Church History

Church History 1875-76

In 1875-76, the current edifice at 3500 Baring Street was erected and has since been
declared an historic site by the Philadelphia Historic Commission.

  • The building is Victorian Gothic design, originally created by architect Thomas
    W. Richards, similar to his other works at the University of Pennsylvania’s
    College Hall and St. Mary’s Church in Hamilton Village.

    • 1887, the massive lower corner was completed.
    • Most notable are the stained glass windows, well-known Christian
      symbols, incorporated into the wall decorations; the gray “Chestnut Hill”
      exterior stone walls made of small quarry-faced random ashlar blocks,
      rimmed in smooth dressed stone; decoration of the wood ceiling; the large
      central rosary wheel window and lancet tracery windows under the Gothic
    • In 1926: interior redecoration was done by D’Ascenzo Studios of
Church History 1931

Winter of 1931: 14 men and women joined together in Christ; Mr. & Mrs. John Lakes,
Mr. & Mrs. Charles Carnegie, Mr. & Mrs. Douglas Heard, Mr. & Mrs. John Barber, Mr.
& Mrs. Clerksie Walker, Rev. & Mrs. Hines, Mrs. Mary J. Bolden and Mr. John Lang.
Rev. Phillip.

  • The founding members petitioned Revered J.H. Williams, with Little St. James
    Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, allowed the group led by Brother John
    Lakes to organize under his church’s name.
  • Rev. Phillips served as interim pastor until April. Rev. M.R. Goodman, then
    pastoring his church at 37th & Haverford Avenue permitted the group to use his
    building until they were able to obtain their own.
  • April 1931: 3 additional members joined the church; Miss Eula Reid, Mrs. Annie
    Mae Walker, and Mrs. Keither Williams.
  • Relocated to the Old Haddington Place at 3711 Warren Street, the group called
    Rev. Williams to serve as their pastor. In July, they acquired a larger building at
    38th & Hamilton Streets and voted to name their church The Williams Chapel
    Baptist Church after its founder.
  • The membership relocated to Penn Memorial Baptist Church on Powelton
    Avenue and Sloan Streets, pastored by Rev. Jones.
Church History 1942

December 1942: the first purchase was made at a former laundry building located at 3728-
30 Haverford Avenue and the members were able to burn the mortgage. In 1948, Pastor
Williams offered his resignation to the church.

Church History 1949

April 1949: Rev. N.E. Holsey of the Bryant Baptist Church of Savannah, accepted the call as the 2nd pastor of Williams Chapel Baptist Church and his first action was to change the
name of the church to Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Church History 1953

In August 1953, MBC petitioned Rev. Miller Lee Gayton, Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist
Church of Pottsville, PA to serve as their 3 rd pastor.

  • Rev. Gayton presented a multi-year, 15-point program, including:
    • The primary objective was prayer;
    • A worker’s council;
    • New Member’s Club; and
    • An evangelistic program was started in the Education Department.
  • Thousands of members were added to the church as candidates for baptism,
    Christian experience, and restoration.
  • In December of 1954, the mortgage of the church was burned.
Church History 1955

In July 1955: $10,000 was deposited with the Westminster Presbyterian Church as a
negotiating fee toward the purchase of this historic edifice, a parsonage, and a vacant lot
at 35th and Baring Streets, for the purchase price of $106,000.

  • The membership of Metropolitan Baptist Church marched over to the new
    facilities at 3500 Baring Street on Sunday, March 15, 1956.
Church History 1958

In 1958: hosted the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention.

Church History 1960

In 1960: headquarters for the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

  • Dr. Gayton, MBC and other ministers participated in the boycotts held by Leon
    Sullivan and other ministers protesting against unfair hiring practices by major
    corporations. Dr. Gayton and other leaders are highlighted in Dr. Sullivan’s book,
    “Build Brother Build” giving testimony to their courageous leadership of justice
    and equality for all people establishing the first OIC (Opportunity Industrial
Church History 1960 (2)

In August 28, 1960: the mortgage was burned.

  • 1960 through the early 70’s: an air conditioning unit was installed, a Steinway
    piano was purchased and renovations to the church and parsonage were also
Church History 1977

In May of 1977: under the recommendation of Pastor Thomas, Rev. Joe L. Holley
become interim pastor.

  • Under Rev. Holley’s leadership, the church:
  • Repaved the sidewalk around the property; the walls in the lower dining
    area were re-plastered and painted; all woodwork was stained and
    polyestered; all asbestos was removed; all pipes in the lower bathroom
    were lined and new ceramic tile was installed; re-painted the walls in the
    2nd floor ladies room; and cleaning and repair to the existing kitchen stove.
Church History 1990

In December 1990: After 37 ½ years, Dr. M.L. Gayton officially retired as Pastor.

  • His many accomplishments, led MBC to great heights in National Baptist work,
    • President of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Philadelphia and
    • Moderator of the Keystone Association of Pennsylvania Baptist State
    • Chairman of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.;
    • Foreign Mission Board;
    • Board Member of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; and
    • Organization of the world renown Metropolitan Baptist Church Male
      Ensemble and several community programs for ecumenical outreach.
Church History 1991

In January 1991: the church body unanimously voted that Rev. Lonnie Harris would
serve as the Interim Pastor.

Church History 1993

In July 1993: MBC’s members voted to call Rev. Gerald Lamont Thomas as the fourth
pastor. He accepted the call and began on September 5, 1993.

  • During his leadership, MBC was blessed with:
    • A quarter of a million dollars for capital improvements: new air-
      conditioning, an elevator, new carpet, new sound system (culminating in a
      tape ministry), a 21-passenger church van, a baby/toddler room, and a
      preschool room.
    • Additionally, a children’s ministry was established; Vacation Bible School
      was reactivated; and plans began to convert the attached lot into a parking
    • 501C-3 status was secured, MBC became incorporated and Metropolitan
      was recognized as an official historical site by the Philadelphia Historical
Church History 1998

March 1998: Pastor Bernard X. James became Metropolitan’s 5 th Pastor.

  • Under Pastor James’ leadership:
    • The basement of the church was completely renovated, free of charge, by
      The School District of Philadelphia which entered into a 3-year lease
      agreement to use the church during the school year as classroom space for
      Powell Elementary School located behind the church on Powelton
    • Dr. James established the Brotherhood and Women’s ministries, Christian
      Institute week and Spring Revival, the Summer Enrichment Program and
      After School Program.
    • He bridged a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and the
      Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, actualizing social and health
      related programs a Senior dinner appreciation program, the installation of
      a computer center on the 3 rd floor of the Administration building,
      computers for administrative staff and computer classes available to all
Church History 2003

In January 2003: Elder Gregory Johnson became the officiating minister of MBC.

  • Elder Johnson was joined by Rev. Lee Edna Odom and Minister K. Rose Samuel-
Church History 2004

In July 2004: the pastoral was extended to Elder Gregory Johnson Sr., to be MBC’s 6 the pastor. As MBC’s current Pastor, Elder Johnson emphasizes that Jesus Christ and the Word of God must be the central focus of our lives and leads MBC to become a
“Matthew 6:33 church,” that is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Church History 2005

In 2005, Pastor Johnson laid the foundation for community involvement and outreach through ministries such as:

  • Operation Turn-Around; an adopt-a- school program; Special Weapon Assault Team-an evangelistic ministry; the Three Point Community Development
    Corporation-designed to address the growing need for affordable housing and
    community needs.
Church History 2006

In 2006: Pastor Johnson and the leadership of the church developed and put forth an aggressive plan for renovating our church building. For the first time in many years, new lighting has been placed in the sanctuary. This renovation plan is only in its first phase and Metropolitan will continue to seek the Lord for its completion.


Metropolitan Baptist Church has been blessed abundantly and is experiencing the favor of God. As Metropolitan continues to seek God’s will, it is our prayer that our church and all who are touched by its ministries will be blessed and will prosper in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!