one lord, one faith, one baptism

Great events and great men are immortalized by regular observances of and reviewing history. Although in the making of history, the movement may be one of progression, it becomes necessary at intervals to take a backward glance in order to evaluate progress.  Therefore, as we read the history of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, we have an opportunity to recall the deeds of valor and love done in the “dark days” of our history; one of giving thanks to the Almighty for His guidance and his loving care throughout these years; and one of rededication of ourselves to those principles upon which our founders built so well.

This church was organized in troublous times, has been through troublous time, but thanks be to God, she has continued to stand in favor of ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, AND ONE BAPTISM.  Pilgrim has survived the strife, bitterness and poverty of her times only to become a part of a new civilization in this greater Cincinnati area of ours, and the nation, which impact has had reverberations around the world. A look at the records discloses that the going has been uneven and at times rough.  Travelers along the way have sometimes been divided and at odds one with another.  Not always have their chosen guides and captains discharged their duties according to the laws of our God, and occasionally followers have wandered off to other roads and become lost.  There have been times when some seasoned but uncharitable traveler discouraged the young and the timid causing them to leave this pilgrim band; there have been many to go along just for the trip, without much interest, with little or no participation, without enthusiasm, without commitment.  Nevertheless, by the grace of God, Pilgrim has been permitted again and again to enter into creative encounter in the arena of life, in Christ Jesus.

These encounters have been accomplished not alone through pastors, but also through the various officers and members. Look how far The Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church has come “Standing on the Promises of Jesus.”

Would she survive?  Would the infant church, born in a home on Cincinnati’s teeming Sixth Street Hill thrive?  She was lovingly parented by The Reverend R. W. Watkins, organizer, and, her birthing chamber was Henry Williams’ front room at 442 East Sixth Street, near the place where the Interstate 71 entrance ramp now rises.  Attending the birth was Rev. R. H. Ushery, who first served as Assistant, and later became Pastor.  The infant was christened Pilgrim Baptist Church, perhaps because her founders saw themselves as dedicated journeyers, on their way to a better place.  The date was April 6, 1903!

Rev. Watkins departure in 1906 made it possible for Rev. Ushery to succeed him as Pilgrim’s second Pastor.  The growing church soon moved to a larger location in a storefront on the southeast corner of New and North Streets.  Among the first converts were:  Sarah J. Smith, William Anderson, and Clay Jackson.  In the home of Priscilla Allen, Rev. Ushery organized the Willing Workers Club.  The congregation had grown to ninety-four.  Yes, indeed the fledgling church was thriving.

After a four year tenure, Rev. Ushery sought a different vineyard, and early in 1911, Rev. J. H. Jackson became Pastor.  The New and North Streets location had served the congregation’s need for seven years, after which they relocated in the Dabney Building.  For reasons dimmed by failed memories and the passage of time, the pre-adolescent Pilgrim Baptist did not prosper in that setting.  At one extremely low point, the membership rolls dwindled to only fourteen souls.  That sad fact and other adverse conditions led to Rev. Jackson’s resignation in 1914.

Despite low membership, high debts, and widespread demoralization, Rev. Harvey Miller assumed Pilgrim’s pulpit on July 12, 1914.  The aggressive leadership of this Pilgrim’s fourth Pastor resulted in liquidation of all debts in only six months.  The church was revitalized!  Two years later, a building at 530 East Eighth Street was purchased at a cost of seventy-five hundred dollars.  Negotiations began December 27, 1916 and on July 12, 1920 that debt had also been abolished!

With the advent of the frantic Roaring Twenties and the demolition of Cincinnati’s corrupt “Boss Tweed” administration, in September, 1920, Rev. Miller had a visionary plan for the construction of a brand new church home.  The architect, Randolph Ware was chosen to draw plans and specifications for our new church home.  The City and State Building Code Department approved the plans; the church accepted the plans on December 23, 1920.  Rev. Miller announced the cost of this venture would be $93,603.50.

On April 1, 1923 ground was broken for our new church.  The foundation was laid and the basement was started at the cost of $24,819.14.  The basement was finished on August 26, 1923 and paid for on December 27, 1926.  Encouraged by this tangible sign of progress, members continued to generate funds to finance the completion of their sanctuary.

Pilgrim’s small, devoted band of worshipers marched from the Dabney Building to the new site 530 East 8th Street on August 26, 1923.  Their plan was to hold services in the basement until the rest of the building could be erected.  In the fullness of time, on the twentieth day of October, 1932, two Deacons, John Jasper and John Smith ceremoniously lifted planks from the basement roof.

Unfortunately, a worldwide financial crisis, the infamous stock market crash of 1929, and the resulting Great Depression, forced Pilgrim, by now a matron in her late twenties, to severely alter building plans.  Because of limited funds, only a skeletal structure arose.  However, the committed church family steadfastly continued to worship inside the rough hewn dwelling.  During this era, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary, Sister Minnie Taylor, organized the first Women’s Day Observance after returning from the 1938 National Baptist Convention and Congress.  And, even though the entire country was enduring financial difficulty, Rev. Miller’s staunch leadership led to an increased membership of more than three hundred!

During all the years he served Pilgrim, Rev. Miller was ably assisted by his devoted wife Lillian.  Sadly though, he was overcome by illness, and subsequently died on August 4, 1943.

Early in February, 1944, Rev. Rollins Thompson ascended to Pilgrim’s pulpit.  Rev. Thompson expressed a strong desire to add the final changes to the church’s auditorium.  However, true to his calling, he first made certain that all back wages due to the recently deceased Rev. Miller were paid to his widow, Lillian.  Soon, Rev. Thompson too was struck by illness, which resulted in his departure from Pilgrim in 1948.

While the search for a new Pastor was being conducted, Rev. Jessie Goodman faithfully shepherded the leaderless flock.  Further, he graciously remained as assistant until the next Pastor became accustomed to his duties.  Rev. Goodman transferred to Greater Liberty Baptist Church.

A graduate of Birmingham Baptist College, on October 10, 1948, Pilgrim’s next Pastor was Rev. Charles Louis Conner.  He immediately set about the task of completing the sanctuary in one and a half years, at a cost of $48,000 and reclaiming members who had strayed.  Moreover, his dynamic leadership led to the installation of a water fountain, a new furnace, and the purchases of an adjacent lot for parking, new pulpit furniture, and a Hammond organ—all at a total cost of $8500.  Our church was prospering and the debts were not great. Rev. Conner’s sterling qualities propelled him into conspicuous positions as Moderator of the Western Union Baptist Association, and Third Vice Moderator of the National Baptist Moderator’s Council.

In 1961, City Officials advised that the now fifty-nine year old Pilgrim Baptist Church lay in the path of a proposed northeast expressway.  A new location had to be found.  Rev. Conner acted quickly.  He and certain members of the Official Boards financed the purchase of the site where Pilgrim now stands.  Rev. Conner mortgaged his personal residence; others donated funds, while still others made loans to the church.  Guarantors of the loan were:  Trustees Floyd Black and Calvin Phillips, as well as Deacons Robert Smith and Charlie Rudolph.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new edifice were held on Sunday, June 10, 1962 and construction began by William Lichtenberg Sons, Contractors at a cost of $153,000.  During this period, Rev. Conner suffered several heart attacks and even though the church wasn’t built exactly as he had planned, because of his absence, God still allowed him to see the finished product.  On September 23, 1962, the laying of the cornerstone was officiated by Cincinnati’s Mayor, the Honorable Walton H. Bachrach.

Amazingly, on May 19, 1963, the new building was officially dedicated.  Rev. Wilbur A. Page, venerable Pastor of Union Baptist Church presided.  During the week leading to the official dedication, the following churches fellowshipped with us in 1963.

Monday: St. Luke Baptist Church - Rev. C. R. Flint

Tuesday: 1st New Shiloh Baptist Church - Rev. M. J. Mangham

Wednesday: Bethel Baptist Church - Rev. Harry Brown

Thursday: Trinity Baptist Church - Rev. W. D. Motley

Friday: St. John A.M.E. Zion Church Rev. J. F. Dunn

In July, 1967, Rev. Conner saw a need for an addition to the church.  Thus, the C. L. Conner Education Center was realized and dedicated for all people.  Rev. Conner began to falter in his health, and subsequently resigned from the church as Pastor in 1977.

On April 20, 1978, Rev. Wesley J. Walker became Pilgrim’s new Pastor.  During his stay, the Bible Class was re-instituted, as was Vacation Bible School.  He also organized a Youth  Club.  Then, due to unfortunate circumstances, he resigned in October, 1981.

Rev. John M. Harris, Jr., the eighth Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church was installed on April 18, 1982 although he actually came to Pilgrim in February, 1982.  Under his administration: he reorganized a split Official Board; seventy persons united with Christ; choir membership increased; new robes were purchased; worn carpet was replaced at the cost of $953; and the roof of Conner Center was resurfaced and gutters replaced at the cost of $1500.  Notably, while Rev. Harris was Pastor, the last $4000 due on the church’s mortgage was paid in full in five short months.  In July 1982, Rev. Harris, Deacon Robert Baker, Chairman of the Deacon Board and Leonard Black, Treasurer, presented a check to Lockland Building and Loan.  Rev. Harris resigned in October, 1996.

The Officials desire to hold Pilgrim’s congregation together while a new leader was sought prompted them to request that Rev. Sherwin Ealy, Sr. serve as interim minister.  Not only did Rev. Ealy conduct regular worship services, but he also taught Bible Study Class and Sunday School.

After seven months of holding interviews, reviewing resumes, and listening to visiting preachers’ sermons, Pilgrim’s Officials and membership voted that their next Pastor should be none other than Rev. Sherwin Quintanilla Ealy, Sr. on September 27, 1997.  He was officially installed on Sunday, November 9, 1997.  Since his arrival:  an organist and two other musicians have been retained, choir membership has increased, new members class and Sunday School teacher’s meeting instituted, hospitality committee created, Presidents’ Council developed, tape ministry, tutorial program in reading and math for community children, church sign purchased, Pastor’s office and secretary’s office refurbished, prayer-sick band and Pastor’s Aide Club re-instituted, tithing increased substantially, alarm system installed, sound system installed, new drums and piano, stove and refrigerator purchased, custodian added to staff, new doors installed and yard landscaped, tables and chairs purchased for fellowship hall and new ceiling in Conner’s Hall. In the summer months on Wednesday night, Pastor Ealy instituted Hour of Power in which we fellowship with other churches for an hour of worship. In the alcove, a prayer garden was established with donations from the Pastor’s mother’s (Anna Ruth Grace Faucett Ealy) home—statue, decorative water fountain, large vase, Bible holder and settee. Plans are made for our much needed parking lot.  The home at 1521 Lincoln Avenue which was purchased by the church in October, 1990 was torn down in August, 2006 to make way for a new parking lot.  Many obstacles as zoning codes, regulations, finding a water well and money have slowed the process.  We are waiting with expectation, motivation and donations and in the Lord’s time, the parking lot will come to fruition.

In May, 2007, Pilgrim was bountifully blessed by a much needed monetary gift of fifty thousand dollars from one Cincinnati’s billionaire philanthropist, Mr. Carl H. Lindner and twenty-five thousand dollars from a dear friend, Rev. Rhansyl Harris. With these blessed gifts and the giving of many members, family and friends, we were able to complete Phase One of our renovation project which has been planned since our Centennial celebration in 2003. The pews have been refurbished and padded, new choir chairs, chancellor furniture refinished, communion table, tithe box and carpeting throughout entire church. The sanctuary has been waterproof and new energy efficient windows were given to the church from Pastor Sherwin and First Lady Yvonne Ealy.

As the blessings of the Lord continue to come upon Pilgrim—a new retaining wall was given to us by the construction group building apartments next door.  To improve our new sound system other technologies were added to improve recordings; heating and air conditioning system made more energy efficient.

In December, 2010, Pilgrim was blessed with a gift of $15,000 from Associate Minister, Reverend Columbus and Sister Opal Perkins.  With this bountiful gift, the Conner Fellowship Hall was renovated and a new kitchen was installed by Nassau Construction Company—Michael Ealy, President.

This year April, 2013, a new air conditioning unit in the sanctuary was purchased and paid for by members of Pilgrim. The unit was installed by Cool Times—Mr. Calvin Lanier, owner. 

With the guidance from a loving God and in the spirit of Unity, Rev. Ealy hoped to continue to lead the members of Pilgrim on to greater accomplishments in the physical realm, deeper spirituality, and substantive service in the community. Our beloved Pastor Sherwin Q. Ealy became gravely ill and was in Hospice of Cincinnati, Blue Ash.  But God! He was well enough to return from hospice and took his place in the pulpit. Pastor Ealy entered his heavenly home on April 6, 2014.

On May 30, 2014, Reverend Doctor Jonathan Brown was called to become our tenth pastor.  He stood in the pulpit as pastor on August 3, 2014.  Installation Service for Pastor Brown was October 26, 2014.  Upon arrival, Pastor Brown immediately began working in the vineyard to expand kingdom building.  He instituted the study—Thirty Three Days of Stewardship which resulted in increased tithes and services so a healthy church can continue to grow and survive. The church by-laws were enhanced to include Biblical Doctrine.  Blessings in a Backpack is a continuous community outreach ministry supplying backpacks and school supplies.  The pastor’s office was remodeled; Inspirational Morning Breakfast every second Sunday of the month was instituted; Re-instituted Sick and Shut-in Ministry, Bible Café—Wednesday Night Bible Study serving dinner; Lamp Unto Our Feet Bible Memory Verses; Selected Annual Theme for the church “Selected to Serve” And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry 1 Timothy 1:12 (KJV); Adopted Church Logo; New roof for entire church; A new way of giving: automated giving; Implemented financial guideline guidelines to create church saving account and fund facilities operation; graduates of New Member’s Class receives study Bible. The parking lot is coming to fruition December, 2015.

Pilgrim has continued serving God Almighty for over a century. As we continue this journey with God as our leader, and the Holy Spirit as our Comforter, we have a bright hope in what God has carved out for us on the kingdom building journey. May we continue to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

  • June 4, 2020

    6:15pm, Voices of Pilgrim Choir Rehearsal

  • June 7, 2020

    12:00am, Communion Sunday

  • June 7, 2020

    9:30am, Sunday School Christian Education Classes

  • June 7, 2020

    10:45am, Sunday Worship