite, Financial Secretary office, Choir Room, renovated fellowship Hall, and a Family Life Center including a full size gym.
To God Be The Glory!