Rich In History, Yet Advancing Our Community
For over 125 years, the Tabernacle Baptist Church has been an essential part of the Petersburg Community. Originating in an old framed house at 427 Jones Street, Tabernacle, like the Old Ship of Zion, has emerged as a spiritual haven for “many a thousand”.
The Reverend C. B. W. Gordon, Sr. was the founding pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church. The church was organized with the support of approximately 150 people. A hall located on Oak Street belonging to Mrs. Anna Williams was secured for a place of worship. On March 30, 1890, under the leadership of the Reverend Gordon, the Tabernacle Baptist Church held her first church service. The church met with much opposition at this location and was forced to meet at various places, but the membership continued to increase.
The Reverend Gordon was the unanimous choice as Pastor to shepherd the flock and entered his duties immediately. Later the congregation purchased the present location, 418-420 Halifax Street for approximately $2000.00. On Sunday, May 25, 1890, worship services were conducted in that building
The congregation grew to the point that a larger house of worship was needed. Therefore, on June 6, 1890, at a cost of $3000.00, the corner stone of the building was laid. The dedication sermon was delivered on August 2, 1890 by the Reverend E. E. Smith, the former U. S. Minister of Liberia.
On September 24, 1890, Tabernacle was recognized as a Baptist church and was extended the hand of fellowship. Upon receiving the hand of fellowship, Tabernacle also applied for membership and was accepted to the Virginia State Baptist Convention. On May 25, 1891, Tabernacle was represented by Pastor Gordon and the first church delegates at the annual meeting of the Virginia Baptist State Convention; this was one of the significant events of Pastor Gordon’s pastoral career. Other events included election of deacons, trustees, and a church clerk; there was also the organizing of a Sunday School, missionary society and prayer meeting.
In the middle of the 1930’s, Pastor Gordon’s health began to fail. During this time until 1939, the Reverend J.J. Horne and the Reverend Temple Ritchie served as Supply Pastors. In 1936, he organized the Female Usher Board. On August 12, 1940, Tabernacle extended a call to the Reverend Fred Jacob Boddie, Sr., Associate Minister of the Zion Baptist Church, to serve the congregation. Out of respect and honor for Pastor Gordon, Reverend Boddie declined the call but did accept to serve as Assistant Minister for twelve months. On October 1, 1940, Pastor Gordon died, and on October 13, 1941, the Reverend Fred J. Boddie, Sr., became the second minister of the then 51 year old church.
In1944, Tabernacle was partly destroyed by fire. Worship services were held across the street at the Central Presbyterian Church, which is now the Westminster Presbyterian Church. The church was completely renovated with a remodeled frontage, baptismal pool was moved upstairs, stained glass windows were installed, and a kitchen was built in the lower auditorium. Dr. Boddie’s accomplishments included: forming a Pastor’s Aid Society, Deaconess Board, and a Memorial Club; along with numerous other accomplishments.
Dr. Boddie shepherded Tabernacle for twenty-nine years. On March 3, 1970, after a long period of declining health, God called Pastor Boddie home. The Tabernacle Baptist Church family was without a pastor for approximately eighteen months. During this period, Deacon George Crocker, chairman of the deacon board at that time, was instrumental in holding the congregation together. A call was extended to the Reverend Dr. A. Lincoln James, Jr., in June 1971 to become the third pastor. Dr. James accepted this call on August 8, 1971. He believed that the church should have a seven-day ministry and an outreach into the community. With the combined effort of pastor and members working together, he believed, “It is no secret what God can do; what He has done for others, He can do for you.”
Some of his accomplishments included a complete renovation of lower auditorium, the main sanctuary and exterior of the church. Tabernacle started a live radio broadcast, organized a five-day non-profit day care center, paved the parking area south of the church, begin a 5-3-2-1 Sacrificial Offering program, and purchased two vans, an organ, a piano, and six apartment buildings north of the church. One dwelling south of the church was also purchased.
On May 1980, Dr. James informed the church that he had been extended a call to pastor Trinity Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. On Sunday, May 18, 1980, the church held a call meeting following the worship service for the purpose of hearing Reverend James’ letter of resignation. He informed the church his pastoral duties would terminate on June 29, 1980. We were blessed to have the Reverend Robert L. Jermerson as interim pastor from 1980-1981. Reverend Jemerson enhanced the growth and maintained the church’s family unity.
On May 31, 1981, we extended the call to our fourth pastor, the Reverend Dr. Albert L. Gee. Dr. Gee’s first sermon was delivered on August 2, 1981 and he was installed on December 21, 1981. He believed that Tabernacle should be, “A Concerned Church for All People.”
Some of his accomplishments included ordaining four of the nine members who answered the call to the ministry, six new trustees, six new deacons, two members to the finance committee, organized a New Members Welcome Committee, the Inspirations of Tabernacle, Pastor’s Advisory Council, and Tutorial Program. He started the Virginia Lynchburg Seminary and College Education Extension Program, here at Tabernacle. The Day Care Center became self-sufficient, the mortgage was paid off as of May 1988, and as of May 1994, all major debts of the church were paid off. In envisioning a need for a new sanctuary/education family center, the Vision Restoration 2000 Project was initiated.
On January 1, 1995, Dr. Gee informed the congregation that he had been extended a call to pastor Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. On Sunday, January 15, 1995, the church held a call meeting for the purpose of hearing Dr. Gee’s letter of resignation. He informed the church that he would terminate his pastoral duties on January 31, 1995.
The third Pulpit Committee was elected Sunday, February 19, 1995 for the purpose of securing a fifth pastor to lead the church. This committee consisted of Deacons: George Crocker, John Mayo, Samuel Rhue; Trustees: Floyd Henderson, James Nowlin, and William Nedrick; Sisters: Bettie P. Lanier, Damaris Johnson, Barbara Trotter, Melanie Brown, Wanda Allen, Danielle Bailey and Letecia Harris.
Tabernacle was blessed to have the Reverend Dr. Robert Allen Diggs, Sr., serve as interim pastor from March 1995 to March 1996. The church voted on March 24, 1996 to extend an official call to Dr. Diggs to serve as their fifth pastor. The July 7, 1996 installation service became a “Confirmation of Celebration,” and marked another significant day in the history of the Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Dr. Diggs became pastor and immediately began a new work for the Lord, and the Tabernacle Church family. In a short time the Holy Spirit led Pastor Diggs in the development of a new vision. During his first church conference he presented Vision 2000 Plus, in handbook form, to the church.