Patterson Ave. Baptist
Randolph Street Baptist Church
Early in the fall of 1891, the Revered G.F. Williams from the Baptist City Missionary Society of Richmond held a series of evangelistic meetings in a tent pitched on Dance Street, between Randolph Reservoir (now known as Harrison Street). The response to these meetings was so successful that it inspired the launch of the “Pine Street Mission Sunday School” on Jacquelin Street later that year, with its first message on September 27, 1891.
One year later, after a series of successful Revival Services near that location conducted by ministerial students from Richmond College (now the University of Richmond), a decision was made to organize a church at that location. On February 8, 1892, the Randolph Street Baptist Church was organized with 55 charter members. 44 of these members brought letters from Pine Street Baptist Church, 2 from Second Baptist Church, 2 from Grove Avenue Baptist Church, 2 from Maple Grove Baptist Church, 2 from Hopeful Baptist Church, 2 from Grace Street Baptist Church, and one from Ridge Baptist Church.
A new frame building, which was the congregation’s first building, was built at the corner of Randolph and Beverly Streets (now Idlewood Avenue) and was occupied on May 22, 1892 (some remodeling was done in 1907). On the tenth anniversary of the church in 1902, the membership of the church was 477.
While a second building was being built at the same location, facing Randolph Street, the congregation started meeting on March 20, 1921, in the Randolph Street School, a public school located on the same block with the Church. It held its Sunday School and first services in the basement of this modern brick building. The new sanctuary was completed and occupied in 1923.
Park View Baptist Church
On November 25, 1928, the church moved to a new location further west on Idlewood Avenue facing Byrd Park, and became known as the Park View Baptist Church. The attendance that day in Sunday School was 655.
In 1952, a lot was purchased at the 4300 block of Patterson Avenue to become the future location of the church. For ten years, the church functioned as a multi-site congregation, staffing both locations and offering a full array of church programs. The Patterson Avenue location was known as the Memorial Chapel of the Park View Baptist Church.
The entire congregation moved to this new location in 1965, after completing an interim sanctuary. The current sanctuary was completed in 1981.
PASTORS OF RANDOLPH STREET
PARK VIEW BAPTIST CHURCH
1892 – W. T. Jolly
1898-1900 – G. M. Daniels
1901 – E. S. Tuttle
1902–1903 – T. S. Boyles
1904–1932 – W. E. Robertson
1932–1975 – E. Y. Robertson
1976–1987 – Dan Stevens
1987 – 1989 – Lee Ellison
Calvary Baptist Church
The origins of Calvary Baptist Church can be traced back to 1859, when the Young Ladies Sewing Circle of the Grace Street Baptist Church contributed toward the salary of John Francis, who started a Sunday School mission on Clay Street. This led to the launch of The Clay Street Baptist Church in 1861, led by Edward J. Willis. The church began with 28 members and a Sunday School of 100 members. Pastor Willis also served as a Chaplain in the Army of Virginia, and when he was called to service, the church disbanded.
Still a passion for preserving a witness on Clay Street remained, and so, in 1874 the young men of Grace Street and Richmond College sponsored the Clay Street Mission Sunday School.
The Clay Street Baptist Mission began April 20, 1877, with 177 members. By church vote, the name was changed to Calvary Baptist Church the following year.
During the first business meeting, several items of business were approved by the church. Some of them are as follows:
“The Ladies Aid Society be given $3.55 for specific use of helping needy children in the neighborhood.”
“It was (also) ordered that all male tobacco chewers could not chew tobacco in the House of the Lord. By unanimous vote, all spittoons were removed.”
By 1915, with 1,016 active members, it became necessary for the church to find a new place to worship. In that year, it occupied its first building at the corner of Grove Avenue and the Boulevard. In 1923, under financial duress, the congregation sold this building and several members left the church.
These were difficult times for the church. On January 20, 1923, the Richmond News Leader headlined a story that said, “Calvary Baptist Church Passes Into History.” The news of the church’s demise was premature. In fact, the congregation persevered, and in 1925, it moved to a new location on Cary Street. In 1927, a cornerstone was laid at that location for a new building, with many members placing articles in the cornerstone.
With a new location and renewed enthusiasm, the varied ministries of Calvary Baptist began to make an impact on Cary Street. Much of the success of the church could be attributed to the success of its newly-formed Women’s Missionary Society in 1942, which included 108 members. In addition to collecting monies for foreign missionaries, the society also led the church to engage in Christmas and Easter dramas for the community. By 1943, the church membership had increased to 835 members.
In 1951, the church was again faced with the challenges of losing a significant percentage of its membership. That significant number, along with a departing pastor, began a new congregation at the corner of Monument and Libbie Avenues, now known as the Monument Heights Baptist Church. Despite this challenge, the church at the Cary Street location persevered, and its ministries continued to expand for several years.
PASTORS OF CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH
1859 – John Franas
1861-62 – Edward J. Willis
1877-1898 – Samuel C. Clopton
1893–1902 – H. A. Bagby
1903-1904 – Weston Bruner
1904–1912 – Ryland Knight
1913–1923 – Carter A. Jenkins
1925 –1930 – Howard Lane
1931–1934 – S. Roy Orrell
1934-1937 – J. P. Gulley
1938-1944 – William J. Crowder
1945-1950 – David F. White
1950-1954 – G. Othell Hand
1955 – J. Younger Dykes
1956-1961 – Clyde F. Melton
1963-1968 – Donald L. Harlan
1969-1976 – Roy A. Walker
1977-1984 – J. P. Holcomb
1984-1985 – Elmer S. West and Benjamin R. Bruner
1984-1989 – Preston Jay Taylor
1986-1989 – Elmer S. West
Patterson Avenue Baptist Church
By the mid-1980s community changes coupled with an aging congregation began to take its toll on the church. Under similar circumstances, many congregations would simply disband. That was not the Calvary Baptist Church style. The congregation wanted to stay together as a worshipping community. Therefore, a decision was made to pursue the possibilities of merging with another congregation.
Several congregations were contacted and several meetings took place, but none seemed to grab the heart strings like that of Park View Baptist Church. Calvary had found in Park View a people with a kindred love of God and the type of worship, fellowship, and ministry they had enjoyed throughout their history.
On Sunday, October 1, 1989, Park View Baptist and Calvary Baptist ceased to exist, and a new congregation was born, calling itself the “Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.” The new name was selected to indicate freshness and mutual responsibility for the well-being of the church. The new congregation included Park View’s 730 members and Calvary’s 125 members, bringing the total membership of the church to 855 at the time of the unification.
As the blended congregation met for the first time, they shared a loaf of bread as they celebrated Holy Communion for the first time as a new congregation. They understood the single loaf to be symbolic of the unity they shared, as the two faith communities became a new congregation.
The two congregations intentionally chose to avoid the word “merger” deeming it inappropriate. Instead, they voted to “unite” because the word sounded less threatening, businesslike, or hostile. Indeed, the unification was anything but hostile. Sharing similar worship styles and ways of doing church certainly made the transition much easier and more pleasant.
Many issues needed to be addressed for the Park View-Calvary unification to work effectively, including who would be the pastor, church operations, music programs, transportation for the elderly and homebound, and membership regulations. All of these issue were resolved well to the liking of nearly everyone involved.
The decision that Park View’s pastor, the Rev. Lee Ellison, would become the new church’s pastor was an easy decision, since Calvary’s pastor, Dr. Elmer West, had already retired once from work with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. He took the Calvary pastorate in 1987 with the understanding he would be retiring from that position in 1989.
The blending of the two choirs was done effectively under the capable leadership of Calvary’s music director, Ray Borden, and Park View’s Lee Stevens. Mr. Stevens became the new Music Director (a position he still holds these 20 years later). Mr. Borden took advantage of other ministry opportunities, but has remained a member and close friend of Patterson Avenue Baptist since the unification.
One of the more important needs at Calvary Baptist at the time of the unification was the care of their elderly and homebound members. It was agreed that the new church would purchase a van to provide transportation to and from Sunday School and Worship each Sunday.
The only other big issue that needed to be addressed was the issue of finances. This would include not only the cash on hand from Calvary Baptist, but also the proceeds from the sale of the building on Cary Street. While a substantial amount of money would be transferred to the new congregation in order to help it more effectively provide ministry, both congregations agreed that the unification was not about the money, but about ministry. For this reason, 25% of all Calvary assets were donated to ministry causes near and dear to the hearts of members. The largest gift was $100,000.00 given to the new Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, the first major contribution to the newly-formed seminary. Plaques recognizing these gifts are located in the Patterson Avenue Baptist “Welcome Center,” as well as on the door to the Seminary president’s office.
Rev. Ellison remained as pastor of the new congregation until 1992. During his tenure, the new congregation continued the process of building a sense of unity and common purpose.
The Rev. Dennis Stamey became pastor in 1993 and remained in that position until 2005. Prior to becoming pastor he had served as the Associate Pastor of the congregation. The tenure of Rev. Stamey’s ministry was one of hardship for the congregation as the membership of the church declined rapidly, primarily due to the deaths of many hundreds of many.
On July 1, 2007, the Rev. Dr. William M. Nieporte, Sr. began his ministry as pastor. Feeling the need to re-define the congregation’s sense of purpose, the new pastor led the congregation through a period of self-study and biblical reflections. The result was the development of a new purpose statement: “Making Connections: Upward To God, Inward To One Another, and Outward To Our World.”
The new purpose statement has helped identify some central areas of focus for the congregation. The first was the building of an effective Sunday School. With the energetic support of a newly-developed Sunday School Leadership Team, the average Sunday School attendance has nearly doubled to about 80 per week. The second focus was on the development of more meaningful worship celebrations.
Worship attendance has also increased about 10% annually over the last two years.
These modest gains have meant the involvement of more youth, children, and young families, bringing new energy and enthusiasm to the congregation. This new found passion is being focused on a process call “Pursuing Missional Faithfulness,” aimed at inviting and engaging all members in a spiritual journey towards greater faithfulness and effectiveness for the Kingdom of God.
In addition, the church has recently increased its staff by two by employing two Student Interns from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. The first, Mr. Ryan Clore, is working with Children, Youth, and Young Adults. The second, the Rev. Nancy Moore, will be working in general pastoral ministries, providing special attention to Adult and Senior Adult Ministries.
Patterson Avenue Baptist Church is extremely proud of the rich heritage it shares as a descendant of two historic Richmond congregations. That said we feel even more hopeful and energized about our future possibilities. Our passion is to connect people in our community to Jesus and equipping them to become His fully devoted followers.
PASTORS OF PATTERSON AVENUE BAPTIST
1989 – 1992 – Lee D. Ellison
1993 – 2005 – Dennis Stamey
2007 – Present – William M Nieporte Sr.