By Richard Rourk
Ninth Street Baptist Church, located at 310 Ninth St. in Erwin, will soon be celebrating a very special milestone.
The church will celebrate its 90th anniversary with a service and homecoming on Oct. 27. The event will kick off with the morning worship service at 11 a.m. There will be a meal and fellowship following the morning service.
According to Ninth Street Baptist Church Deacon Joey Lewis, the church has a rich tradition of service since it first opened its doors in 1929.
“In November of 1925, Ninth Street Baptist Mission was organized by First Baptist Church,” Lewis told The Erwin Record. “A.C. Sherwood was the pastor of First Baptist Church and his son James, who was just going into the ministry, was the speaker at Ninth Street.”
Ninth Street Mission became a church on Jan. 6, 1929, with the Reverend H. F. Wright serving as the first pastor.
“There were 63 charter members and the original Ninth Street Church building is the part of the church that faces Ninth Street and now houses the church office, pastor’s study, choir room and classrooms,” Lewis said. “The Women’s Missionary Society was very influential in creating the first church building, from purchasing a piano to securing the brick veneering for the building.”
According to Lewis, the first superintendent of Sunday School was Fred Booth, the first Sunday School secretary was Frank Tapp, the first church pianist was Pauline Brummett Keesecker, the first church pianist assistant was Bonnie Ford, the first church clerk was R.R. Elliott and the first choir director was Rice Adkins.
“Mr. Adkins’ daughters Ruby Erwin and Adrene Booth were charter members and his great granddaughter, Kim Fortune is a member today and Mr. Elliott is the father of J. Frank and Crawford Elliott, who were long time members of the church,” Lewis said.
Lewis acknowledged that the church did not grow much during the Great Depression and that Reverend Wright led his congregation during the bulk of the depression until October 1939. Reverend C. W. Hileman was then pastor until August 1941.
Ninth Street, which had already survived the Great Depression and World War I, was faced with another trying time in American history. World War II presented Ninth Street Baptist Church with another challenge and another chance to serve the community. According to Lewis, Ninth Street Baptist Church helped the community through various service projects.
“Reverend Robert H. Dills became the pastor in October of 1945 and served until May of 1950,” Lewis said. “With the war over Sunday truly became a day of rest and families wore there best clothing to attend service and God was in control of the church.”
The 1940s gave way for the 1950s and, according to Lewis, in 1950 Ninth Street Baptist Church opened up a new auditorium and classrooms under the leadership of Reverend Aden Childress. “At least 25 of the original charter members were still attending Ninth Street by 1951 – the church had really grown,” Lewis said. “From that growth, Ninth Street began a mission of its own in the 1950s, it was called Good Shepherd Baptist Church and it is still thriving today.”
In 1967, Ninth Street Baptist Church began to have their services broadcast monthly on the radio station WEMB. In 1975, WEMB started broadcasting Ninth Street weekly and continued to do so for many years.
“Not only did the radio pick up the services, but Ninth Street began its second mission church with Omega Baptist Church,” Lewis said. “Reverend Jack Daniels was the first pastor for Omega.”
In 1985, the church moved onto television dials as well.
“The Christmas Cantata under the direction of Mike Bernard was held on Dec. 22, 1985, and was televised on American Cable System’s channel 12,” Lewis said. “On Nov. 29, 1998 we began a live broadcast of our morning worship service on WXIS 103.9 and this continued for years.”
According to Lewis, over the years Ninth Street Baptist Church has provided the community with years of service.
“Six men have been ordained to the gospel ministry at Ninth Street. We have had 14 ministers serve the church and several interim pastors have served over the years,” Lewis said. “Many years have passed since 1925, but the purpose of Ninth Street Baptist Church has remained the same – we still serve the same God that we served then, and we still strive to be a light unto our community by allowing the love of God to shine through its members.”
Lewis acknowledged that giving back to the community is a huge part of what has allowed Ninth Street Baptist to survive and thrive for 90 years.
“We have always been a mission-minded church, we run free shuttles for attendees to the Apple Festival each year, including this year in which we took 850 passengers to the festival,” Lewis said. “For the past 20 years Ninth Street has sponsored the Thanksgiving meals for shut-ins and anyone else who needs a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day.”
Ninth Street Baptist Church also feeds the UCHS athletes regularly and is getting ready to hand out candy to local children for Halloween.
This anniversary event is free to the public and everyone is invited to come celebrate.
“We are expecting a big turnout. We’ve got all kinds of former staff members, pastors, youth ministers, choir members and many of the youth are coming back to celebrate,” Lewis said. “We have several members that will be recognized during the event; it is just going to be a really good day in the life of the church.”
Ninth Street Baptist has weekly Sunday School services that start each week at 9:45 a.m. and Sunday Services are held at 11 a.m. and Sunday evening services are held at 6 p.m. These services are open to the public
To learn more about the ways that Ninth Street Baptist Church gives back to the community or for more information about the church, please follow Ninth Street Baptist Church on Facebook or at ninthstreetbaptist.org.