Our Church History

Our Church History

The Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, located on the corners of Wylie Avenue, Devillers and Davenport Streets, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was organized on August 10, 1875.  The Rev. R. Henry Marshall was the first pastor.  The Charter members were:

Isham A. Carter, Madison Epps, Paul Cableton, Zonway Jackson, John Evans, John Rickman, George Kendall,  Eliza Fisher, P. Cableton and Mary A. Kendall.

First Deacons:  Joseph Ford, Madison Epps, John Evans, Zonway Jackson and E. D. Carr.

First Trustees:  Wesley S. Johnson, Peter Gordon, Madison Epps, Samuel Smithe and Issac Morton.

The Sunday school was organized on April 14, 1876 with a blessed enrollment of six persons:   Rev. R. Henry Marshall, brothers Ishman A. Carter and Andrew Carter, Bessie Foster and two children.  The church and Sunday School were organized in the church home of the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church, presently known as the First Baptist Church, Oakland, Pennsylvania.

Reverend R. Henry Marshall

The Carpenter
The First Pastor
1875 – 1883

Dr. John F. Hedenburg, Historian for the First Baptist Church Oakland, Pennsylvania, stated that Ebenezer was organized by the Rev. R. Henry Marshall in the parlor of the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church in June of  1875.  The greater portion of the money that paid the expenses of the Ebenezer Baptist Church was given by the Fourth Avenue Baptist Bible School, then under the superintendent, The Honorable H. K. Porter. (Hedenburg)  The congregation remained at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church for eight months, then moved to a building on Forbes Street near Miltenberger.  Members worshiped there for two years.  During the stay on Forbes Street, the church was received into the fellowship of the regular Missionary Baptist Churches.  The church moved to Fifth Avenue Market for three years.  In 1881, the congregation moved to Prince Hall and remained there one year.

In 1882, Rev. Marshall led the congregation to the Fifth Avenue Bank building.  While occupying this space, the church purchased four lots for one thousand dollars.  A carpenter by trade, Rev. Marshall built the first church building in Western Pennsylvania owned by colored Baptist.  In 1881, the membership accepted the name of EBENEZER.  “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”.bRev. Marshall resigned the pastorate of Ebenezer in 1813.

Reverend John Pryor

The Believer
Second Pastor
1884 – 1891

Rev. John Pryor was installed as pastor of Ebenezer on February 27, 1884.  He served for six years, increasing the membership from sixty to three hundred fifty.  He believed in open communion, but the membership protested.  Rev. Pryor led away three hundred members and organized Central Baptist Church.

Reverend Samuel Smith 
Supply Pastor
Seven Months of 1891

Rev. Samuel Smith served as Supply Pastor for seven months in 1891.  Fifty members were on the church roster at that time.

Reverend B. S. Jones

The Committed One
Third Pastor
1892 – 1896

Rev. B. S. Jones was installed as pastor on February 10, 1892.  The first order of Business for Rev. Jones was to preach the word.  The membership increased to one-hundred ninety-eight members.  Rev. Jones conducted a building fund drive and raised three thousand dollars.  An additional amount of fifteen thousand dollars was raised for a mortgage on the old property. The congregation built a brick building on the corner of Colwell and Miller Streets at a cost of twenty-eight thousand dollars.  Dedication was held on May 15, 1895.  Rev. Jones resigned as pastor in June of 1896.  The membership had grown to three hundred twenty-five members.

Reverend George B. Howard

The Servant
Fourth Pastor
1896 – 1900

Rev. George B. Howard, from Charleston, West Virginia, was installed in October of 1896.  Rev. Howard was considered by many to be a ‘finely cultured, Christian minister and a capable pastor’.   He served for four years, baptizing two hundred-fifty souls increasing the membership to six hundred.  The Church debt was reduced from twenty-three thousand dollars to twelve thousand dollars.  Rev. Howard resigned on November 25, 1900.    Rev. Howard installed his successor,  Rev. J. Gardner  Ross.

Reverend J. Gardner Ross

The Conservative
Fifth Pastor
1900-1901

Rev. J. Gardner Ross was from Jacksonville, Florida.  He was very conservative in his dealings with the congregation.  During his pastorate, the church purchased the first parsonage at 105 Roberts Street.  His pastorate lasted one year.

Reverend W. W. Brown

The Contributor
Sixth Pastor
1902 – 1915

Dr. W. W. Brown, from Roanoke, Virginia, was installed as pastor in June of 1902.  The church mortgage was burned in 1908.  During his pastorate, the church became educationally grounded and aided many young people through school, adopting the Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia as its star educational endeavor.  Foreign Mission became an intricate part of Ebenezer sending Rev. James E. East, the only convert of a revival during the pastorate of Rev. Howard, to the Foreign Mission field.  Rev. East was sent to Middle Drift, South Africa under the National Baptist Foreign Mission Board.  (“A  Brief  History”).   Ebenezer was the first Negro Baptist Church in America to pay the salary of a Missionary to any foreign field.  The James E. East Missionary Society was named after Rev. East.  This group was led by Mrs. Georgianna Fitzgerald, one of Ebenezer’s finest Christian women.  The membership under Rev. Brown increased from seven hundred seventy-two to fifteen hundred.  The church purchased the property on Wylie Avenue (the site of the old Ebenezer church that burned in March of 2004) from the Tenth United Presbyterian Church for a cost of thirty six thousand dollars.  The colored branch of the YMCA was born of the men’s bible class of Ebenezer Baptist Church during the administration of Rev. Brown.   Another contribution of Christian service was offered to the Beulah Baptist Church during its period of financial difficulties.  Ebenezer saved this church’s properties by assuming its mortgage of twenty-five hundred dollars.  Rev. W. W. Brown resigned in 1914 after serving as pastor for twelve years.

Reverend Junius Ceaser Austin

The Challenger
Seventh Pastor
1915 – 1926

Rev. J. C. Austin, from the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Staunton, Virginia, was installed as pastor in March of 1915.  During this time, the steel mills and industrial plants flourished and people, especially Southerners, were attracted to Pittsburgh.  Rev. Austin accepted the challenge and opportunity to increase the church membership due to his creative preaching and civic leadership.  He added hundreds to church rolls and the membership steadily increased to over two thousand members.  Mother Lillian Armstrong, Deaconess (deceased in July of 2007) would often attest to the size of the Membership during the pastorate of Rev. Austin.  The church paid off a mortgage of forty-three thousand dollars, which Rev. Austin found upon his arrival; in addition, he bought and paid for thirty-one thousand dollars of additional property.  The property included the remainder of the property adjoining the church on the block facing Wylie Avenue from Devilliers to Davenport Street.  The People’s Gospel Tabernacle was built at a cost of thirty-two thousand dollars on the church’s lots at Addison and Heman Streets.  This building seated 2,500 and accommodated the large crowds that attended revivals and special services conducted by Ebenezer.  Rev. Austin also was responsible for securing the Mother’s Rest and the Gospel Wagon.  The Mother’s Rest was a home for the care of aged women.  The Gospel Wagon was a bus used to bring aged men and women to church services and children to Sunday school.  It was also used when members sang the gospel on street corners.  Rev. J. C. Austin resigned in January of 1926.  His farewell to Ebenezer was entitled. ‘The Hour is Come’.

“And thou has honorable assumed these names,–Good, Modest, True, Rational, Equal-Minded, Magnanimous-“  Unknown 

Reverend Dr. Thomas Jefferson King

A Fearless Champion
Eighth Pastor
1926-1949

Rev. T. J. King came to Pittsburgh from the Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, on August 30, 1926.  He had completed a new church, said to be one of the finest in the country at that time costing one hundred fifty thousand dollars.  Rev. King was a very serious-minded pastor, who responded immediately to the call of duty at Ebenezer.   Rev. King began immediately planning the rebuilding of Ebenezer.  Five years later, in 1931, he led the congregation into a completely rebuilt and refurnished church consisting of a sanctuary with a capacity for twelve hundred fifty persons, a lecture room located on the first level seating six hundred fifty and sixteen other rooms, which included a shower bath.  The cost was more than one hundred thousand dollars.  The mortgage on the building program was burned on September 16, 1945.  A parsonage was purchased for Ebenezer’s first family at the cost of ten thousand dollars.  Rev. King organized the church into departments:   Missions, Religious Education, Evangelism, Music, Physical Education, Finance and Social Services.  Directors were appointed in each department, and a budget system existed for all finances.  The church had a full-time bookkeeper and a financial secretary.  The annual registration of members did not fall under 2,000 and Junior Church had a membership of over two hundred youth under fifteen years of age.  Ebenezer’s Junior Church was always filled with young people.  On October 18, 1945, W. H. R. Powell stated that King was “a great and poetic preacher; a successful soul winner; a superior president; an unusual organizer, an outstanding leader in missions and Christian Education; a rare pastor; a warm and dependable friend, a fearless champion of righteousness and civic justice; and a church builder with few if any equals.”    The church maintained its status as one of the leaders of the Baptist denomination in its support of home and foreign mission throughout the years of depression and with a large indebtedness from the rebuilding program.   Rev. King served in the following capacities:  Allegheny County Board of Religious Education, Board of Control Pennsylvania State Prison, National Reform Association, Tuberculosis League, Society of Catholics, Jew and Protestants, President of The Pittsburgh Ministerial Conference, Corresponding Secretary of The New England Baptist Convention, Trustee of The Virginia Theological Seminary and College (32 years) and The National Baptist Foreign Mission Board for twenty-five years.  Rev. King was married to the former Susie Ann Wright of Woodford, Virginia.  Four children were born to this union:  Thomas Jefferson King, Jr., Montgomery Wordsworth King, Helen Gould King and Gregory Clisson King.  Rev. King died during a vacation in New York on Wednesday, February 23, 1949.

Reverent Robert Johnson

1949 – 1950

Rev. Robert Johnson,   Assistant to the Pastor, Dr. T. J. King, served as Acting Pastor until a new pastor was called.  The joint-boards worked together and led the church in prayer and fellowship accepting the theme:  ‘Unity and Devine Guidance in the selection of Our New Minister.’  The mid-week prayer service increased in attendance.  All regular church services were well attended, and the financial support remained steady.

Reverend Dr. James Benjamin Cayce

The Visionary
Ninth Pastor
1950 – 1972

Rev. James B. Cayce from Hamilton, Ohio, was installed as pastor by his father, Dr. Paul C. Cayce, on Sunday, June 4, 1950.   At the time, Dr. Paul C. Cayce, was pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  Under the leadership of Rev. Cayce, Ebenezer grew spiritually, numerically and financially.  During the first year of his pastorate, extensive repairs were made.  The Sanctuary and Lecture Room (located on the first floor) were redecorated; the pastors’ study, which was relocated on the first floor, was newly furnished. New lower level lounges were remodeled for men and women and a new choir room was created.  Repairs were also made in the Community Center building.  Floodlights were installed in the front of the church and six beautiful new main entrance doors with decorative wrought iron hinges replaced the old doors.  The above repairs and additions cost more than two hundred thousand dollars.  On May 16, 1965, an elevator was dedicated at a cost of thirty-four thousand dollars.  A new parsonage was purchased in September 1967 at a cost of thirty-nine thousand five hundred dollars.  In addition, auxiliaries were added during this time including  a Youth Usher Board, Youth Fellowship Council, Young Adult Fellowship Council, Semper Fidelis Club and the Mr. and Mrs. Club.  When the Anti-Poverty Program began, Ebenezer in conjunction with Hill House Association and the Mayor’s Committee opened the Hill Rehabilitation Center in the Ebenezer Educational Center.   This was an adult care program, geared to rehabilitate and care for adults who needed assistance.   One hot meal was provided daily and health assistance was provided by Mercy Hospital.   In the early seventies, Deacon Willie T. Briscoe, introduced a gentleman by the name of Mr. William (Bill) Johnson, an employee of Urban Housing and Development HUD) to Rev. Cayce.   Mr. Johnson shared with Deacon Briscoe the idea of monies for senior housing.   Rev. Cayce conceived and selected the first committee to develop the project to provide housing for an elderly population noting that Ebenezer Baptist Church should sponsor housing for the elderly.  Mr. James Wofford was selected to head this committee.   After Rev. Cayce’s death, Mr. Johnson continued to meet with various officers of the church as well as Mr. Wofford to discuss the idea; however, little was accomplished.   Rev. Cayce’s friendly disposition, program planning, and leadership in civic and religious affairs gained him a special place in the hearts of his congregation and the city of Pittsburgh.  The membership numbered over two thousand, and the foreign mission donations increased to over one thousand dollars, which placed Ebenezer in the A plus Class as designated by the National Baptist Convention.  Rev. Cayce held leadership positions on the local, state and national levels.   Rev. Cayce was married to Mary Ruth Smith Cayce.  She passed in 1962 at the age of 45 years old.   Rev. Cayce later married Marilyn Cayce on July 26, 1964.  They were the proud parents of one son, James Cayce Jr.  Pastor Cayce passed away in October of 1971.

Reverend Clarence E. McFadden

1971-1973

Rev. McFadden, the pastor’s assistant, performed pastoral duties until a new pastor was called.

Reverend Dr. Joseph Van Alfred Winsett

The Faithful Servant
Tenth Pastor
1973 – May 31, 2012

Rev. J. Van Alfred Winsett accepted the pastorate of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1973.  He was the former pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Beloit, Wisconsin.  Rev. Winsett continued previously instituted programs while stimulating the hearts of the congregation.  Under his leadership, the dream of the senior citizen 101 complex became a reality and was built at a cost of 5.1 million dollars.  Rev. Winsett appointed members of Ebenezer to a committee to begin the groundwork.  The following persons were appointed to this committee:  William Albea,  Delphina B. Briscoe, Ph.D.; Jessie Carswell, Mattie Hodge, Eleanor Mosby, Robert Ruffin, J. T. Thomas, Aaron Walton, Booker Williams and Missie Yates.   Robert Ruffin was elected president.  After a fire, Ebenezer was renovated at a cost of one hundred fifty thousand dollars. An educational building was constructed and the scholarship program was reinstated.  The following programs and ministries were instituted at Ebenezer: an orphanage in Haiti, an 8AM worship service, a sign ministry, mime ministry, drama ministry, a street ministry, a weekly radio ministry to serve persons in Pennsylvania and Ohio and a television ministry for residents in the Pittsburgh area.  Rev.Winsett had fifty-one ministers under his administration. (Ten deceased)  He served as Dean of Students for the American Baptist College, Liaison for the National and German Conventions, Assistant Director of the Department of Theology, National Baptist Congress of Christian Education and President of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention.  He served many years on the mission fields of South Africa traveling to and from Liberia.  He is listed in Who’s Who Among Professionals and Executives and was cited for outstanding service by former President James Carter.   Pastor Winsett retired from the pastorate of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in May 2012.  He delivered his final sermon entitled, ”It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over,” Ephesians 6: Verses 9 and 10, on Sunday, May 6, 2012.   Rev. Winsett is married to Lady Jacqueline O. Winsett.  They are the parents of four children: Marie Winsett Ruple, John Andrew Winsett, Lisa Jo Winsett and Delicha Lattaker.   An evening retirement celebration, “A Man Named Winsett,” was held on May 20, 2012 at the Churchill Valley Country Club honoring Pastor’s Winsett’s thirty-nine years of service to Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Reverend Dr. Vincent K. Campbell

The Resident Theologian:  A Teaching Preacher
Eleventh Pastor
August 3, 2013 – Present

On August 3, 2013, The Historic Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania extended a pastoral call to The Rev. Dr. Vincent K. Campbell. Pastor Campbell is a gifted preacher, teacher, and administrator. Pastor Campbell is a man of God who loves and enjoys spending time with his wife and five children, reading, and writing. Dr. Campbell’s imagery of ministry is a testimony of simply being a chosen vessel called by God, used by the Holy Spirit through the Power of Jesus Christ to draw men, women, and children to God (Acts 9:15 -16).

Dr. Campbell is a high energy preacher of the social gospel which matches well with the high energy worship services of Ebenezer. God has truly anointed Dr. Campbell with many spiritual gifts including discernment, wisdom, and deliverance. His inspirational preaching and dynamic teaching has ignited a wave of members returning to Ebenezer along with well over 200 new members all within the first 2 years of his pastorate. Pastor Campbell has also brought about a dramatic increase in weekly Bible Study which created the demand for a second weekly Bible Study.

In 2014, Pastor Campbell revealed a Church Transition Plan for Ebenezer and during a 3 Day Deacon Ministry Retreat at Antiochian Village near Ligonier the New Pastoral Vision was unanimously endorsed by the Official Board. The Joint Board of Ebenezer Baptist Church has joined with Pastor Campbell in launching a Ministry Partners Campaign to support the creation of over 50 new ministries. The vision will provide resources and opportunities to our members and community through ministries such as: Toddler Care, Children and Youth, Family Life, Marriage Counseling, Health & Wellness Programs, Financial Empowerment, Young Scholars Programs, a Parent & Child Learning Center, Lifestyle Evangelism, Deliverance Ministries, Disaster Relief, and a Community Food Pantry, along with other Community Outreach services.

Dr. Campbell hit the ground running and has become an active leader in our Community. He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Hill District Minister’s Alliance (HDMA), a group of pastors and ministry leaders who meet on a regular basis to coordinate support for new and ongoing community initiatives. Dr. Campbell’s ongoing commitment to ensuring adequate resources and programs for educating youth led him to accept the position of Co-Chair of the Hill District Education Council (HDEC).

Since his arrival at Ebenezer in September 2013, Dr. Campbell has served as a panelist for the African-American Gubernatorial Candidates forum sponsored by over 10 different Black political, service, religious and economic organizations; and participated in several prestigious events including the African American Heritage Day Parade, African American Chamber of Commerce of Western PA Annual Business Luncheon, and Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Dedication Ceremony. Dr. Campbell has also been a vocal and visible member of the Lower Hill Working Group, supporter of the Hill District CDC, and Thelma Lovette YMCA.

Dr. Campbell graduated with honors from American Baptist College, and earned the Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. While at Vanderbilt he completed the program in Black Church Studies of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute. He later earned the Doctor of Ministry Degree at Morehouse School of Religion (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Campbell is the recipient of numerous honors, awards and recognitions. He is married to Jamie Campbell. They are the blessed parents of six children.

Historical Highlights of Ebenezer Baptist Church

Timeline of Events – 143 years of supreme service

In 1800s

  • Ebenezer Baptist Church founded 1875
  • Rev. Henry Marshall installed as the first pastor (1875-1883)
  • Rev. John Pryor installed as the second pastor (1884-1891)
  • Organized Central Baptist Church
  • Rev. Samuel Smith installed (1891)
  • Rev. B.B, Jones installed (1892-1895)

In 1900s

  • Seven (7) pastors were installed during this time period: Rev. George B. Howard, Rev. J. Gardner Ross, Rev. W.W. Brown, Rev. J.C. Austin, Rev. T.J. King, Rev. James B. Cayce and Rev. J. VA Winsett
  • Church focus: foreign mission and education
  • Membership increased to 2,000
  • Ebenezer Towers erected in 1981

In 2000s

  • Many programs and ministries were initiated
  • Ebenezer destroyed by a fatal fire on March 13, 2004. This was the second fire in the church’s history
  • New church rebuilt on old site. Opened oi 2006
  • Rev. JVA Winsett retires in 2012 as the longest serving pastor after 39 years

Present

  • Reverend Dr. Vincent K. Campbell installed as senior pastor in 2013
  • Church Transition Plan revealed in 2014
  • A total of 50 new ministries created through pastoral vision
  • RESET, a Christian education program introduced now as the vision for the future

Future

  • Increase tithing through education
  • Retire church mortgage
  • Develop community benefit programs
  • Change church culture
  • Increase membership

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