(From left) Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Liza Scruggs, Pastor William S. Epps, Rosentene Bennett-Purnell, and Lorn S. Foster participated in the service.
Hundreds Attend Dedicatory Service at Second Baptist
Members Observe 85th Anniversary of Church Edifice
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
A capacity crowd attended the 85th Anniversary services of the historic Second Baptist Church building on January 9. The spirit-filled worship service, held in the church sanctuary at 2412 Griffith Avenue in Los Angeles, attracted community leaders, elected officials and more than 800 members celebrating the longevity of the current edifice.
ìI feel great about celebrating the 85th year of this sacred space and what makes it really important is that it points to what is a lot larger than all of us. Not just our history, but to the reality of the presence in whom we have our being, God Almighty,î said Rev. Dr. William S. Epps, senior pastor of Second Baptist.
The church building, which is both a city and national cultural landmark, was designed by the eminent African-American architect, Paul R. Williams, in 1925; construction was completed in January of 1926.
A formal dedicatory service was held the same month with the sermon by the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., then-pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. In a replication of the first event, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, current pastor of Abyssinian, was the guest preacher for the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services.
His three-point message at the 8 a.m. service, taken from the book of Revelations, expounded on the scriptures and addressed contemporary issues. ìIím deeply concerned about the future for President Barack Obama. Heís the first African American president and he is under ferocious attack.î
Butts also spoke about poverty among African Americans. ìMost of our people are poor and we need to be on the front line of battle against those who try to oppress the poor. ìWe need to argue for economic justice out of the creation of new wealth or the redistribution of wealth. We built the nation, therefore, nothing should be denied to us in terms of our sharing in its prosperity,î he said.î
In concluding, Butts said, ìLastly, Iím deeply concerned about African American women. We must, particularly in the church, open ourselves to the leadership, force and power of our sisters. They are doing marvelous things. There is hardly any movement in this nation or in the world that women have not played a significant role.î
Emphasizing that the Black congregations must take a stronger role on issues in our communities, he said, ìIt has been Godís will to direct us in the church to speak not only to the power of Godís will and our individual lives spiritually, but we have an obligation to our people and the ministry has always been at the forefront of our struggle. We have always been led by God. Nothing is more prominent than the church.î
The service also included presentations by L.A. City Council members Jan Perry and Bernard Parks, Leon Jenkins, president of NAACP ñ L.A. Chapter; William Thurmond of the L.A. Mission Society, William Elkins III, William Elkins IV, and Alex Johnson representing L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Among the other program participants were Charles and Erin Myrick, Lori and Miles Williams, Nilah and Terrell Placide, Donna and Kelsey Pugh, Michelle and Ayana Woods, Gerald and William Coley, Venus Butler, Rosentene Bennett-Purnell, Lorn Foster, Natlieth Smith, Zolee Griggs, Forestine Richards, Remelle Staten, Ernest Young, Greta Sesheta, Cynthia Felton, Hester Watkins, Albert Matthews, Steve Bagby, Sr., Helen Starks, Michelle Waller, Martha LaCroix, and Claryssa Parker.
Epps said he was pleased with the celebratory service, ìThe Anniversary Committee did an excellent job. They were very diligent, disciplined and they left no stone unturned to make sure this was a grand and glorious occasion.î
The celebration was coordinated by the Second Baptist Memorial and Historical Commission. Catherine Woodruff served as chairperson and Lorn Foster as advisor. Sub-committee chairs were Steve Bagby, Sr., Yolande Bankston, Rosentene Bennett-Purnell, Eloise King, Mildred Lovett, Albert Matthews, Diane Myrick, Melanie Polk, Liza Scruggs, Natlieth Smith, and J. Michelle Woods.
Scruggs, who is also a member of the commission, shared her long history with Second Baptist. ìMy grandfather, Rev. Dr. Thomas Lee Griffith Sr., was the fifth pastor and builder of the church. He and his wife lived at 32nd and Griffith Avenue and while walking in the neighborhood, they found this vacant lot. He worked with Norman Marsh and Paul Williams to design this building which took 11 months to build from ground breaking to opening the doors of the church.î
She said, ìI was baptized here in 1954, so my family has been here from the beginning and weíre moving forward through the 21st century.î
Echoing in agreement, Epps said, ìSecond Baptist has been in this community more than 100 years and we commit to being right where we are. We have invested ourselves where we are and weíre going to let our bucket down where we are and we will blossom right here.î