MESSIAH BAPTIST PASTORAL HISTORY

 

Reverend Dr. William N. Morton, Senior Pastor (1888-1919)

The late Reverend William N. Morton formerly of Washington, DC served as the first pastor of Messiah Baptist Church from August 3, 1888 to January 23, 1919.

Reverend Morton was converted in September 1872 and was baptized at Zion Baptist Church in October 1872.

He entered the public schools in Kings and Queens County, Virginia in January 1874. He attended and graduated from Richmond Institute at Richmond, Virginia, which is now known as Virginia Union University. From October 1882 until June 1884, he taught public school at Forestville, Maryland.

In the fall of October 1884, he entered the Theology Department at Howard University in Washington, DC from which he graduated, May 27, 1887. For one academic season (1887-1888), he taught public school in Middlesex County, Virginia.

Ordination to the ministry took place at Zion Baptist Church, King and Queen County, Virginia, June 3, 1888.

When Reverend Morton pastored Messiah, the lot for the former Arch Street church was purchased in 1892. The church building was erected and dedicated. The congregation grew rapidly making it necessary to enlarge the structure in 1910.

The Connecticut Missionary Baptist Union was organized and held its first session with Messiah in May 1904. Reverend Morton was chosen President. On June 6, 1916, the honorary title “Doctor of Divinity” was conferred upon Reverend Morton by Virginia Union University.

Upon his death, January 23, 1919, the church that was Reverend Dr. Morton’s only pastorate was clear of debt and there was a $2,200 bank account balance.

Reverend Dr. Morton was funeralized in this church with all funeral expenses assumed by the church, out of gratitude for his faithful services. He was survived by his wife, Lena Morton.

 

Reverend Walter Gray, Senior Pastor (1919-1931)

On the last Sunday in January 1919, Reverend Walter Gay of Hartford, Connecticut came to
supply the pulpit for six months as interim minister. At the expiration of that time, he was unanimously called to the permanent pastorate. Soon after adjusting himself to the situation, a romance developed between Rev. Gay and Mrs. Lena Morton which culminated in their marriage in Hartford,Connecticut in May 1920. The church tendered the bride and groom a house-warming on their return from their honey moon trip.

While he was in charge of the church, there were many improvements and over one hundred additions to the membership. A parsonage was purchased; $4,000 paid on it and a mortgage of $1,700 remained.

Public worship was maintained and largely attended. Two societies were added to the working force of the church: the Messiah Baptist Brotherhood and the Young People’s Union.

After twelve years of leadership with its many exacting duties and perplexing problems, failing health prompted Dr. Gay to resign as pastor and thus conserve his remaining strength for the sunset of life. His retirement afforded him the opportunity to visit and serve as a guest speaker on different occasions in many nearby churches as well as Messiah.

He passed away October 31, 1937 in Hartford. His funeral was preached by the pastor of Messiah assisted by Dr. J.C. Jackson, Dr.I.W. Reed, Dr. J.B. Pharr, and Dr. Wright. He was laid to rest in the family lot in Hartford, leaving to mourn his widow, Mrs. Lena Morton Gay, and several sons, a daughter and many friends. On the occasion of his death, Messiah Baptist Church and auxiliaries sent a deisgn in the form of a huge cross of cut flowers.

 

Reverend Dr. Frank Walter Jacobs, Senior Pastor (1932-1961)

Reverend Frank Walter Jacobs served as the pastor of Messiah Baptist Church for twenty-seven
years. He was installed in June 1932.

He was born in Rich Square, North Carolina and attended Rich Square Academy. He graduated from Henderson Normal Industrial College in Henderson, North Carolina and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.

During Reverend Jacobs’ tenure, many new members joined the congregation, several improvements were made to the building itself and the mortgage was paid on the parsonage. He founded the Men’s Council in 1932.

Reverend Jacobs married the late Natalie Taylor Jacobs, a native of Danville, Virginia. She was a public school teacher prior to her marriage. The four Jacobs’ children are: Marie Jones, Columbus, Ohio; Taylor Jacobs, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Helen Cave, Brooklyn, New York; and Frankie Gillette, San Francisco, California.

Marie Jacobs Jones was guest speaker for the Fortieth Anniversary of our Happy Hour Club in November 1972. She again visited the Messiah Congregation to help celebrate our One Hundredth Anniversary on June 10, 11, and 12, 1988.

Reverend Jacobs was active in several church-oriented groups. For six years, he was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

He served eighteen years as President of the Connecticut Baptist Missionary Union. When he was a member of the Bridgeport Pastors Association, he led the group for one term. Twelve years were spent as the Vice-President of New England Baptist Convention.

Reverend Jacobs also participated in civic and community affairs. He was a member of the Bridgeport-Stratford Branch of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Y.W.C.A. He was a member of Governor Baldwin’s commission to study the problem of Negro unemployment in Connecticut in 1940. Service was also given as a board member to the Family Society, Visiting Nurses Association and Council for Inter-Church Cooperation. During World War 1, he served as the Y.M.C.A. secretary in Camp Lee, Virginia.

Reverend Jacobs died February 27, 1960, survived by his wife, Natalie Jacobs, and their four children. The funeral service was held at Messiah Baptist Church.

Natalie Jacobs died May 28, 1961. Her funeral service was in this church. Both were laid to rest in Lakeview Cemetary.

 

Reverend Reuben Erskine Williams, Senior Pastor (1961-2002)

Reverend Williams was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. While being educated in the public schools
of Norfolk, Virginia, he held typical jobs that were available. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School of that city.

At the age of thirteen, Reverend Williams confessed his belief in Christ, and from time to time worked faithfully in the pastorates of his father, the late Reverend Jimmerson R. Williams. He served in many capacities at the Calvary Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later at the Trinity Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.

Following his graduation from high school, Reverend Williams entered the Maritime Service. His first assignment was aboard the S.S. Booker T. Washington, under the command of the first Negro captain of the Maritime Service, Captain Hugh Mulzac. After two years, he left the Maritime Service to enter Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia with the thought of becoming a doctor. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in June 1950, with a major in biology.

Reverend Williams returned to the Maritime Service, and this time remained for one year. Again, he resigned and returned to Norfolk, Virginia where he opened and operated his own business, Reuben’s Cleaners.

He was inducted into the United States Army on January 25, 1952. As a Counter Intelligence Agent with the Counter Intelligence Corps, he was stationed most of his four years in Norfolk, Virginia. He was honorably discharged from the army, as a sergeant. Upon discharge from the army, he worked for the United States Post Office, while still operating his own business.

Shortly after the death of his father, Reverend Williams “accepted the call from God to preach the gospel.” He evaluates it by repeating Isaiah 6:1 and 8, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, saying:”Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then said I, “Here am I! Send me.”

In June 1957, Reverend Williams was licensed to preach by Trinity Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia which was founded by his father. He resigned from the United States Post Office, closed his businesses and in September 1957, he entered the School of Religion, Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia. This time, his thoughts were to prepare for the ministry.

Reverend Williams was called to pastor Trinity Baptist Church in November 1957. He was ordained in January 1958 and installed as pastor shortly afterwards. He pastured this church while completing his religious training in Richmond, Virginia.

In June 1960, the Reverend Mr. Williams received his Masters of Theology degree, with honors from the School of Religion, Virginia Union University in Richmond Virginia. In September 1960,

he resigned the pastorate of Trinity Baptist Church in Norfolk to continue training in the field of chaplaincy, serving as a chaplain intern, Hospital Division, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Through the School of Religion at Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia, Reverend Williams accepted an invitation to be the Sunday morning guest speaker for Messiah Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut on November 27, 1960. He was extended a second invitation for December 25, 1960 and a third one for January 1, 1961. On January 17, 1961, this church unanimously elected him pastor of its congregation.

Reverend Williams accepted the call to pastor Messiah Baptist Church; however, he continued his training in Richmond, Virginia and traveled to Bridgeport on weekends for approximately four months. He was installed as pastor June 25, 1961.

Reverend Williams met Catherine Sneed of Durham, North Carolina who had recently moved to Bridgeport. They were united in marriage in Messiah Baptist Church on June 30, 1962. They were blessed later with a daughter.

Shortly after coming to Bridgeport, Reverend Williams became involved in religious and civic organizations on the local, state and national level. In May 1963, he traveled to Birmingham, Alabama along with ten area pastors in support of the civil rights struggle there. He was one of the organizers and participants with the local group that traveled to Washington, D.C. for the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Reverend Williams served as Vice-President of the Council of Churches’ Evangelism and Worship Department, President of the local Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and Vice-President of Hall Neighborhood House Inc. and the Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was President of the Connecticut Baptist Missionary Convention. The organization was comprised of 63 black Baptist churches throughout the state. He was Vice-President of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. and the New England Baptist Convention.

He has served on the boards of director of the following: Hall Neighborhood House, Inc, Action for Bridgeport Community Development, Goodwill Industries and Opportunities, Industrialization Center, Inc., United Way of Fairfield County, Family Services of Fairfield County, Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center of Easter Fairfield County and advisor to the pacesetters.

He has also worked through the political system to help numerous minorities obtain important positions. He initiated the formation of the Minority Agenda Political Action Committee that addressed concerns of the minority community. He served as commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, State of Connecticut; and a two year elected term on the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.

In 1983, he was appointed to fill an un-expired commissioner’s term on the Zoning Commission, City of Bridgeport. He was appointed to a five year term on the commission in December 1985. He served as its chairman for three years.

He also served as Secretary and Vice-President of the Hampton’s Ministers Conference.

Reverend Williams was the “Pastor of Pastors” in the Bridgeport Community; and a humanitarian. He served for 40 plus years as Pastor of Messiah Baptist Church. He retired, but continued to do what the Lord would have him to do in the community and he served as a resource bank to others. He was bestowed the title of “Pastor Emeritus”. After retirement, he and his wife, Cathy, moved to Matthews, North Carolina.

Reverend Williams, at age 79, went home to Glory on Saturday, August 19, 2006 in Presbyterian Hospital in Matthews, North Carolina leaving to cherish his memories and love, his lovely wife, Catherine S. Williams; daughter Roslyn C. Hill; son-in-law, Richard Hill; grandsons, Christian and Zachary Hill of Charlotte, North Carolina; and other relatives and friends, along with this church family and this community.

His funeral service was held Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 12:00 noon at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, North Carolina with Pastor Dr. Clifford A. Jones, III officiating. The wake was 10:00 am until time for service. Interment was in Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery in Matthews, North Carolina.

Pastor Tyrone P. Jones, IV along with members of the Messiah Baptist Church traveled by a chartered bus, van and cars to attend the funeral service and be with the Williams family. They were joined by former members of Messiah, Pastors and Clergy, community leaders and friends who had traveled from different states to Bridgeport, Connecticut to be with the Messiah Baptist Church Family. They were joined by State and City officials, Pastors and Clergy, community leaders, friends, and people who just wanted to pay tribute to a man who had touched their lives, while he served here in the Bridgeport community, the State of Connecticut, surrounding areas and even in foreign lands.

 

Reverend Tyrone P. Jones, IV, Senior Pastor (2002-2011)

Reverend Jones, IV was born in Augusta, Ga. to the Reverend Dr. Tyrone P. Jones, III and Carolyn
Jones. He was educated in the Richmond County Public School system of Augusta. He graduated with honors from the Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky in June 1990. Upon graduating from high school, Reverend Jones attended the prestigious Howard University in Washington, DC and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Administration degree in Criminal Justice. He was employed at the Office of Naval Intelligence (O.N.I.) as a Federal Police Officer. While at O.N.I. he earned the rank of sergeant. Reverend Jones also sang background and lead vocals with gospel recording artist, Sam Kendrick’s Nation of Holiness of Washington, DC, whose first album debut in December 1998.

Reverend Jones is also a 1998 graduate of the Howard University School of Divinity, where he was awarded a Master of Divinity Degree and was the recipient of the W.O. Carrington Award for Most Gifted Preacher. Reverend Jones was licensed to preach the gospel in October 1995 at the Isle of Patmos Baptist Church, Washington, DC; and he was ordained there on August 4, 2001. While at Isle of Patmos, Reverend Jones served as an Associate Minister, Assistant to the Pastor, Sunday School teacher, Director of the Sunday School Incentive Program and Facilitator of Youth Affairs.

Reverend Jones was elected the fifth Pastor of Messiah Baptist Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut on Friday, June 28, 2002. He accepted the task with great joy and humility.

Pastor Jones received the Religious Service Award from the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the NAACP shortly after coming to Bridgeport. Pastor Jones could be heard weekly as a radio talk show host during the “IMA Hour” every Tuesday morning from 10-11a.m. on WDJZ 1530 AM, and on Saturdays from 3-4 p.m. a taped broadcast “Message from Messiah” each week on WDJZ. Pastor Jones contributed a chapter entitled “How to Eradicate the Condition of Men-Who-Pause” in the book, Sound the Trumpet Again: Messages to Empower African American Men, Edited by Darryl Sims, Judson Press 2005. Also his sermon titled “Who Are You” was published in the summer 2005 issue of The African American Pulpit, Martha Simmons, President and Publisher. Pastor Jones contributed sermons to Precepts for Living for Urban Ministries, Inc of Chicago, IL.

While at Messiah, Pastor Jones unveiled the vision that God had for the church. The M3 Power Vision, “Multi-faceted Ministries for the New Millennium and Beyond!!” The aim of the vision was to make sure that Messiah Baptist Church remained relevant in the 21st century through a more effective model of ministry.

After Pastor Jones launched the vision, the church added a 7:45 a.m. worship service, the Wednesday Noon Day Hour of Power experienced tremendous growth through the preaching of Pastor Jones, and over three hundred disciples were added to the church.

Pastor Jones was involved with redevelopment of the City of Bridgeport, being appointed by the mayor to serve on the City’s Master Plan Board. In addition, he worked through E-Power Development Corporation to establish a joint venture for future commercial, for-profit and non-profit entities for the perpetuation of Messiah Baptist Church.

In January 2008, Pastor Jones was awarded an honorary Doctor of Minister degree from the New Freedom Bible College in Belleville, IL.

In May 2010, Pastor Jones was awarded the Master of Theology (Th.M) degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ.

His affiliations in community, religious and civic organizations were many. In September 2011, Pastor Jones tended his resignation after nine years of faithful service to Messiah and the Bridgeport Community.

Reverend Jones is married to The Reverend Doctor Elizabeth Regina Sapp Jones, of Morristown, New Jersey. They were blessed with two children, Tyrone Phillip Jones and Emani Regina Sierra Jones.

 

210 Congress Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

Office: 203.368.2405

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