LIMA — Such humble beginnings for a Lima landmark.
Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church is celebrating its 100th anniversary with special services and a banquet later this month.
“A lot of times the church doesn’t take enough time to celebrate its achievements,” said the Rev. Nathan Madison, who is originally from Toledo. “The sad thing, in today’s world, we come together for bad events. What about the good times when you have times to celebrate achievements? If you come together for the good stuff, you’ll be stronger.”
It all started with a small group of people meeting for prayer in 1917 in a little house at 146 W. Lafayette St., the home of William Jackson. Those founding members were Mary Johnson, William Gilliard, Minnie Elkins, Rosa Walker, Cassie Biggs and pastor brothers Leroy and William McGee, according to church history. Lima residents won’t find that home standing today — or even be able to locate the street, for that matter. It’s simply gone.
But that meeting grew enough so that a storefront on Norval Avenue and West Fourth Street was rented for services. In 1919, a wooden building was bought in Kemp, Ohio, and moved to 122 W. Fourth St. — the address of the church yet today.
In 1924, the members started building a new church at the same location. The basement was finished first, and services were held there as the building came up around it.
In June 1929, the sanctuary was dedicated at the new brick structure. This church was added to in 1948. From this point, the membership was on a roll. Community sporting contests were started, a parsonage was purchased, and additions and renovations were completed.
The church’s community ties were demonstrated on March 21, 1965, when the civil rights March for Freedom to Town Square began at the church’s steps.
Through the 1970s, the church purchased property around it, paved parking lots and even served as a Head Start site.
Before long, the church was out of room again. In 1994, the first plans for a new church and family center were discussed, and construction began in 1996. The current church was dedicated March 13, 1997. Attendance averages about 150 per Sunday.
“Our major focus now is just combining the older generations with the younger and trying to bridge the gap so we can continue forth,” Madison said, explaining most of the church members have been there decades. “They’ve been able to keep all the families together.”