Historic Second Baptist Church marking 145 years Sunday

Pastor Larry Rowe stands at the pulpit as he waits to start church service at Second Baptist Church in Columbus in February.

The Republic file photo

One of the city’s oldest and most distinctive historical churches will celebrate 145 years of ministry on Sunday.

Second Baptist Church members will gather at 11 a.m. and at 1 p.m. at 1325 10th St. in Columbus to celebrate with a theme based on Psalm 37: 25-26: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

Pastor Larry Rowe, the church’s leader since 2006, understands Second Baptist’s roots from 1879 amid the horror of racism.

“When the church was first established, generations (of Blacks) struggled finding a decent location to praise and worship God,” he said. “Now, 145 years later, another generation of God’s people still have various struggles, much different from previous years.

“Now, walking by faith and not by sight, God keeps supplying our needs to have an established place to praise and worship God in spirit and in truth.”

He has acknowledged repeatedly in the past couple of years that, despite the church’s worship attendance sometimes dipping as low as 20 people, members vow they will be “working together keeping Second Baptist’s spiritual light shining within our community.”

Rowe regularly aims to steer the congregation beyond its original foundation of a minority-based fellowship.

“One of my initial missions was to get rid of the idea that it is a Black church,” the pastor said a few years ago. “It is a church open to all who believe in one Lord, one faith and one baptism. And that doesn’t matter what culture or what ethnic background someone comes from. We are open to those who believe (in Christ), and are seeking a safe haven today to worship God.

“In fact, we’re open to all who may not yet believe and are searching for a God of their understanding.”

Community leader and historian Paulette Roberts has been a member since she moved here as a teacher in 1970.

She knows about how a dozen Christians launched Second Baptist on April 14, 1879, in area homes before moving to a location on the upper level of Woolie’s Livery Barn on Washington Street. Those people weren’t always readily welcomed at other churches slightly more than a decade after slavery ended and prejudice still reigned.

“Over the years, I’ve seen this church grow, seen it sometimes stumble, and seen it come back strong through the years,” Roberts said in the past.

In the community, the church has hosted programs such as Roberts’ weekend student tutoring program; has joined other churches such as First Christian Church for programs such as the free summer Sidewalk Sunday School in the past; currently assists with the Love Chapel free church meals; hosted neighborhood watch and similar meetings; and also participates in national outreaches such as Operation Christmas Child to help poor children in war-torn nations.

Roberts’ words just before the church’s anniversary 15 years ago seem as fitting now as ever.

“We look back in order to be encouraged by what God has done,” Roberts said then. “But we cannot rest upon what already has been done. We must go forward to fresh endeavors, greater accomplishments and new victories in the name of God.”