Historical Perspective of
Barraque Street Missionary Baptist Church
The blessed reality of the church as a living organism with Jesus Christ Himself functioning as head was established in 1885 by a small group of Christians in Battlesville Township. Leaders from five families; the Adams, Conways, Gurleys, Huggins, and Risens; raised their voices together in prayer to the Sovereign Lord. These families, charged with an atmosphere of healing souls, commenced worshipping in Gurley’s Hall under the ministry of Rev. John Harris. Thus, their corporate spiritual interaction was transferred from the First Missionary Baptist church to a new congregation in Battlesville Township.
Gurley’s Hall, a small building located on the corner lot across from the present church site, became the worship site for approximately nine years. In this remote and dense forest, the early worshippers developed a healthy, responsive body that continued to praise God as the Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. In 1892, the women of the church organized the Bible Band. Interest grew rapidly for construction of a church in the same area.
The years from 1894 to 1910 witnessed dynamic and progressive growth. The early worshippers committed themselves to new opportunities and challenges. A new church was build across from Gurley’s Hall and named Barraque Street Missionary Baptist Church. Barraque Street was the nearest street to the church site. The new structure faced north with front, side, and rear entrances on the east side of the structure. Rev. J.C. Battles, the pastor from 1804-1910, provided the spiritual leadership that completed the church building. W.H. Zachary headed the music department. He was baptized in the church, but elected to have membership in another congregation. He played the church’s first organ. The organ was a pneumatic air organ where air was supplied to the bellows by pumping. It remained in the church for about thirty years. Evelyn Ferguson was the pianist. Dr. D.L. Lindsey, who assisted Rev. Battles, became pastor in 1910. He continued for twelve years, the type of ministry previously established by Rev. Battles.
Immediately following World War I, the church reduced its emphasis on physical and institutional expansions and focused on preaching and worship. This period was identified with the pastorate of Rev. W.M. Erby, 1922-1926, and Rev. J.W. Casey, 1926-1930. Rev. Erby also stressed youth activities in the church. His ideas and freedom of participation was not supported by a majority of the members. Many of the members were products of the conservative Black church leadership from the Reconstruction Era.
From the Depression to the early sixties, the church leadership turned to institutional and organized growth. Rev. Samuel Morris became pastor in 1930 and he initiated programs which increased the membership. One ministerial feature was the open sanctuary policy of the church. He kept the sanctuary open and available to the public twenty-four hours daily. These decisions led to the expansion of the Sunday School and mission for the youth. Even though verifiable date is inconclusive, it is believed that construction of the parsonage began in this era.
In 1935, Rev. C.B. Knox succeeded Rev. Morris and easily increased support and confidence for the church. The membership continued to grow geographically encompassing the surrounding communities. The church was remodeled and indoor plumbing was installed. For the first time, the church became affiliated with the local, state, and national conventions.
The mission program was formally organized into circles. The youth were organized into the Young People’s Department. Because of Rev. Knox’s prestigious positions in the National Baptist Convention, the church began to interact with nationally recognized Baptist groups, and it also became one of the few influential churches in socio-political affairs in Pine Bluff. The early sixties provided years of stable spiritual growth, under the leadership of Rev. C.N. Eiland, but little emphasis was on physical and institutional expansions. Rev. Robert Willingham because the pastor in 1965, and from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, the traditional style of growth was replaced with a new vitality and flexibility in service. Rev. Willingham expanded the auxiliaries to include a Young Matrons Circle, youth organization, Advisory Council, the Brotherhood, and the Evangelistic Team. The Deacon Board was expanded to include younger deacons. The financial operations were organized under book-keeping officers. It was at this time the Bus Ministry was introduced.
The church choirs were organized into three distinct groups. For the first time, large numbers of young people attended the National Congress. The highlight of this period was the construction of a new modern church building. The membership increased and involved itself in more National Baptist activities. The Sunday School expanded to the extent that the church parsonage has to be utilized.
In 1977, Dr. Robert Dickerson, Jr., a leader in the Progressive Baptist Convention, was elected pastor. The church in support of his role in that convention changed its affiliation to the Progressive Baptist Convention. The church became a nationally recognized group in the convention. The Sunday School was organized in accordance with the literature from Cook Publishers. Dr. Dickerson introduced the “Children’s Sermon” in the morning worship service.
In the first half of the 1980s, the church experienced continued growth under the leadership of Dr. T.R. Ramey. With the continued growth in membership of new converts and transfer of members, the parsonage was removed and an educational building was built. This educational building which includes twelve classrooms, a kitchen, fellowship hall, three offices and a library, began service in March 1986.
In August 1998, Rev. Robert Thompson was elected as pastor. He brought renewed determination to the fellowship with emphasis placed on enlivening, equipping, empowering and engaging the leaders and members of the church in the work of the ministry. As a result, many new converts were added to the congregation, along with numerous additions by Christian experience and letters of transfer. New challenges were placed before the church members to engage in the Christian Education ministries of the Sunday School and Nurture for Baptist Churches programs. An evangelistic outreach ministry was actively reaching into the community for Christ. A vital part of this outreach was the NEADS Outreach Ministry directed toward disenfranchised women of the community. Two vans were purchased for the transportation of members and for outreach as part of the church’s Bus Ministry.
Our current shepherd, Rev. L.A. Holcomb, Jr. was selected as pastor in 2010. Under his leadership, renovation of the existing facility has continued with the installation of new carpet, a new roof, an elevator lift, accessible restrooms and the purchase of the property located at 1801 West Pullen Avenue. Because of his dynamic preaching style, emphasis on evangelism and Christian Education, his willingness to study and to continue his education; many souls have been saved and rededicated to Christ as well. Rev. Holcomb encouraged the use of technology as a means to connect the members by sending weekly text updates to members to keep them apprised of church meetings, the week’s Bible Study topic and background scripture and church family business. The church’s audio visual equipment was updated to further expand the Media Ministry. Under the leadership of Pastor Holcomb, an expansion plan is being implemented to include the continuation of remodeling and expansion of the current facility and utilization of other existing properties.
The Barraque Street Missionary Baptist Church has been an essential and exemplary part of the community. She has been a progressive church shining her light in the world of spiritual decay, providing a necessary and essential healing presence throughout her history.
Our Pastoral LeadershipThe Barraque Street Missionary Baptist Church is a contemporary church continuing the first-century mission. She has provided a necessary spiritual and religious education essential for any period of history. She has served the community well.
Rev. John Harris circa 1885 Rev. C.N. Eiland 1962-1965
Rev. J.A. Battle 1894-1910 Rev. Robert Willingham 1965-1977
Rev. D.L. Lindsey 1910-1922 Dr. Robert Dickerson, Jr. 1977-1980
Rev. William Erby 1922-1926 Dr. Timothy R. Ramey 1981-1997
Rev. J.C. Cassey 1926-1930 Rev. Robert J. Thompson 1998-2010
Rev. Samuel Morris 1930-1934 Rev. L.A. Holcomb, Jr. 2010-2017
Rev. C.B. Knox 1935-1962 Rev. Sidney D. Milton, Sr. 2000 - Present