The Present Site
Around 1938, Mrs. Bessie Howard, who resided on Liberty Hill and was a member of Union Baptist Church, suggested to the recently ordained Reverend Benjamin James Whipper Sr. that since there was no church on the main street that ran through Liberty Hill, she and others would work with him to establish a “First Baptist Church”. Liberty Hill was the first established Negro community in the Charleston Heights area, located between Mixon and Gaynor venues.
Reverend Whipper accepted Mrs. Howard’s offer and contacted Mr. Edward Gantt, father of Brothers Marion and William Gantt, concerning the purchase of the lots on which Charity Missionary Baptist Church was erected. Soon after they began paying for the lots, Reverend Whipper was called to the pastorate of St. Matthew Baptist Church. He did not feel that the could effectively give leadership to St. Matthew with its indebtedness and other problems and at the same time continue with the project of building a church. Therefore, he, with the consent of Mrs. Howard and those who were working with them, contacted the pastor of Charity, Reverend Harris, and officers of the church about assuming the balance of payments on the lots. (There are no available records with the full name of Reverend Harris, but he is considered one of the first pastors of Charity). The offer was presented to the congregation and it was approved.
Since the population of Dewey Hill was still diminishing, the congregation, under the leadership of Reverend Harris, began building a church edifice at the present location on Liberty Hill. This project was completed successfully; however, Reverend Harris died before the congregation formally transferred the worship services from the old edifice on Dewey Hill to the new edifice on Liberty Hill.
After a period of mourning for their deceased pastor, the congregation began a search for a new leader. Many ministers were considered; however, the congregation turned to one of its sons, Reverend B. J. Whipper, Sr., who had been the pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church for nine years. After several conferences with Reverend Whipper and officers and leaders of Charity, Rev. Whipper stated that St. Mathew’s mortgage had been paid, the congregation had grown and stabilized, and work on a new edifice for St Mathew’s worshippers was ready to begin. Since Charity traditionally required the pastor on the second and fourth Sundays and worship services were later than St. Matthew’s, Reverend Whipper felt that he could serve Charity as a pastor if he was the choice of the congregation. The Deacons, under the leadership of Deacon Christopher Joy, were delighted and enthusiastically recommended Reverend Whipper to be the pastor of Charity Baptist Church. Five other ministers were nominated: Reverend R. H. Edmonds, Reverend Dickerson, Reverend Mose Simmons, Reverend Ross, and Reverend Josh Milligan. Reverend Whipper was elected by a large majority. The call was extended and Reverend Whipper began serving the church as pastor on February 9, 1949. (Reverend Whipper followed the following ministers who had served at one time as the pastor of Charity: Reverends Wilson, Prioleau, J.T.Thomas, and Harris).
After Reverend Whipper began his pastorate, he expressed his concern about the limited facility of the sanctuary with no educational facilities, no study, etc. Since there was no land space for expansion, the alternative was to go upward, which would involve demolishing a building recently constructed, an accomplishment of great pride. This posed a problem, but Reverend Whipper possessed the understanding, patience and diplomacy, plus what members of Charity believed to have been the leadership of the Holy Spirit to work with the prevailing situation. He persistently shared with the congregation his ideas and dreams. Eventually they agreed with him and expansion projects were undertaken.
The first venture was an extension across the rear of the church which projected on each side of the old church to form a “T” shaped building. This was part of an overall plan in Reverend Whipper’s mind. By the time the additions were completed, the congregation was pleased. Reverend Whipper was elated that the officers and members were in agreement with him. Therefore, he divulged the second plan which he had envisioned and sketched for the church edifice a sanctuary upstairs and educational facilities, offices, kitchen, dinning area and restrooms downstairs. This would require that the present structure be remodeled. A permit for the use of the Liberty Hill Community Center was acquired by Charity Baptist Church on June 3, 1963, for its normal worship services for a period of about six months. With intense excitement the officers and members were ready to move forward. Thus the project of renovating was set in motion. The congregation decided not to borrow any money but would rally and pay as the work progressed. By 1979, the congregation had raised and expended about $125,000.00 toward the construction of the present church. In the final phase of the work, the decision was made to secure the necessary funds to have the church bricked and professionally completed to create a unique, new facade (front). The cost of this phase was $175,000.00 for a total of $300,000.00. Deacon Wilson Melvin, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Lucille S. Whipper, the pastor’s wife, worked with Rev. Whipper on the design of the present structure. During this time, members of the Board of Deacons were: Julian Green, Chairman, John Richey, Andrew Lambright, Lucion Ball, Eli Brockington, Levy W. Berry, John B. McCants, Walter Goodson, Wilson Melvin, Jr., Marion Gantt, William Gantt, Sr. and Tol Shaw. Members of the Board of Trustees were: Brothers Samuel L. Hart, Chairman, Freddie Lambright, William U. Frederick, Sr., Saul White,
Sr., Elijah Williams, Marvin Dancy, Elliott Slater, Sisters Leizanna Hart, Electra Gantt, Viola Melvin, Mattie White, and Annie Mae Brown. After the present facade was completed in 1980, the following was accomplished by the members of Charity: The fourth Sunday of June 1980 was a great day in the history of Charity Missionary Baptist Church. It was so because the congregation rejoiced in the completion of the church edifice at its present location, 1544 East Montague Avenue, North Charleston, South Carolina.
- The church’s mortgage was
paid in full in record time and was celebrated with a mortgage burning.
- The parking lot was paved.
The land for the parking lot was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Henry and
Rosa Bell Anderson where the famous Harlem Swing Club once stood.
- The Willie Reed property directly
behind the church on Sanders Avenue was purchased.
- New carpet for the Sanctuary
upstairs and new tile floors for the fellowship hall were installed.
- New choir chairs, communion
sets, communion table, and offering table were purchased.
- Pulpit chairs were reupholstered.
- New Baptism pool and curtains
- New kitchen equipment was
- The men’s and women’s restrooms
- New Sanctuary lights, ceiling
fans, and public address system were installed.
- The church was painted
- A new roof and church steeple
Just before Reverend Whipper retired, he wanted the church to have an elevator installed suitable for all occasions with a lifting capacity of 2,500 pounds. This task was accomplished in 1995. Reverend Whipper also knew with the changing times that the church needed its own constitution and by-laws. This was accomplished and adopted on January 15, 1996.
In February 1996, Reverend Doctor Benjamin James Whipper, Sr. retired as pastor. This was a time of mixed emotions for the Charity Baptist Church Family. The hearts of the flock were heavy and saddened that their faithful, dedicated, and humble leader would no longer be with them. After 47 years of active service and two (2) years as Pastor Emeritus, Reverend Whipper went home to be with the Lord on June 13, 1998. “Servant of God Well Done!”
A New Beginning
As the New Year began in 1996, it offered the church a new beginning. Church members and leaders were confident that what they had been taught and by whom they were taught that they were ready to begin the search for a new leader and pastor. They knew that they would not find another man like their beloved Pastor Reverend Whipper, so after many months of prayerful searching, the search ended, and Reverend Dr. Jay Charles Levy Jr. answered the call to become the next pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church. The church was excited that we found a new pastor. After due process, the church had a week celebration from November 11 through November 15, 1996. On Sunday, November 17, 1996
at 4:00 p.m. the installation services were again conducted by the Charleston County Missionary Baptist Association. The Reverend Dr. Alfonzo R. Blake, Moderator, presided over the services. The day ended with a large feast for all to enjoy. The first thing on Reverend Levy’s agenda was to meet with the Deacon Board and give his vision for the church.
Members of The Board of Deacons were: Julian Green, Chairman, Andrew Lambright, Senior Deacon John Richey, Lucion Ball, John B. McCants, Levy W. Berry, Walter Goodson, Wilson Melvin, Jr., Tol Shaw, Carnell Gathers, Kenneth Collins and Ellison Zimmerman. Members of The Board of Trustees were: Brothers Samuel L. Hart, Chairman, Freddie Lambright, William U. Fredrick Sr., William (Bill) Owen, Marvin Dancy, Sisters Leizanna Hart, Viola Melvin, Electra Gantt, Mattie White, Annie Mae Brown, and Alice Carter.
Reverend Levy saw that the church needed a bus ministry. Over a period of time, two 15 passenger vans were purchased. Seeing a need to involve more people in the church, he established several ministries: Prison, Youth In Action, Marriage, Singles, Discipleship Class and Agape. Part of Reverend Levy’s vision was to build a new church or add an education building. In order to accomplish this vision, the church needed additional land. With that information in mind, Deacon Levy W. Berry contacted SCE&G about a small parcel of land that was no longer in use. The land was located east of the church between Williams Lane, Sanders Avenue, and East Montague Avenue. This property was east of the Whipper’s property on Sanders and East Montague Avenues. Deacon Berry informed Reverend Levy and the Board of Deacons about the land. This was good news and the necessary actions were taken to purchase the property. Later, the Gibbs property on Sanders Avenue behind the church was also purchased. Other accomplishments included but were not limited to: upgrading the public address and sound systems.
- upgrading the office equipment
and establishing a computer lab
- because of the persistence
of Trustee William Owen air conditioning was installed in the fellowship
hall and vestibule.
- changing the ceiling and light
fixtures in the fellowship hall
- reupholstering the sanctuary
pews and replacing the carpet in the sanctuary
- installing new windows and
blinds throughout the church.
During Reverend Levy’s tenure, several ministers of the gospel from Charity were given licenses. Three now have churches and others are in school preparing themselves for the journey. Five Deacons were ordained and some have now gone to serve elsewhere. Reverend Dr. Jay Charles Levy Jr. served Charity for 11 years. Members of Charity Baptist Church are thankful for the service Reverend Dr. Jay Charles Levy gave to the church and its members over the 11 years that he served as pastor and bid him God’s speed.
From Good to Great!
After eleven months of seeking God’s guidance to find the right under-shepherd, the Lord sent the Reverend Nelson B. Rivers III to become the next pastor of Charity. On September 7, 2008, Reverend Rivers preached his first sermon,
“From Good to Great!” as the newly elected pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Rivers and his beautiful wife and Charity’s new First Lady, Carolyn S. Rivers, moved back to North Charleston to accept the call to pastor Charity after being away from home for 24 years.
Charity was very excited to have Pastor Rivers and the new First Lady, Sister Rivers, to lead its members.The church was filled to capacity for the first Sunday morning service that Pastor Rivers served as the new leader and pastor Reverend Rivers made it clear in his first sermon that Charity would achieve greatness through service by abiding by words of our Savior found in Mark 10:43: “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires
to become great among you shall be your servant.” Reverend Rivers preached that Charity would achieve greatness through serving God, following the directions of Jesus the Christ, and serving the present age!
Reverend Rivers is married to the former Carolyn Smalls of Charleston and has four children and four grandchildren. He is a proud 1968 graduate of Burke High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from America’s first historically Black university, Wilberforce University in Ohio. He is a 1985 graduate of Leadership South Carolina. He was ordained at the Olivet Baptist Church of Christ in Fayetteville, GA under the leadership of the late Dr. Howard W. Creecy, Sr. He is now pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina.
For 33 years Reverend Rivers worked at every level of the NAACP including: President, North Charleston Branch;
Executive Director, South Carolina State Conference; Director, Southeast Region; Chief Operating Officer and twice as Chief of Field Operations. His work led to the election of more than 300 new black elected officials in South Carolina between 1986 and 1994. He was a leading organizer of the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of South Carolina when over 50,000 marched on the capitol in January 2000 to demand the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag. In November 2008, he was appointed NAACP Vice President of Stakeholder Relations.
Reverend Rivers met often with the Deacon’s Ministry in his first weeks as pastor to gain insight into how Charity had been operating prior to his becoming pastor. He then met with the children of Charity and asked them what they wanted from the new pastor and from their church. The first request was they wanted a Children’s Church. Pastor Rivers responded with a commitment to establish a Children’s Church in the early part of his ministry at Charity. God blessed that vision with success when the new Children’s Church of Charity opened in December 2008.
Pastor Rivers held important meetings with the trustees, ministry leaders, and individual members to learn about his new family. These meetings and many prayer sessions with members helped Reverend Rivers immeasurably as he started to teach Bible Study, observe Sunday School, and formulate plans to organize new ministries at Charity.
Under the preaching, teaching and leadership of Pastor Rivers, Charity started to grow again. From September 2008 to July 2009, Charity gained 83 new members, with 41 coming by baptism. The new members came from all age groups, including 25 under the age of 20. Prayer service, bible study, and Sunday School all continue to grow. Morning worship experienced a significant increase. Reverend Rivers is a widely recognized modern civil rights worker and community organizer. The Lord sent Reverend Rivers to Charity as a preacher of the Gospel and former community organizer, and at the same time, the Lord elevated another former community organizer – Barack Obama – to the highest public office in the world. Less than two months after Pastor Rivers came to Charity on November 4, 2008, Senator Obama became the first African American President of the United States of America.
On Saturday, November 29, 2008, at 4:00 p.m., the Installation Service for Pastor Rivers was held at the church. The service was officiated by Dr. Willie R. Givens, First Vice President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and Moderator of the Charleston County Missionary Baptist Association. The preacher of the hour was the long time friend, mentor and spiritual advisor of Pastor Rivers, the Reverend Julius Caesar Hope, Pastor of New Grace Missionary Baptist Church of Highland Park, Michigan and Director of the NAACP Department of Religious Affairs. A full church was there to witness the Association officers conduct the installation ceremony and to hear Reverend Hope’s soul stirring and powerful sermon. On December 15, 2008, at his first church annual meeting, Pastor Rivers presented his 2009 Vision. The vision was accepted and is listed below with the present status noted:
|Renovate all of the restrooms and kitchen||Completed|
|A lighted Church sign with words of the week
and Sunday Sermon titles
|Break ground on Family Life Center||Met with two potential contractors|
|Create a Health and Wellness Ministry||Completed|
|Create a Economic Empowerment Ministry||Completed|
|Create a Communications Ministry||Completed|
|Re-establish Marriage Ministry||Completed|
|Create Singles Ministry||In progress|
|Celebrate NAACP Centennial||Completed|
|“Seven Last Words of Christ in Sermon”
Good Friday Service
|Produce CDs and DVDs of Worship Services
to send to Sick and Shut-In Members
In addition to the 2009 Vision, during Pastor Rivers’ first year, Charity additionally accomplished the following:
- Hired a paid administrative
- Completed the renovation of
Fellowship Hall with new tile floors, painted women’s lounge
- upgraded office equipment,
- Upgraded sound equipment and
microphones in Sanctuary
- Purchased new furniture and
painted women’s lounge
- Reaffirmed the church name
as Charity Missionary Baptist Church
A new way to celebrate the church anniversary – Pastor Rivers initiated a new way of celebrating the church anniversary with the first ever gala and banquet to honor four of the pillars of Charity: Sister Leizanna Hart, Sister Helen Joy, Deacon Andrew Lambright, and Deacon Julian Green. The Gala featured nationally known human rights advocate, the Reverend Al Sharpton, as guest speaker. Pastor Rivers asked the church leadership to expand its view of what the anniversary could become. The church embraced the new concept and the 95th Anniversary was a tremendous success.
Pastor Rivers believes that all members of Charity should serve in a ministry. He also knows that all of the auxiliaries are really ministries because they are all created to serve the Body of Christ, its members, and save the lost. Reverend Rivers organized eight new ministries in addition to what was in his 2009 Vision. The eight additional new ministries are:
- Teen Bible Study
- Girl Scouts
- Church Sign
- Re-established Male
- New Members
- Prayer and Praise
During Pastor Rivers’ first 11 months, Charity experienced major increases in attendance and income in all programs and events. The Vacation Bible School and the summer camp for youth called Camp Share reported an increase in attendance from previous years. The Deacons and Trustee ministries joined with Pastor Rivers to jumpstart the church’s effort to build a Family Life Center. A core group representing both ministries visited the family life center of other churches to gain perspective on what is ahead when Charity builds its own center. This group held interviews with two construction firms and will soon hold additional meetings with other potential contractors. The Building Steering Committee will be appointed in August 2009 and presented to the church by the September 2009 quarterly meeting. Pastor Rivers is committed to breaking ground in 2009 with the start of construction in 2010 on the Family Life Center.
Pastor Rivers is a big supporter of Charity’s highly acclaimed and well known music ministry. Under the leadership of the gifted and Christ centered Minister of Music, Minister Rossilind Daniels, Charity’s Music Ministry continues to enhance a spirit filled and transformative worship experience every Sunday. Pastor Rivers says often, “I love our choir!”
Pastor Rivers is committed to preaching and teaching the liberating Good News of Jesus the Christ every Sunday at Charity. Reverend Rivers thanks God for the love of the members, the support and guidance of the Deacons’ Ministry, cooperation of the Trustees’ Ministry and stewardship of the 34 ministries of Charity. With the grace and power of an awesome God, much has been accomplished in less than a year since Reverend Rivers has been pastor. He is convinced that the Lord will continue to provide if Charity’s members and leaders are faithful and prayerful. Charity knows that “the best is yet to come!”