The Work Begins
On July 5, 1936, Elder James G. Dasent, pastor of the black church in New Orleans and secretary of the Southwestern Union Negro department, opened a series of meetings in Baton Rouge for the black people there. His two sons, Eugene and James assisted him, while Alyce D. Williams and Melba Washington provided the music. At the first Sabbath meeting, there were fifty present, twenty of whom had already begun observing the Sabbath. Some people were so interested in the meetings that they walked six or seven miles to attend each night (Record, 1936). When the meetings were over a group of thirty-six people began meeting together, including Lillie D. Anderson and her daughter Lilburne. The group began meeting in the Anderson home for Wednesday night prayer services and for Sabbath services (Edwards, 2001).
Baton Rouge Berean Church Organized in 1936
On November 21, 1936, Elder H. C. Hartwell organized the Baton Rouge black church with twenty-six members. Some were absent but when they returned there were thirty members These were the charter members of the Baton Rouge Berean church. The church leased a fairly good building, an abandoned church on South 13th Street, for a year and painted and fixed it up so they had a representative meeting place (Hartwell, 1936). Lillie D. Anderson served as the first Sabbath school superintendent as well as first Dorcas leader. Lillie’s daughter, Lilburne Thompson, was the first Missionary Volunteers leader (Edwards, 2001).
A New Church in 1948
After that first year, the congregation moved down the street to the Martin Memorial CME Church (Edwards, 2001). In 1946, Charles E. Bradford began his first assignment, which was to be an assistant to W. S. Lee, who had just come to Louisiana from Florida. Elder Lee was the pastoral supervisor of the New Orleans Ephesus church and the evangelist for the black people in our conference. Charles Bradford was also asked to give pastoral guidance to the Baton Rouge, Hammond, Covington, and Lake Charles black churches (Bradford, 2001). That year, Bradford and W. W. Fordham conducted an evangelistic effort in Baton Rouge, which resulted in over 100 baptisms. Now the membership was ready for a more permanent structure. Property at 924 South 14th Street was ready for construction and their new church was completed in 1948. This address served as their church home for the next thirty-two years (Edwards, 2001).
(1936, Aug. 12). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
Baker, Benjamin. (2010). James Gershom Dasent (1879-1955). Retrieved from blacksdahistory.org.
Bradford, Charles E. (2001, May 1). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
Edwards, Evelyn M. (2001, May 1). Ibid., p. 7.
Hartwell, H. C. (1936, Dec. 2). Ibid., p. 3.