The founding Pastor Reverend T.T. Tucker was a man of great vision and insight. He worked tirelessly to build a church that would embrace the community, teach the Word, and lead the congregation to the Lord. Reverend Tucker held the first official meeting of the church in 1902 at the home of Mrs. Anna McGuinn who resided in Montclair. The church later relocated to Hartley Street with Reverend Tucker serving as Pastor for three years.
After its inception, St. Paul Baptist Church benefited from the leadership of several pastors who positively impacted the growth of the church by their unique style of interpreting the Divine Call to ministry. During the three decades from 1906 to 1936, the church became increasingly recognized within the Montclair community. We are grateful to God for the Pastors who shepherded the church at that time: Reverend William Perry, Pastor E. E. Jackson, Pastor H. H. Waring, Pastor R. V. Peyton and Reverend A. O. Bell.
Before the end of his tenure, Reverend Bell guided the establishment of a building fund for a new church. However he did not remain to see it through and resigned to become Pastor of the North Oakland Baptist Church in Oakland, California.
In his term from 1937 to 1966, Reverend J.H. Billups was the longest serving Pastor at St. Paul. His focus included improving working relationships between the many clubs and auxiliaries so that a spirit of togetherness would prevail. Pastor Billups encouraged new members to take active roles in church organizations. He believed that the church would maintain sustainable growth if all members participated in church affairs. During his tenure the Gospel Chorus was formed, the Pastor’s Aid was reorganized, and the Social Work Department was revived.
Reverend Billups believed in community outreach and developed a friendly and supportive relationship with other churches in the Montclair community. He also became an active member of the local YWCA and YMCA, the NAACP, the Interracial Committee, and the Minister’s Conference of Montclair in his effort to improve the status and living conditions of all people.
It was also during Reverend Billups’ tenure that a new Baldwin pipe organ was purchased. Most significantly, October of 1957 marked the “Groundbreaking Celebration” for the new St. Paul Baptist Church at 119 Elm Street. When construction was completed, Pastor Billups delivered the first sermon on June 16, 1963. Pastor Billups remained with St. Paul Baptist Church until his death in February of 1966.
Reverend Calvin G. Sampson, who had served as Assistant Minister to Pastor Billups and had proven to be an invaluable asset to the church, was called to be to be the ninth Pastor of St. Paul. A dynamic and invigorating speaker, Pastor Sampson inspired many bold and progressive events through his service to the church and surrounding community. He took time to visit the sick, regularly taking them the “Good News” in a spirit of love and cheer. Pastor Sampson created a newsletter for the church bulletin, a calendar that noted all church activities and events, and a newspaper that informed everyone of church and community affairs.
A most effective leader, Pastor Sampson organized church members to become active in many church clubs and services. He organized “The Voices of St. Paul”, The Men’s Club, The Women’s Day Committee, several basketball teams of varying ages for the church and community youth, and most importantly, a full term Bible study class for adults. Pastor Sampson recognized the importance of education and gained a Master of Divinity from Drew University while maintaining his busy schedule. Also desiring to validate achievement, he instituted a baccalaureate ceremony in June of each year to acknowledge graduates at each level of the academic experience. He also instituted scholarships for college-bound students.
Reverend Sampson had been Pastor for five years when the mortgage for the new church was paid, and on May 14, 1972 the mortgage burning service was celebrated. Soon after that ceremony, he received and answered the call to become Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in New Rochelle, New York.
After sixteen months of searching, a long-time and familiar friend was called into service as the new Pastor. Reverend D.C. Rice who had come to the aid of the church on many occasions, once again answered the church’s call and became the new Pastor. In 1974, his first full year as Pastor, 40 new members were baptized and many babies were dedicated.
Pastor Rice instituted the 7:00 a.m. Candle Light Services for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He aided the church in installing a new air conditioning system, fully paying for it through pledges made by members and church organizations, donations from friends, and other sources. After three years of service he resigned and moved with his family to Topping, Virginia.
Pastor Marvin A. McMickle became Pastor of SPBC in January of 1977. This year coincided with the church’s seventy-fifth anniversary.
Bible study was of paramount concern to Rev. McMickle. He was a firm believer that the congregants should know the word of God for themselves. He taught Wednesday evening Bible Study himself. Reverend McMickle believed in maintaining strong links to various community projects. He, along with members of the church, made annual visits to Caldwell Prison to hold services. He served as President of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP and worked diligently to improve housing and redevelopment in Montclair. He actively pursued the well-being of the senior citizens and the underprivileged.
While at St. Paul, Pastor McMickle helped the church sponsor a trip to the Holy Land and Athens, Greece. Many members traveled with him and experienced events that will always be a special part of their memories. His son, Aaron James, was the first child born to a minister while serving at St. Paul, making his pastorate even more memorable. Reverend McMickle had served as Pastor for more than ten years when he received an invitation from the Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. After careful consideration, he accepted their offer.
Rev. V. DuWayne Battle from Enfield, North Carolina became the church’s twelfth Pastor in March 1989. The family initially consisted of Pastor Battle, his wife Edith and son Thomas. A daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born in May of the following year. As the second-longest serving Pastor in SPBC’s history, Pastor Battle encouraged the membership to extend the missionary efforts to other nations and brought about a renewed focus on fervent worship.
Under Pastor Battle’s energetic leadership, many new ministries were added and new life given to existing ones. An 8:00 a.m. Sunday service was added, along with liturgical dancers, computer and music labs and S.T.E.P.(Study to Excel Program), the after-school program introduced to serve the membership as well as the community. Later, Children’s Church was offered in conjunction with the regular service. St. Paul’s core values – Worship, Service, Growth, Evangelism and Fellowship – was clearly shaped and defined under Pastor Battle’s leadership. Pastor Battle resigned from SPBC in June of 2003.
Reverend Michael J. Cox of Houston, Texas was called to lead St. Paul as its new Senior Pastor. Rev. Cox’s first official sermon was delivered on Sunday, July 17, 2005. One of his first acts as Pastor was to invoke “60 Days of Prayer” to focus the congregation on discerning individual gifts and God’s will for the life of the church. He also led the church’s quick and compassionate response to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. Reverend Cox resigned in May 2010.
In 2010, the Church was proud to have Reverend Deborah Spivey become the Interim Pastor. She had been the first female minister to be licensed by St. Paul. She served in the capacity of Interim Pastor until 2013. Rev. Spivey encouraged the church to focus on its directive to be “The Ideal Community”, regularly reminding congregants that fulfilling this Divine mission requires individual as well as corporate readiness. One of her areas of attention was on initiating a reorganization of the church’s internal structure to make it more relevant to current needs and the importance of corporate prayer.
Reverend Dr. Bernadette Glover answered the call in September 2013 and is presently still serving as Interim Pastor. Dr. Glover has emphasized the themes of “Intentionally Connecting with God and Neighbor” and “Keep the Faith”. Her preaching and teaching with inspired interpretation of the Bible, while always including an invitation to salvation, have been centered on challenging believers to greater spiritual maturity.
During this extended time of transition, both Interim Pastors, with God’s guidance, have effectively led the congregation through a period of Scripture-based introspection and renewal in preparation for new leadership.
To God be the glory as we write the next chapter in our history!