Header image: A commemorative piece by Phresh Laundry/Theopolis Smith
Written by Cherise M. Dixe, LCSW
In a country that is less than 250 years old, and for a people that are only 156 years removed from bondage, having an institution that has survived for an entire century is a big deal. For the entire month of March, Pilgrim Baptist Church is celebrating its Centennial Anniversary. But it is not just Pilgrim’s achievement, for the congregation truly is a community asset.
Pilgrim’s history mirrors the story of Fort Wayne’s black community. The founders who met on a Sunday evening in the front room of Charlie Collins’ home at 1192 Hayden Street were a long way from home, but being together that night gave them a sense of comfort and hope for the future. Most of them were from Alabama—from places like Browns and Marion Junction. Two only arrived in town from Dallas County in 1918, but like Alabama transplants to Fort Wayne before and after them, being around people from “home” made the transition easier.
Frank L. Brown, a laborer at the mill, was chosen to be the pastor of the new congregation. Born in 1886 in Browns, Alabama, he worked in the fields before moving to Fort Wayne and finding work in the factory. And although he rarely had money to spare when living on the farm, whenever possible he bought a book to read. He felt the call to preach from the moment he was converted but did not act on it for years. He wanted to learn all he could so he could be prepared, but having a family to support meant he had little time or money for study. Eventually, he was able to secure funding for two years of study at Selma University. From Rev. Brown to Rev. Hosea Pickney, to Rev. John Dixie, Rev. Sam Shade, Sr., to Pastor Raymond Dix, Jr., Pilgrim’s leadership has maintained a commitment to serving the larger Fort Wayne Community.
From March 17 to March 31, 2019, Pilgrim Baptist Church officially celebrated its 100th Anniversary. The celebration officially kicked off with an evening worship service lead by Pastor Anthony R. Pettus and the Greater Progressive Baptist Church. On Friday, March 29, 2019, the church held an evening of elegance and exaltation at Ceruti’s Reception Hall. The night included Pastor Ernest Starks singing “He Touched Me” as he did when he was a member of Pilgrim followed by the gospel jazz of Tri+Add music. Throughout the evening families and friends visited the photo booth and reconnected with members past and present. The evening culminated with a masterpiece rendered by the remarkable talent of Phresh Laundry, Theoplis Smith depicting the 100-year journey of Pilgrim Baptist Church.
Saturday, March 30, 2019, Pilgrim celebrated 100 years through song. The Pilgrim Reunion Choir featured local vocalists, past and present of Pilgrim Baptist Church. From the Rivers of Babylon to Oh Happy Day, the Reunion Choir lifted their voices in praise. To make the night extra special, national gospel recording artist, Byron Cage blessed us with his amazing talent, singing “I Will Bless the Lord,” “The Presence of the Lord,” and other notable praise and worship songs.
Sunday, March 31, 2019, the anniversary celebration ended on a high note with Pastor Luther Whitfield and New Covenant Worship Center encouraging all of us to “move our stone,” so that we may receive a miracle from the Lord.
Thanks to all who participated in any way with helping making our anniversary a success. We sincerely appreciate all the love and support. Feel free to come worship with us on Sundays at 11:00 AM at 1331 Gay Street, as we continue to build on the strong foundation of spreading God’s word under the leadership of Pastor Raymond C. Dix, Jr.