SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES
135th Anniversary Second Baptist Church Los Angeles
Statement of Occasion
As we celebrate 135 years of continuous service in the city of Los Angeles, we remember the words of a familiar hymn: “We have come this far by faith. Leaning on the Lord; Trusting in his Holy word. He never failed me yet. . .”
We are equally familiar with the story of the Israelites and Moses, “being strangers in a strange land.” In 1885 the small number of residents of Los Angeles were, “strangers in a strange land.” It had only been 20 years since the end of the Civil War and slavery. Los Angeles was a small town of less than 12,000 residents, less than a thousand were African American. As a people of faith and strangers in a strange land, a few folk organized a prayer in a home and in a short time organized as a church. There was already a white First Baptist Church; the prayer band organized itself as the Second Baptist Church. The church’s start was rocky. Rev. S.C. Pierce served as the first pastor and the church met in a second floor hall on Regina Street.
In 1887 Rev. Chester H. Anderson was called to pastor the church. In Rev. Anderson’s first year, the church grew from 22 members to 134. Shortly thereafter the church purchased a plot on Maple Avenue. A wooden structure was built. In 1892 a larger brick building was completed. If you enter the church via the elevator, you will see the 1894 cornerstone. The church prospered and grew during Rev. Anderson’s stewardship, as did Los Angeles. In 1907 Rev. Anderson took the charge to organize New Hope Baptist Church.
In 1908 the church called Rev. J.L. McCoy from Augusta, Georgia to pastor the church. During Rev. McCoy’s tenure, there was steady growth in progress and in congregants. Pastor McCoy died suddenly in 1914 and the pulpit remained vacant for a year. In 1915 Rev. H.D. Prowd was called to pastor the church. The church continued to blossom as did the citrus trees. In 1920 Rev. Prowd was called to missionary service.
Rev. Prowd’s tenure is significant in the church’s involvement in the secular lives of African Americans in Los Angeles. In 1913 W.E.B. Du Bois visited Los Angeles to organize a chapter of the new National Association for Colored People (NAACP). Rev. Prowd was a member of the local chapter’s first Board of Directors. Two other “Race Men” are significant to the church in the early twentieth century. John Neimore and Joe D. Bass were earlier publishers of the California Eagle, a long running African American newspaper.
In 1921 the church called the Rev. Thomas L. Griffith Sr. to pastor the church. It was during this 20-year period that the church made significant strides in advancing the spiritual and secular needs of its members and the entire African American community. One of the first things that Rev. Griffith noticed was that the African American community was slowly moving south on Central Avenue from the Southern Pacific depot at Fifth and Central. The church owned a plot of land at 14th and Paloma Streets that was deemed unsuitable for a new church. Rev. Griffith discovered an empty lot at 24th and Griffith where we are today.
Funding was secured for the new building. Paul Revere Williams, a young African American, was commissioned to design the new church. The first service was held on January 3, 1926 and with a two-week revival following with Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., a classmate of Rev. Griffiths at Wayland Seminary. The new building would serve as a sacred and secular center for black Los Angeles to the present. In June of 1928, the NAACP hosted its 19th convention here at 2nd. Second would host the NAACP National Convention in 1942. SBC’s relationship with the NAACP has been continuous and lasting since 1915. In 1954 2nd raised funds to print the brief in the Brown decision.
During the tenure of J. Raymond Henderson, the church was deeply involved in mission work. A mission church was established in Nicaragua. Rev. Henderson, along with M.L. King, Sr. and Jr., Gardner C. Taylor and Ralph Abernathy were instrumental in the founding of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The mission work of the church in Los Angeles prospered with the organization and opening of the Children’s Center.
In 1964 Rev. Thomas Kilgore was called to pastor 2nd. Rev. Kilgore continued the church’s mission of ministering to its members, the greater Los Angeles community and the nation. We can look at the senior housing to the east of us as an expansion of the church’s ministry. It was during Rev. Kilgore’s tenure that the church began its radio ministry.
In 1987, our pastor, Rev. William Saxe Epps, was called to 2nd. During his tenure, he has continued to preach the gospel to all who will hear. In 2009, the church completed the renovation of the building. The building is now on the U.S. Department of Interior Registry of Historic Places.
The growth and development of Second Baptist Church over the past 135 years is a tribute to the faith and sprit of all of its members who are committed believers in Christ.
Second Baptist Church Los Angeles “Fulfilling Our Destiny Seeking The Peace of the City.”
2412 Griffith Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011 (213) 748-0318 email@example.com