The Church History
God is in the facts of history as truly as He is the March of the seasons,
the revolutions of the planets, or the World of the Architecture.
The history of the Tabernacle Baptist Church is rooted deeply in the past. As this account unfolds, we note with grateful hearts the many contributions of the living and the dead to the up building and growth of our church. We are deeply indebted to all.
The various activities of the church were not in print. Pastor E.D. Dixon appointed the task of writing the church history to the following committee: Mrs. Ruth Freeman, Mrs. Annie Ratliff, and Mr. Julius Kilgore. Mrs. Freeman and Mr. Kilgore were unable to serve. Consequently, Mrs. Ratliff assumed the role of writer.
Dr. W.M. Watson, in 1959, initiated the first effort of recording the history of the church. This effort was aborted when the manuscript was destroyed by fire in Mrs. Ratliff’s home.
In the early years of the church, records were not kept or available. The committee had to rely upon verbal reports, borrowed data, and Mrs. Ratliff’s reminiscences of church affairs.
The committee acknowledged their thanks to Mrs. D.C. Butler and Mrs. J.C. Thomas for the use of Springfield Baptist Church’s Brochure of the Eighty-seventh Anniversary. From this bulletin several accurate dates were obtained. Also, the committee expressed their thanks and appreciation to all who aided them. Hence, the following historical account of the Tabernacle Baptist Church was submitted.
Tabernacle Baptist Church had its beginning in the Springfield Baptist Church on East McBee Avenue. Springfield, our Mother Church, was organized in the basement of the First Baptist Church on West McBee Avenue in 1867. The Springfield Church building was completed in 1872. Rev. Fred Brown was its second pastor. His pastorate was short and stormy. A dispute arose among the members. Rev. Brown led those dissatisfied ones away from Springfield and organized Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The exact date for establishing this church is not known. However, the nearest possible time is 1872, or shortly thereafter.
Mt. Zion Church was located on South Hudson Street on the site occupied by the Industrial Coatings, Inc. Company. Reverend Brown's pastorate was filled with conflicts with his parishioners. Consequently, a cleaverage occurred between the pastor and this flock. He was asked to resign but refused and the Church was locked against him. It is said that Rev. Brown stood on the church steps the following Sunday morning and preached and in the midst of the message he cried out that "a church will never stand on this spot of ground." The oracle came true as three churches had occupied this location and each was eventually burned to the ground.
The Reverend J.A. Pinson, the next pastor, was a man of great spiritual stands and possessed an outgoing personality. He served until 1908 and resigned. During his tenure of service, peace and prosperity seemingly dwelt among the church membership. His wife was a charming woman and also a talented musician.
Mt. Zion was a beautiful and imposing edifice and richly decorated within. The expensive aisle carpeting, the handsome carved pews, and the pipe organ were cherished by the worshipers. The choir boasted of the excellent voices of Mrs. Sallie Godlock and Mrs. Victoria Brown Avery. The deep bass voice of Jiles Manning will ever be remembered. "There's No One Can Do Me Like Jesus and Glory Hallelujah" were his favorite songs.Rev. A.R. Burke, a spiritual genius, succeeded Rev. Pinson. This pastor, a great humanitarian, was a dynamic speaker. His leadership was felt throughout the community and crowds flocked to hear him preach. On a windy afternoon in March, 1912, in the fourth year of Rev. Burke's pastorate, Mt. Zion was destroyed by fire of an undetermined origin. This catastrophe ended the story of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It was the third church to be destroyed on that plot of ground.
Church services were held in Goldsmith Hall on Coffee Street until a more suitable place could be secured. The Missionary Society, headed by Sister Hattie Arnold, affectionately called "Ma Arnold," purchased the present location upon which our church now stands. A structure, although not elaborate, was erected on the new site. In September 1913, the members and friends marched from Israel Chapel Church on Birnie Street, which is now Pilgrim Rest Church, to the new church. Many sarcastically called it the "Paper House". The laying of the Cornerstone was done with appropriate services. Tabernacle Baptist Church was the name given to the new church. There was an enormous debt on the old Mt. Zion. The people to whom this obligation was due agreed to cancel it if the name of the church was changed. A revival meeting was held for the initial opening of the church. Many children and young people joined. Reverend Burke continued his pastorate and the church grew in membership. Rev. Harry Mosley, a versatile and tireless worker, served as assistant pastor, chairman of the deacons board, and Superintendent of the Sunday School. The deacons were Peter Sloan, Andy Robinson, Beloy Farrow, Arthur Robinson, Paul Seaborn, Henry Parks, Perry Hines, Robert Sample, and Dan Sample, who later entered the ministry and was the pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church.
Some of the members of this church during Rev. Burke's administration were Sisters Cecelia Johnson, Eliza Carwise, Daisy Willis, Lula Gilliam and Lille Turner, who succeeded Brother Harry Mosley as Superintendent of the Sunday School. Sister Bessie Sullivan, whose loyalty to the Sunday School, choir, and Missionary Society gives her a unique place in the church, was also an ardent attendant at the Woman's State Missionary and Annual Educational Convention. Other devoted workers were Sisters Alice Jenkins, Grace McGee, Edith and Sadie Davis and Frances Duckett.
After pastoring the church for approximately seventeen years, Rev. Burke withdrew in 1925, carrying a large following of some of the most loyal members of Tabernacle. He organized and built the Macedonia Church. When this minister passed, some of his followers returned to this church.
In April, 1925, Rev. W.J. Davis, a young, energetic man with many new ideas for improving the church program accepted the pastorate of Tabernacle. He was a forceful speaker and crowds flocked to hear him. Being thwarted in his efforts to rebuild the edifice that had stood since 1913, he resigned in 1926, taking some of the most influential members with him.
Rev. W.M. Watson, who was one of the foremost ministers and church builders in the state, was called to pastor the church in June, 1926. He was conscientious, influential and had a kind and understanding attitude toward the people. His sermons appealed to the people and the church membership grew. Under his leadership the church was rebuilt.
Rev. Watson served faithfully until his passing on the third Sunday of March in 1962. He was stricken suddenly and died within a few hours. Rev. Watson's beloved wife, whom he affectionately called Ethel, worked dutifully along with him. It was she who took leading roles in raising funds for the building of the new church. Laura Ellen, their only child, is now Mrs. Bell of Charlotte, N.C. where she was a teacher. An accomplished musician, she served as organist for the church.
The late pastor's devoted sisters, Miss Marie Watson and Mrs. Annie Bell Curry proved their worth in every respect as members of his family and as faithful members of this church.
For fourteen months the church was under the direction of Rev. K.E. White, whom the church chose as acting pastor. He served in various capacities since 1924, and during the later years of Rev. Watson's tenure, Rev. White performed all of the baptismal ceremonies. He was ordained in 1961.
During this interim many ministers preached for us, but the general feeling prevailed that the church needed a shepherd. On Father's Day in 1962, Rev. E.D. Dixon of Mullins, S.C. was the speaker. His message was profound and lifted the people's hearts and minds to spiritual heights. His visit was impressive and the members chose him for their leader. The call was extended and Rev. Dixon accepted.
Rev. Dixon assumed the pastorate in 1963. He exhibited fine qualities of devotion and integrity. He was deeply interested in raising the cultural level of his people. Under his leadership the Watson Building was built in 1965. The belfry was erected atop the church and many other changes for the better were experienced. Rev. Dixon resigned in 1988.
Following the resignation of Rev. Dixon, other ministers preached for us, but the general feeling was that the church needed a Shepherd. The call was extended to Rev. L.P. Graham of Florence, South Carolina and he accepted. After five years of service at Tabernacle, Rev. Graham resigned in 1994.
Under the pastorship of Rev. L.P. Graham, the first two women, Georgia Davis and Marian Williams, were appointed by the church to serve as trustees. A young aspiring member of the church, Thomas W. Vinegar, Jr., became involved in church activities and on several occasions delivered the Sunday message. Licensed in 1992 and ordained in 1995 by the Enoree River Association, he shortly thereafter served in an interim capacity as Associate Minister and was subsequently elected to that position. Rev. Vinegar served in an interim capacity from December 1994 through October 1995, from 1996 to December 1998 and from August 2004 to November 2005.
In 1995, after an interim period, the church extended the call to Rev. Robert A. Cain. Sr. After one year of service, Pastor Cain submitted his resignation.
In 1999 Reverend Vincent L. Thomas, an energetic, spirit filled minister from Newark, New Jersey, accepted pastorate of Tabernacle. His God given vision for Tabernacle was that the church would become "A Ministry of Encouragement, Education and Evangelism." Under the leadership of Rev. Thomas, Tabernacle expanded its involvement with community organizations and ministries such as: The Greenville Rescue Mission, Faith Communities United, AIDs Upstate, Balm in Gilead, and the Community Food Bank. Several ministries within were reclaimed, reconstructed and renamed. Attendance and participation increased in the area of Christian Education. Rev. Thomas established a "Church Creed." Under his leadership, several renovations were made to the building and restrooms to make them handicapped accessible, including installing a floor level chair lift to aid the elderly members of the church. The church also held its first Evangelical Kingdom Gospel Festival. After five years of service, Pastor Thomas resigned.
In December 2005, Dr. Charles H. Davis, Th. D. of Sumter, SC, accepted the call to minister and was installed on March 26, 2006 as the tenth pastor of Tabernacle. During his first year at Tabernacle, the Church recognized growth both spiritually and financially. Twenty-five new members were added to the church and Deacon T.V. Crosby was licensed to preach. In 2007, the following ministries were added: Praise Dance Ministry, Prison Ministry, Singles Ministry, Couples Ministry, the Men of Tabernacle changed to Brotherhood, Christian Education Director office filled and reestablished the Pastor's Support Ministry. Six new classes were added: Young Adult Sunday School, Moving Beyond the Past, BTU, Baptist Doctrine, Spiritual Warfare and Noon Day Bible Study.
During his first year of tenure, renovations were done on the windows, doors, floors, and ceilings. The church was painted inside and out. The Superintendent’s Office, Administrative Assistant’s Office were remodeled and additional work was done in the Pastor's Office. The Church Steeple was removed, renovated and replaced. Other accomplishments were: the electrical system, a playground with furniture added, heating system and sound system updated, and DVD capability was made a reality. A new wheel chair assessable bus was purchased. Also additional property was purchased for the church. The parking lot was resurfaced.
In the 140 years of existence, Tabernacle has had two Church Mothers, Mrs. Mamie Copeland Norris and Mrs. Margaret Johnson, who is currently serving.
We have had ten pastors. They are as follows: