History of High Street Baptist Church

History 1

High Street Baptist Church was organized in 1884. The first house of worship was a building on Salem Avenue. Several interim pastors served the church from 1884 to 1887.
A new church was erected in 1887 during the pastorate of Rev. W. W. Brown, a native of Franklin County, Virginia.

The Rev. J. H. Burks succeeded Rev. Brown in 1902 as pastor of High Street. He was a preacher and builder. In 1907, a new church was erected at 21 Center Avenue, N.W. This church was destroyed by fire and another erected one year later. Rev. Burks resigned on December 21, 1916, and for almost a year; the church was without a pastor.

Rev. W.E. Lee served as Pastor effective November 23, 1917. He inherited a church with an approximate debt of $27,000. Under his leadership, the debt was eliminated in seven years. Major improvements were made during the service of Rev. Lee. The pipe organ, ceiling fans, and additional land were purchased. In 1935, the church voted to change its name from High Street Baptist Church to Second Baptist Church. Lee served for 27 years. His Pastorate ended in December 1945.

The Rev. Robert Johnson Smith was chosen as Pastor in April 1947. In the first year of his leadership, a “Five Point Program” eradicated $3,000 of debt. The parsonage was used as a “Parish House” with a small chapel. Other renovations were made.

On September 21, 1947, the church was officially rededicated as High Street Baptist Church. The following organizations were formed: Vocational Church School, Junior Usher Board, Women’s Guild, Junior League, Young Men’s Club, The Worker’s Council, Radio Choir, Sunday School Choir, and Board of Education. Through these organizations, all age groups were active in the church. After five years as Pastor, Rev. Smith resigned in 1952.

The Rev. Frederick G. Sampson was chosen as Pastor in October 1952. He was an educator and organizer who initiated a “Teaching and Preaching Ministry”. In addition to Sunday School classes, he organized a Lenten Season Observance, which concluded on Good Friday with a Joint Communion Worship Service with First Baptist Church (Gainsboro). Rev. Sampson also organized the following: 6:00 a.m. Sunrise and Baptism Services, 11:00 a.m. Easter Message, Youth Council’s Candlelight Service, High Street Baptist Church’s Federal Credit Union, a reorganized Girl Scout Troop, departmentalized Sunday School, and divided the General Missionaries into the 8-Missionary Bands, with two Deacon Advisors. Rev. Sampson resigned after having served eight years.

Rev. Noel C. Taylor was chosen as Pastor in May 1961. He was a young, vibrant religious leader, preacher, teacher, administrator, and organizer. Under his leadership in 1972, the church moved to its new location on Cove Road and Florida Avenue, N.W. Anxious to serve the community, The Anchor of Hope was built.

The Anchor of Hope Building was dedicated in November 1985. It included the following: gymnasium, additional classrooms, office space, library, commercial-style kitchen, basketball teams, an apartment for visiting preachers, and a fitness room.

In February 1987, an Endowment Fund was created for the future growth and development of the church and the Anchor of Hope. It continues to prosper.

High Street Baptist Church is proud that Rev. Taylor served the City of Roanoke as its first African American City Council Member (1970-1975). He also served as Mayor of Roanoke (1975-1992), longer than any other. He only declined to seek re-election due to health reasons.

Rev. Taylor has the distinction of having served High Street Baptist Church longer than any other Pastor. After 371/2 years of continuous service, Rev. Taylor retired on December 31, 1998. He was elected Pastor Emeritus in 1999.

Rev. Floyd W. Davis was chosen as Pastor in May of 2000. He was installed on September 2000 as the church’s seventh Pastor. He is a native of Richmond, Virginia and was married to the former Mary A. Scott. He served as Pastor for four years.

In March 2006, Rev. David L Chapman was chosen as Pastor of High Street Baptist Church. He was officially installed in June 2006. He was a champion of Unity, Youth Programs, Missions, Education, and Community Service.

On October 5, 2008, High Street Baptist Church held an ordination service of historic proportions. Five persons were ordained as Deacons of High Street Baptist Church, and for the first time, four women of our church attained this worthy position. In 2011, Pastor Chapman created the Anchor of Hope Community Center—a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Board of Directors to bring recreational activities, educational programs, and community services to the Anchor of Hope building. Pastor Chapman served as Pastor for six years. He retired his position on December 31, 2012.

On January 2nd, High Street Baptist Church joyously welcomed our new Pastor-Elect Reverend Serenus T. Churn, Jr., B.S., M.Div. and First Lady Karen Churn!

Rev. Churn, a native of Yonkers, New York is an accomplished minister of the gospel, educator, lecturer, singer, musician, and director. He was the former Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Danville, VA for 23 years. He is the son of The Reverend Dr. Serenus and Mrs. Shirley Churn, Sr. of Winston- Salem, North Carolina.

On Sunday, April 12, 2015, Reverend Serenus T. Churn, Jr. was installed as the ninth Pastor of High Street Baptist Church.

Pastors Listed in Historical Order of Service:

Rev. W. W. Brown (1881-1902)
Rev. W. E. Lee (1917-1945)
Rev. Frederick G. Sampson (1952-1960)
Rev. Floyd W. Davis (2000-2004)
Rev. Serenus T. Churn, Jr. (2015- )
Rev. J. J. Burks (1902-1916)
Rev. Robert J. Smith (1947-1952)
Rev. Noel C. Taylor (1961-1998)
Rev. David L. Chapman (2006-2012)