Tabernacle History

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123 Years of Service

Founded in 1893

Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, formerly called Mt. Olive Baptist Church, was organized in the Styx in Palm Beach, Florida, on the second Sunday in October 1893 under the leadership of the State Missionary, The Reverend W. B. Mills, assisted by the Reverend Joe Williams.

There were 18 members participating In the organization; namely, Sisters Georgia Stevens, Bettie Holden, Millie Walker, Bessie Ellis, Frances Stevens, Sarah McDaniel,Chrissie Griffin, Bettie Carlton, Cornelia Bright, Bettie Matterson; Brothers Joe Williams, John Stevens, Gus Holmes, Dan Logan, Philip McDaniel, Noah Hall, George Mickens, and Joe Box.

Because of sectional expansion, the church was built at the corner of Clematis Street and Tamarind Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida.

According to records, the first school for African Americans, in Palm Beach County, was held in Tabernacle Baptist Church, then located on what is now Clematis Street. The attendance by October 1, 1894,was 74 pupils. Such an enrollment taxed the capacity of the building. The Superintendent of Schools thereupon arranged for two school terms of four months each. To relieve the overcrowding, forty-five of the students attended school during the first four-month term, the others came during the second four-month term.

On Tuesday, July 30, 1895, the Superintendent reported that he had again secured the Tabernacle Baptist Church for use for the Colored school at West Palm Beach for the coming term. The Secretary was ordered to continue negotiations, leading to the erection of a new building.

The Reverend W. L. Rozier served as the pastor for a year and a half; the Reverend Reuben Thomas served as pastor for two years; the Reverend J. R. Wanamaker served as the pastor for three years.

In 1900, Tabernacle Baptist Church was under the ministry of the Reverend J. W, Wilkerson, The Associate Ministers were as follows: The Reverend Ely of Palm Beach, Reverend King Mathis of Pineapple Grove, and Reverend Hamm, a student minister.

The Reverend J.E. Ely served as acting pastor for Tabernacle for quite a while. He gave inspiration and Christian guidance to the pioneers who sought to follow the principles upon which the church was founded.

In 1902, Tabernacle was destroyed by a storm. It was rebuilt in 1903-1904 by Mr. Page. During the rebuilding of the church, meetings were held in the Masonic Hall on First Street (now Banyan Street).

The Reverend R. W. Washington was chosen as the pastor and served for seven years. The Florida East Coast Association was organized in 1903 at Tabernacle during the pastorate of Reverend Washington. The Reverend H. R. McDonald served as pastor for three years. The Reverend J. F. Dellinger served as pastor for 13 months.

In 1914, the Reverend J.M. Coleman became the pastor of Tabernacle and served for 21 years. It was during Reverend Coleman’s administration that the present site of Tabernacle Baptist Church and the Church’s parsonage were purchased. During the 1928 storm, the partially built parsonage and the top floor of the church (present site) were badly damaged. For a while, the membership held services In the old parsonage on Clematis Street and later In a tent located at Third Street and Sapodilla Avenue. There was a great need for a place to worship,

Under Reverend Coleman’s administration, the “We Must Club, headed by Mrs. Trella Taylor, purchased the lot 011 which the parsonage now stands. It was also under Reverend Coleman’s administration that our church services were moved 11110 the baseme11t or Tabernacle Baptist Church, located at Eighth Street .1nd Division Avenue. The Reverend R H.K. Hill of Orlando delivered the dedicatory sermon. This was a great day for the members who hold longed to enter this structure.

The Reverend W. L Baxter served as pastor for three years. 1936-1939. During his Pastorate, the people had a strong desire to build, The main auditorium of the church was completed and another milestone had been reached. The baptismal pool at that time was under the pulpit.

The Reverend R. Julian Smith was called to serve as pastor on January 11. 1940. The church was revived under his leadership: 137 members were added, a sum of S 10,468 was raised during his administration. Mrs. Lillian Tillman-Greene organized Choir No. 2. The choir started Annual Musical Pew Rally at Tabernacle.
In 1941, the 47th Anniversary of the church was celebrated.

The Reverend J. Wendell Mapson served as the pastor from 1943 to 1947. Under the leadership or Reverend Mapson the parsonage was built next door to the church.

The Reverend Croker served as Pastor for a very short time.

In 1948, the Reverend E. R. Searcy was called to serve as pastor. His effective ministry will be remembered by all who knew him. Pews were purchased and carpet strips were installed in the main auditorium.

The Reverend J. A. Thompson came to pastor Tabernacle in November 1950. A beautiful organ was added to the church. Chimes were purchased by the late Mrs. Claudia Bolden and her sister. Mrs. Margaret Cox and were installed In the church.

Brother W.S. Bagley joined Tabernacle Baptist Church in 1924 and contributed greatly to the growth and development of the church. Brother was licensed under Reverend Baxter and was ordained to preach the Gospel under Reverend Mapson In May or 1945. After the departure or Reverend Searcy, Reverend Bagley served as acting Pastor from 1950-1952 until Reverend Harvey was called to preach at Tabernacle Baptist Church. In 1952 Reverend Bagley accepted a call to Pastor the Pleasant Heights Baptist Church In Riviera Beach, Florida. Reverend Bagley will always be remembered and kept in the hearts of Tabernacle’s members for his untiring service rendered to the church.

Reverend P. L Harvey served as pastor of Tabernacle from 1952-1957 and led the membership through many projects. Colonel David L. Brewer, a retired chaplain of the United States Armed Services, became acting pastor after Reverend Harvey left and he remained in that capacity until the Reverend Johnny K. Bryant came to Tabernacle to preach in October 1957.

Reverend Johnny K. Bryant was a young Preacher who accepted the Pastorship of Tabernacle Baptist Church demonstrating much enthusiasm and great leadership skills. Under his administration, the youth program was revitalized, the Layman Auxiliary was organized, a station wagon was purchased to transport members to and from church services, a baptismal pool was constructed behind the choir stand, the beautiful background was painted by Mrs. Ineria Hudnell and a parking lot was paved behind the parsonage.

On Sunday, May 2. 1965, the Reverend John F. Neal became the Pastor of Tabernacle. Under his administration, many changes were made: the basement was named “Fellowship Hall” and was renovated and divided into classrooms, a library was built and furnished, the church offices were moved from the third floor to the Fellowship Hall, a new copy machine and folding machine were purchased for the church office, a new van was purchased, the steps were replaced at the front entrance of the church and railings were installed for support and safety, the floors were redone, a credenza was purchase and beautiful chandeliers were installed In the loggia of the church, glass doors were installed at the front and back entrances of the Sanctuary, a ladies restroom was installed upstairs, restrooms were restructured downstairs, a new organ and piano were purchased for the Fellowship Hall The Sanctuary was refurnished with cushion pews, the choir stand was refurnished with cushioned folding seats and folding stationary seats were installed in the balcony.

The Pulpit was refurnished and wall to wall carpet was installed. Reverend Neal also organized the Tabernacle Gospel Chorus with the assistance of Mrs. Barbara Adams in November 1965. The Christian Education Board was organized under his administration, in 1980. The present Usher Board No. 2 was organized by Mrs. Mary Tillman Holliday as the young adults board, and the Arthur Williams Scholarship Fund was established by the Sunday School

The Reverend Derek Barber King came to Tabernacle In December of 1984. Coming from a family of ministers, the Reverend King brought with him inherited knowledge as well as knowledge obtained through education and experience. With his knowledge, the following were organized: the Christian Youth fellowship; New Members Classes in stewardship,Wednesday Night Bible Study, Birth month Clubs, Community Outreach Breakfasts, Orientation Ministry Counselors (OMC’s), and the Tape Ministry through the Young Matron’s Circle. The Call for the Children was initiated as an addition to our Morning Worship Services. The Scholarship Committee was established. Since its inception, many Tabernacle graduates have received scholarship aid. An increase in membership, as well as an increase in finances, was realized under Reverend King’s administration. Many physical repairs and additions were also made: a new roof, kitchen renovation,kitchen appliances, opening of a nursery for child care during services, installation of a new Public Address System, purchase of a new piano for the main auditorium, and the purchase of property once owned by Deacon John and Elizabeth Thomas.

The Church leased property owned by Mrs. Nancy Peek for parking. In later years, the property was purchased, along with the vacant lot adjacent to it. They were later fenced in and used for parking. Also under Rev. King’s administration, security lights were installed, the Security Firm (Lockhart and Sons) was hired to provide on-ground security during all church activities. A new phone system was installed.

Reverend King also created our church theme: “An International Church Representing a Universal Christ.” Reverend King resigned on June 1, 1989.

The Reverend Alfred Adams led the church as Assistant Pastor for 14 months from 1989-1990. During that time the church purchased property West or the parsonage for additional parking. At the time, the building was in need of major renovation, the roof had to be braced and steel beams had to be re-enforced. Worship service continued during these repairs (three months).

Mrs. Eva W. Mack, Chairman of the Trustee Board, established a scholarship fund for Tabernacle’s graduates who showed an interest in furthering their education and had given exceptional service to the Church. These funds are administered through the Community Foundation of the Palm Beaches.

On June 29, 1990, The Reverend Johnny K. Bryant was again called to lead Tabernacle. Reverend Bryant served through Tabernacle’s 100th Anniversary Celebration. Under his leadership, plans had begun for renovations of the church. He remained until December 23, 1993. Thanks to the Centennial Committee Chairmen, Mr. U.B. Kinsey and Mr. Preston Tillman, more than $115,000 was raised in 1993. Three lots were purchased on the Southeast corner or Division Avenue and 8th Street to provide additional parking space (Vickers and Elliott property).

Reverend Alfred Adams was named Interim Pastor following Reverend Bryant’s departure and remained through September 30, 1995. Thanks to his leadership and Mr. Robert L. Dillingham, Jr., Chairman of the Trustee Board, a $400,000 renovation on the building was accomplished. Other repairs and additions were made by Mr. Willie S. Singleton which were not included in our contract. On August 13, 1995, Tabernacle members returned to our newly renovated edifice, after holding services at Roosevelt Community School for six months. The members entered the refurbished church with a “Grand March” and a “Praise and Re-dedication Service.”

The creation of a music room was dedicated in memory of Mr. Kevin Boynton by Mrs. Geneva Boynton. The renovation of the Library in memory of Deacon Sipio Roache by Deaconess Claretha Roache was completed

On August 16, 1995, Tabernacle again elected a new Pastor. The Reverend Gerald D. Kisner. Reverend Kisner began his official duties on September 10, 1995. Under the leadership of Reverend Kisner, Tabernacle has continued on its progressive move. A new roof has been installed, new light fixtures have been installed in the Sanctuary, a new van and additional land have been purchased. He established the Family Fellowship Hour, a Singles’ Ministry for both the women and the men, reinstated the New Disciples’ Workshop. The Tape Ministry has been revitalized and provides tapes of the first Sunday’s service to all sick and shut-in members and tapes of the second Sunday’s service to all of our college students. The Garden Club was organized for the beautification of the Church and the church grounds; the Gideon Group was organized; The TAB Development Corporation with the Gatehouse Companies built 53 single family houses and renovated the Vicker’s Building as a club house and community space in the area surrounding the church.

Additionally, the Church in partnership with TAB Development created The Learning Center which now serves youth and adults of Tabernacle and individuals from the surrounding areas. Additional parking was obtained and a fence was installed. Outdoor lighting was installed in the Church’s parking area. The $400,000 renovation mortgage was retired and a spirit filled mortgage burning ceremony was held

The church has hosted Susan Taylor of Essence Magazine, the cast of Showboat, the late Attorney Johnnie Cochran. Dr. Cain Hope Felder of the Howard University School of Divinity, and many of the finest preachers and teachers in the country such as: Reverend H. Beecher Hicks, Reverend Charles G. Adams to name a few, The Youth Choir has expanded to more than 70 young people and new robes were purchased. A new Youth Minister, Reverend Edward L. Ellis, III was added to the Tabernacle Family and an expanded youth program was developed along with a revitalized and expanded Outreach Ministry. The Men’s Ministry was instituted, and a new piano and keyboard were purchased. A Hammond organ valued at more than $25,000.00 and a set of drums were donated to the Church. A new ice maker, industrial dishwasher and an upright freezer have been added to the kitchen. The Tabernacle Learning Center, established by Pastor Kisner in the year 2000, is striving under the leadership of Ulysses Smith. A two-story building has been purchased to be renovated for a new and expanded Learning Center. The Fellowship Hall was repainted, beautiful new chairs have replaced the old folding chairs. bulletin boards and tile have been added to the Fellowship Hall’s entrance and loggia of the Church. The Public Relations Ministry was formed and has created a quarterly newsletter “TAB TIMES.” The first edition was distributed In 2000.

Reverend Kisner has been very Innovative working toward a “Five” Star Church. Some members of the Church, along with Reverend Kisner, journeyed to New York City spending two days observing leading Churches and how they conduct community, human, spiritual and economic development. The Church leaders participated with the Pastor in a Leadership Seminar conducted by Dr. John Maxwell in Ft. Lauderdale. Reverend Kisner has implemented an Annual Church Retreat under the leadership of Mrs. Virginia Smith, Director of Christian Education. Through these retreats, the Church adopted “The Strategic Operating Plan. At the Church’s fifth Planning Retreat held in 2002 at the Duncan Center In Delray Beach, Florida, a Church Survey was developed and circulated by Mr. Bernard G. Jones. The survey results were later shared with the congregation. As a result of the survey, the After Care Grief Ministry has been instituted. A web-site for the church was designed by Mr. Bernard C. Jones, Chief of Staff, and is being maintained by the Computer Support Ministry. Mrs. Gloria Cartwright came on board as the Church Assistant working with Ms. Gwendolyn Ferguson, Executive Assistant to the Pastor, to provide expanded service to our membership and community .

Repairs are underway to continue to protect the church from water seepage and renovations to the Agape House (parsonage) have been completed for office and administrative space. The Music Ministry of the church has expanded and Early Morning Worship services have been offered every Sunday since January 2003. Mr. Ralph Pittman, Jr. was selected as Director of Music.

In August of 2004, our first Youth Minister, Rev. Edward L Ellis, III, was called to Pastor the First Baptist Church In Chattanooga, Tennessee. We heartily welcomed our second Youth Minister, Reverend Anthony A. Johnson, in September 2004. He was greeted by two hurricanes, Frances and Jeanne within his first month with us. In April 2005, Rev. Johnson resigned to pursue other professional interests.

Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne caused major damage to the structure of the church building. As a result, over the past year the congregation had to find another facility to conduct worship services. Under the leadership of Trustee Chair Ulysses Smith, the Suncoast High School became our home away from home. In addition, several of our sister churches and the Salvation Army’s Northwest Neighborhood Community Center under the leadership of the Rev Randy Boone provided space for many of our church activities.

The church building had to be rebuilt from the inside out due to the extensive mold damage which required almost $500,000.00 to remove. Through the leadership of our Pastor, the Trustees and the Renovation Committee, over $1 million has been spent to renovate and rebuild our church. New windows have been installed due to the commitment and generosity or the many dedicated members who sacrificed to pay for them. We have new plastering and drywall, carpeting, new railings, new paint, a redesigned and safer choir stand, and new roof. New doors will be installed by Thanksgiving. A new and working fire alarm system has been installed and artistic improvements have been made to our loggia. We are also looking forward to a completely renovated Fellowship Hall by the Holiday season.

Finally, due to the extreme generosity of Lynda and Jeff Jacobs, who have made a gift of $1 million to help the Church and Tab Development build a two-story 10,000 – 11,000 square foot multi-purpose center to be named in honor of the late Brother U.B. Kinsey, boys and girls and others in our community will have a better chance to reach their God given potential.

We thank God for his steadfast love, grace and mercy and we look forward with hope and faith as we move on in the future. We will continue to look to Pastor Gerald D. Kisner for leadership and progressive ideas as we continue on our Christian Journey.