“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpah and Shen and called the name of it Ebenezer. This name truly defines the Ebenezer Baptist Church. For one hundred and thirty-two years the Ebenezer Baptist Church has sat upon its little corner of Semple Farm Road as a rock to this small community and the greater Hampton area.
Believing that all things are possible, in 1884 the sisters: Jennie Presson, Keziah Presson, Maria Strong, and brother William Russell founded the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Spiritual and organizational guidance during that early period was provided by Reverends: Ebenezer T. Byrd, John Lovett and H.P. Weeden.
In 1889, the Reverend Lewis D. Lively was called to the pastorate of the church and served with distinction for nearly forty-eight years. It was with Reverend Lively that God enabled the congregation to grow to erect the sanctuary on the present site in 1925. Under his leadership, organizations such as the Willing Workers, Choir and Male Usher Board were organized. Reverend Lively died September 9, 1937.
After the passing of Reverend Lively, the church was without a pastor for approximately 3 years. The Pulpit Committee was charged with the responsibility of securing ministerial leadership during this time. The Pulpit Committee recommended that the church call Dr. George S. Russell as its pastor and the membership unanimously accepted the recommendation. Thus, Dr. Russell accepted the call as pastor and began serving the congregation on Sunday, May 14, 1939. Much was accomplished through the cooperation of the congregation and the pastor. Ebenezer, like many other churches during this time, held semi-monthly services, on the second and fourth Sundays.
The fifth Sunday was reserved for the participation in the Sunday School Union. Reverend Russell inspired all to honor God and to glorify His Holy name through our living with one another. Ebenezer became a bright and shining light in the community. Under the pastorate of Dr. Russell, the church moved literally from the country church to the modern church. This was evidenced by the organization of the Usher Board, Deaconess Board, Missionary Circle, Junior Choir, Men’s Club, Men’s Chorus, Junior Missionary Circle, and the Baptist Training Union. Many physical improvements were made at this time as well.
The greatest accomplishment of this pastorate was the increase in membership. Membership increased approximately fifty percent with youth and young adults accounting for seventy-five percent of the total number. During this time, the church moved to having Sunday Morning Worship Services on each Sunday, except the fifth Sundays, at 11:00 a.m.
Due to illness, Reverend Russell retired and was named Pastor Emeritus in 1965. He died October 5, 1966.
The Pulpit Committee was once again commissioned to find a new pastor. On July 22, 1966, Reverend Maurice Carter was called. Ebenezer was now eighty years old. The membership continued to grow. Both spiritual and physical goals for the church were established under the Carter leadership. For a first, Reverend Mathew Winder, Sr., was licensed and became an associate minister.
Reverend Carter served the congregation for five years. He resigned to become pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Newport News.
Once again the church found itself without a leader, but the membership drew closer together to continue the work of God’s church. For fourteen months spiritual fervor remained at a peak, stewardship doubled, and faith in God increased.
In September, 1972, the membership called Reverend Walter R. Dean as pastor. Committed to the theme “My Call to Fulfill,” Reverend Dean immediately heightened the forward thrust of the church. It was under his leadership that worship service at 11 o’clock on each fifth Sunday was offered for worshipers. The mission and programs of Ebenezer were enlarged and new areas unfolded. The church became more focused on the needs of people within and without our circle.
At the beginning of the 1990’s, the Pastor revealed a vision from God for the spiritual and physical growth of this branch of Zion. The community around us swelled and the ‘need’ became great to enlarge our ministries and our building. The plans to construct a larger edifice surfaced. After much prayer, sacrifice, and fasting the church broke ground in June of 1993 and construction began in April 1997.
On Palm Sunday, March 28, 1999, the vision was made clear and the congregation marched from the old sanctuary to its new sanctuary. The new edifice was dedicated in July, 1999. With larger doors, Ebenezer expanded its call to all who will come in.
During the 2000s Pastor Dean not only emphasized our call to all who would come in, but greatly expanded outreach in the surrounding community. To facilitate the mission work, the following major ministries were developed: Diaconate, Christian Education, Fellowship, Missions, and Worship Support. Each of these major ministries has numerous mini ministries that support our congregation, our community, and our country (see a breakout of these ministries on our website). These efforts are winning souls for Christ in Hampton, Newport News, and surrounding cities through the Senior Ministry annual Prayer Breakfast, the Parenting Ministry quarterly family night dinners and the Fall Festival, and outreach to our Military members, in Africa by supporting a Missionary, in Haiti with annual mission trips, and adding to the growth of the church.
The church not only grew in membership facilitated by the New Members Class which served as an introduction to our Christian faith to new believers, but also increased in those called to preach the word of God. Under Pastor Dean’s leadership forty-nine ministers were licensed. Four have gone on to Pastor Churches: Pastor Calvin Williams, Beulah Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, Pastor Marsay Winder, Branches of the Vine Community Church, Hampton, Virginia, Pastor Gregory McGee, Sr., Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Winona, Mississippi, Pastor Douglas Smith, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Barhamsville, Virginia, and Pastor Darrell Hudson, Morning Star Baptist Church, Gloucester, Virginia.
Pastor Dean also had a heart for our youth. During his tenure he encouraged outreach to embrace tender minds and eager spirits by supporting religious retreats, camps and educational trips, and workshops. These activities included trips to Camp Friendship, Wakefield Retreat, Eagle Eyrie Camp, Bush Gardens, Great Wolf Lodge, Kings Dominion, Water Country, African American and Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and The Sight and Sound Theater in Ronks, Pennsylvania. The youth also regularly attended praise and worship services at the Acquire The Fire Conferences in Norfolk, Virginia. Life skills on such topics as Teenage Dating Violence, College Life Experience, College Entrance exams, and Scholarships prepared our youth for life outside of Ebenezer. The Senior Ministry also supported our youth by sponsoring trips to include the youth. Activities included attending the play “Buffalo Soldier” at the American Theater, in Hampton, Virginia, and trips to the Frederick Douglas House in Washington, D.C. and the Baltimore Black Wax Museum. Available during the regular Sunday morning worship hour, Toddlers Loving Christ (TLC) Ministry for babies nine months to four years old provided early Christian education and activities that focused on friendship with Jesus Christ.
After much prayer and with guidance from God, Pastor Dean ordained the first Women Deacons of Ebenezer Baptist Church. in 2017. These women: Deacon Joyce Bright, Deacon Jeanette Grase, Deacon Fortunata Green, Deacon Chenelle Harris, Deacon Gladys Jordan, Deacon Helen Johnson and Deacon Carolyn Waites, exemplify the fact that God uses ordinary people to accomplish His great works.
For 48 years Pastor Dean served Ebenezer with love, wisdom, and the full guidance of the Word of God. He held firm to his motto “my calling to fulfill” and ensured that the Ebenezer congregation was equipped to “Reach the unsaved and Those Who Have Fallen Away.” After a lengthy illness, Pastor Dean died on December 20, 2020. In 2021 a pulpit committee was convened to begin the search for the next Pastor that will lead Ebenezer Baptist Church into the future.
Today, Ebenezer continues to embody that “rock” upon which God built as we strive to become God’s Transformational Church - " Transformation - A Mandate to Reach the unsaved and Those Who Have Fallen Away.”
The First Seven EBC Women Deacons
Introduction and interviews conducted by Sister Norma Gaither
On September 24, 2017, seven women who were already serving God in their roles as deaconess with their spouses, transitioned and were ordained as deacons themselves. This groundbreaking event marked the first women in the history of the then 133-year-old church to be led in accepting this charge. As a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a supporter of women’s’ endeavors, I stood in awe of this occasion and wanted to know more about God’s working in their lives. They varied in age, years of membership at Ebenezer, as well as the number of years they had been walking alongside their deacon spouses. I felt certain that they each had prayed about this decision and asked for God’s guidance. My question was, “Why now make this bold step at this time in their lives and in the life of our church?”
My mind also went to the Book of Esther 4:14, whom we had been studying.
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
While female deacons have been in service for several years, I felt it was significant to shine some light on the heart, soul, and spiritual journey of these Christian women. While other women are waiting to discern God’s call on their lives, they may benefit from these examples of how God does call women to serve with greater responsibility in “feeding His sheep”.
I also saw some significance in the fact that there were seven called. In God’s infinite wisdom, He chose these seven women at this time. There is something to be learned about the number seven. Why is seven called the number of God? We see the number seven in reference to holy works of God. God creates the earth in seven days (Genesis 1). He commands the Israelites to make the seventh day of the week, Sabbath, a holy day filled with no working activities (Exodus 20:8-11). When God introduced the Number Seven as a symbol of the completion of His Work of Creation, He also associated it with sanctification, or holiness, declaring that He, "blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Thus, God laid the foundation for its application throughout the rest of Scripture. It is a double symbol, signifying both completion and sanctification. These ideas are meaningful to us because sanctification denotes the setting apart or separating of a person or thing as wholly devoted or completely given over to God, as when He separated the Levitical Priests saying, "they are wholly given unto me" (Num 8:16. (The Bible Wheel).
Permission was granted by the late Pastor Dean to write further particulars of these new deacons to be inserted in the church history. The process began, a questionnaire was designed, a schedule was made, the women were then invited to the interview.
(CLICK THE FOLLOWING NAMES TO VIEW QUESTIONNAIRES)
These seven new deacons were Joyce Jones Bright, Jeanette Sanders Grase, Fortunata Dru Green, Chenelle East Harris, Gladys Satterwhite Jordan, Helen E. Johnson, and Carolyn Jeanette Waites. Also ordained on this day was the husband-and-wife team of Deacon Charles and Deaconess Brenda Coston for whom we thank God for their good and faithful service.