Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Brief History of Immanuel


In 1945, when the Bailey Memorial Baptist Church which met on West Court Street (three blocks from the present location of Immanuel Baptist Church) dissolved, a small group of dedicated Christians saw the need for a new work in this area of Greensboro. On February 1, 1946, 34 charter members, including some former Bailey members, constituted Immanuel Baptist Church. Later that year, a building fund was started, and the property on which Immanuel now sits was purchased in August, 1947. Since the days of its founding, Immanuel has sought the enabling of the Holy Spirit to make a significant impact on Greensboro and the world for the glory of God.

The meeting place of Immanuel Baptist Church has evolved from the house on West Court Street to a small chapel on the present property, to the current sanctuary building which was completed in 1957. In 1950, a pastorium was built on the present property which was demolished in 1989 to accommodate the need for more parking. The three-story educational building was completed in 1963, featuring spacious classrooms, a small chapel, the church offices, kitchen and fellowship hall. The beautiful and majestic present sanctuary is the result of a major renovation project in 1988. The sanctuary exemplifies the treasured elements of church architecture through the centuries: light and height. With twelve towering arches of stained glass windows depicting full-color scenes from the life of Christ and icons of Old Testament teachings and a prominent arch surrounding the cross of the baptistery, the attention of the worshiper is drawn upward, in a symbolic gesture of reverence toward God. The sanctuary pipe organ was originally installed by E. C. White (the church's first organist), Jr. and has been expanded and reworked at various times through the years. In 2009, construction began to enhance the accessibility of the sanctuary building by adding a vertical lift.

Since its beginning, Immanuel has been committed to reaching out to people of all walks of life with the Good News of Jesus Christ. The early church grew rapidly as young families from neighboring communities (Ardmore Park, Hillsdale Park, Rolling Roads, Piedmont Hills, Glenwood, Highland Park, Hunter Hills and Lindley Park) began to attend and unite with the fellowship. During the height of the civil rights struggle that was prominent in Greensboro during the 1960s, the church began to reach out to people of all ethnicities. The first effort to do so was in 1964 with the establishment of the Frazier Baptist Chapel, a congregation focused on reaching the Lumbee Native Americans. In 1976, Frazier Chapel united with Immanuel as one congregation. Immanuel was also instrumental in establishing the Good News Baptist Church, the first African-American congregation in the Piedmont Baptist Association.

The defining event in Immanuel's history came in 1967. It was then that Immanuel's pastor, Dr. Paul Early, challenged the church to open its doors to all people regardless of ethnicity. This was received well by the church and community and Immanuel became a diverse body of Caucasian, Native American, African American, and International Christians. In 1970, Immanuel began the International Fellowship, a ministry reaching out to International students and others by offering them "Friend-Families", English language training, and opportunities to hear the Gospel message. An International Bible Study came into being through this ministry which still meets every Sunday morning at Immanuel. Today the International Fellowship has become a separate non-profit ministry, The Piedmont International Fellowship, which is supported by Immanuel and sister churches in the Piedmont Baptist Association.

The ministries of Immanuel Baptist Church have reflected the vision of being "A Church for All People" to the present day. The love of God for all people has been a core value of Immanuel that has given birth to local and international mission efforts. In 1994, demographic shifts in the community surrounding the church caused many to wonder if the congregation may be more prosperous and viable by relocating to suburban areas beyond the city's center. The congregation held firm to their commitment of being salt and light to all people in the urban context where Immanuel finds itself today. Though such a move may have proven successful in human wisdom regarding the retention of some members and the rapid growth of others, Immanuel has remained committed to "blooming where God planted us." Today, though the membership has declined numerically, the passion to reach all peoples with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and still drives all that is done.

In addition to Immanuel's own ministries, the facilities are also shared with the Greensboro Chinese Christian Church, the Ethiopian Christian Fellowship, and the New Arrival Refugee School conducted by Lutheran Family Services. In 2009, Pastor Russ Reaves led the church to establish a Mission Strategy Team. This team will develop and promote ministries and mission efforts that aim for making a strategic imact for the Gospel in our community and to the ends of the earth. Presently, the church cooperates with a number of local ministries and the sister churches of the Piedmont Baptist Association, North Carolina Baptist State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention to meet the needs around us. Our prayer is that in the days to come, we will have a sharper focus on the mission task to which God has called us in order that the members of Immanuel might effectively pursue the glory of God in making Christ known at home and abroad.

Past Pastors
Rev. Forrest Fraser (1946-1949)
Rev. Troy Robbins (1950-1958)
Dr. Paul Early (1959-1974, Pastor Emeritus)
Rev. Neil Yonce (1975-1978)
Rev. Melvin Green (1979-1980)
Rev. Jack Hinton (1981-1982)
Dr. Jim Jarrard (1983-1989)
Dr. Henry Newton (1989-1997)
Rev. Larry Thompson (1998-2002, Interim Pastor 2002-2005)
Rev. Russ Reaves (2005-Present)

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