The Bright Star Community Church Story – Part I
By Elder Willie L. Strayhorn
IN SEPTEMBER 1962, Elder Willie L. Strayhorn was ordained and officially accepted the position as pastor of the Salem Baptist Church on November 30, 1962.
Shortly after this, Rev. Parker left the church as he was led, to start up another church. This left me with the awesome task of trying to pastor a church all alone. No one to turn to but, Jesus Christ. However, Jesus is enough.
Upon becoming the Pastor of Salem, I learned that all the church’s furnishings, the piano, chairs, pulpit and even Bibles were all in Rev. Parker’s name; they all belong to him. This started the learning process, such as raising Moines for rent and utilities. The church would raise an offering (from $3.00 to $12.00) each Sunday as an appreciation for my services.
At this time there were about 10 members attending church semi-regular. There were times when I preached to only two or three people. The church were behind in bills and did not have enough money to keep up with current expenses. But, with God’s direction we persevered.
Some of the original members on the church roll were; Deacon David Brantley, Sis. Viola Brantley, Bro. Anthony Lyles, Sis. Denise Lyles, Bro. John Jennings, Sis. Parthenia Jennings, Mother Alfreda Green, Bro. William Hagans, Sis Pauline Smith, Bro. Lenzell Smith and Bro. Robert Hubkelbee.
CHANGE THE NAME, MOVE FROM THIS PLACE, I WILL BLESS YOU
At that time The Salem Baptist Church was located in a little storefront at 2019 Vine Street.
Our rent was $20.00 per month, plus utilities.
April 1963 the Lord spoke to me saying ” CHANGE THE NAME AND MOVE FROM THIS LOCATION AND I WILL BLESS YOU.”
On May 31,1963 Being led by the Holy Spirit we change the name from The Salem Baptist Church to the “BRIGHT STAR BAPTIST CHURCH.” This name was submitted by Bro. William L. Hagens.
OCT. 13, 1963 we moved to 841 Findlay Street, incurring three times the monthly expense we had at our old location. We trusted God for His word that he would bless us. And He did. We grew in membership, finances and above all, Spiritually.
Our new location on Findley Street had once been a grocery store. It was very dirty and dusty. Store shelves and old storage bends for vegetables such as bean, rice and fruit were still in place. The members of the church rolled up their sleeves and began to work. Cleaning and painting and fixing up.
We had talked about buying this old property but the owner wanted too much money. We stayed at this location for about four years.
VISION OF BRIGHT STAR NEW CHURCH HOME
One day while driving down Linn Street, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a building with a FOR SALE SIGN on it. And at that same time, I heard the voice of the Lord speaking, saying, “This will be the NEW HOME OF THE BRIGHT STAR BAPTIST CHURCH.”
I stopped the car, backed up to the building, took a better look and said “WHAT!” I got out of the car because God told me to. The building was ready for the demolition crew. But, under the Lord’s direction the following Sunday, after morning Worship, I brought my Church members around to see the building. All of them reacted the way I thought they would. They said “Rev. Strayhorn you have got to be kidding, this old raggedy building, with holes in the walls, gaps in the ceiling, you could see the sky and open spaces in the floor?!”
But, Sis. Alfreda Green, our mother of the church, looked around and stated ” Ah Lordy child, you just don’t know what a little paint and a few nails will do.” Deacon Brantely stated, “Rev. Strayhorn if the Lord said for us to buy this building ,I’m with you.” On the 15th of February 1967, we acquired 809 Charlotte Street.
We had an Architect draw up the Plans, The Chief Engineer gave his approval and again we rolled up our sleeves and went to working on our new building, the women as well as the men. Most of us would work our regular jobs during the day then come and work on the Lord’s house till late into the night.
We put up new walls, repaired the old roof, installed support beams and posts to support the ceiling; in the basement support beams to support the floor. O yes out of the basement, we pulled out and hauled away some `20’ dump truck loads of old coal-cinders and ashes; we put two flights of stairs in the basement; installed new windows, new electric wiring, lighting, plumbing system, a heating and flooring and covering, painting inside and out.
On April 7,1967 the members of the BRIGHT STAR MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH marched from the old location, 841 Findlay to the new Church. There we dedicated and presented this Building to the Lord and marched into our New Church Home singing, Onward Christian Soldiers and We came this far by Faith.
Talking about a JUBILEE TIME. SUCH SINGING, DANCING, SHOUTING, AND PRAISING THE LORD. For the glory of the LORD filled His temple. We sang, “Praises to the LORD, our God, who with His own hand has fulfilled what He promised with his own mouth. Rev. Wm. Parker now well stricken with age and illness marched with us into our New Church Home as God had promised.
On October 13 1968, We Celebrated the Cornerstone Laying participating in the placing of the stone was Brother Aaron Strayhorn, Deacon David Brantley, Rev. Parks Pastor of the visiting Church from Columbus Ohio and myself; with both Church Congregations looking on.
DURING THESE NEXT TWENTY YEARS
This old Building served us for Twenty Years. During these Twenty Years the Lord truly bless the Bright Star Baptist Church: Praise God, We grew to about 50-60 families, for the Lord added to the church. The Lord Blessed us to purchase New Bibles, Hymnals, Sunday School literature, New Pews, a couple of pianos and Organs.
This is the end of Part One of our Church History . Please click here for part two.
To God be the Glory.