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The year was 1885. Less than twenty years earlier, the Civil War ended, and the South was in a period of recovery. Formerly enslaved people left the plantations and rural areas and settled in urban areas like Nashville. These settlements formed the nuclei of major Black communities such as North Nashville.
Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church had its beginning when a loyal band of Christians---Irene Smart, Bill Smith, Ed Marshall and others---formed the West Cedar Street Baptist Church. It was one of sixteen Black Baptist churches organized by the end of the 1880’s. For ten years they worshipped in a building on Cedar Street, experiencing hardships and struggles. In 1895, beset by internal difficulties, the group that was to become our mother church decided to relocate near the Stock Yard at the corner of 17th Avenue North and Lyon (now Jo Johnston) Avenue. God sent Reverend A. W. Porter as its first pastor.
Reverend A. W. Porter (1895-1931)
Reverend Porter was a strong and dynamic leader who provided direction and guidance, enabling it to maintain a position of leadership down through the years. To raise funds for the purchase of our first church building, Rev. Porter held the first revival service at a livery stable at 17th Avenue North and Cedar Street. By 1900, the church had its first permanent church home---a frame structure on Stonewall Street (later to become Fifteenth Avenue). The church continued to progress, and Reverend Porter continued to make his ministry felt at Fifteenth Avenue, in Nashville, as well as throughout the denomination. When he suffered failing health in 1929, the church called Reverend Walter R. Murray as Acting Pastor.
Reverend W. R. Murray (1929-1953)
As Joshua in biblical times continued the spiritual work of Moses, so did Reverend Murray continue what Reverend Porter commenced. Under his pastorate, there was a new upsurge in growth and activity. Despite a depression that gripped the nation, members joined, a baptistery and dining room added, and the membership crystallized with the establishment of organizations. In 1951, the city exercised eminent domain and the church relocated to 1203 Ninth Avenue North, our present site. After 24 years of faithful service, Rev. Murray transitioned to his heavenly home. In April 1954, the church installed Reverend Leroy Crinel as the church’s third pastor.
Reverend Leroy Crinel (1953-1960)
As Shepard of a membership of five hundred members, the church saw a need for more expansion, and began a building fund in 1958 for a new edifice. Church clubs like the Women’s Progressive, Rose of Sharon, Willing Workers, and the Nurse’s Aide Guild organized to assist in the fundraising. Construction for the new worship place began in 1959. During the interim, worship services were held at Elliott School auditorium on Sixth and Jefferson Street. After the termination of Reverend Crinel’s ministry, the church called Reverend Enoch Jones as the church’s fourth pastor in January 1961.
Reverend Dr. Enoch Jones (1961-1994)
Reverend Dr. Enoch Jones plunged immediately into securing sufficient funds for the completion of the edifice begun under the pastorate of Reverend Crinel. On Sunday, August 6, 1961, Reverend Jones, and the jubilant members entered their new edifice singing, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.” Ten years later, the church liquidated the $100,000 debt. Later, construction began on the educational-recreational edifice that today stands as the Enoch Jones Activity Center. Under Reverend Jones’ leadership, the membership increased. As a result, the church was able to raise its projected annual budgets while increasing its contributions to educational institutions, missions, and community services. After 30 years of exemplary service, in 1992 Reverend Dr. Jones retired, bearing the distinguished title of “Pastor Emeritus.” In June 1994, God sent Reverend Dr. William F. Buchanan as the church’s fifth pastor.
Reverend Dr. William F. Buchanan (1994 – 2016)
Pastor Buchanan brought a bold new model of ministry. Under his watch, “ministry” became the mantra for all members. God richly blessed the congregation with people possessing gifts and resources. Under Reverend Buchanan’s leadership, the church’s ministries expanded to include: Love Kitchen (providing nourishing meals homeless people), the Forever Young (a ministry for seniors), the Christ Fund (an endowment to provide scholarships for high school graduates), Children’s Church, an expanded Christian Education Department, the Nineveh Outreach Program, the Prison Ministry, the Angel Food Ministry, the Bus Ministry, the Radio Worship Program, Life Spring (grief and pastoral counseling ministry), Psalm 46 (a disaster preparedness ministry), and the Community Development Corporation (now the William Franklin Buchanan CDC).
In early 1999, the church membership unanimously voted to establish a Community Development Corporation. This vehicle would serve to facilitate a social action ministry and allowed for the delivery of more effective services to assist people in meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Three initiatives charted the organization’s direction: educational (a tutorial—after-school program, day care for children, computer learning center, financial assistance for students); economic development (employment and training programs, business incubation); and social services (adult day care, senior care, affordable housing, benevolence, counseling, love kitchen, food source.)
As a faith-based, tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization whose vision is to enhance the lives of the people in the community, it received more than four million dollars in funding for its initiatives.
- Six single family homes built and purchased.
- Home ownership and budgeting classes taught to more than two hundred households.
- Construction of a 25-unit senior residence, The Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church’s Village Manor.
- Construction of 942 Jefferson Street, an 18,000 square-foot mixed use project featuring an office and residential complex of one- and two-bedroom apartments.
- The FABC Child Learning Center (2002-2020), provided nurturing care to children ages six weeks to four years.
- Career Express, an intensive workforce training program and cooperative effort with LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corporation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, prepared participants to enter the highway construction and other industry-related work.
After 22 years of faithful service, Rev. Buchanan transitioned to his heavenly home. In October 2018, the church installed Reverend Dr. David G. Latimore was as the church’s sixth pastor.
Reverend Dr. David G. Latimore (2018 – 2021)
Pastor Latimore shepherded the congregation during unprecedented and challenging times. In addition to the devastating impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the church building was severely damaged by a tornado in March 2020. Pastor Latimore transitioned church worship and educational ministries to an online format, while simultaneously collaborating with the Trustee Ministry on an extensive church reconstruction project. In June 2021, Rev. Latimore was appointed the first full-time director of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies. He served as pastor until the first Sunday of August 2021.
In May 2022 the congregation charged a new Pastoral Search Committee to lead the congregation’s search for the seventh pastor of Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church.
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