Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church History
In the year of our Lord, Nineteen Hundred Eleven, the Jehovah Baptist Church was organized by the Rev. T. K. Kershaw, in the southern part of the City of Sumter, South Carolina on the corner of South Harvin Street and Royal Avenue. The first structure was a wooden; two storied building about thirty-eight feet wide. It was situated on a lot measuring fifty feet by one hundred three feet. The building had a very beautiful steeple on the front.
The organizer did not propose to do the pastoring, but he had a very strong desire for a Baptist church to be organized in this area. Being a strong financier, he built the church from his own personal means.
A small group of people took a sincere responsibility for supporting the early pastors. They were responsible also for the rent, insurance and other indebtedness. The Rev. L. C. Crafton, a student of Morris College, was the first to become pastor of Jehovah. The church was very weak financially; therefore, Rev. Crafton remained for only a short period of time.
After Rev. Crafton's resignation, the Rev. T. C. Conyers began his pastorate. The church membership began to increase, and after a short duration Rev. Cabbagestalk succeeded him. Then Rev. E. W. Dix became the pastor who also pastored two larger churches. He was forced to resign. The Rev. R. R. Dwyer became the pastor and he remained for about six months. Rev. M. W. Hall, who remained pastor for fourteen (14) years, succeeded Rev. Dwyer. During this successful administration, the membership increased to more than five hundred, and a very efficient staff of deacons was appointed. The deacons were Wedley Grant, Adam Thomas, Nehemiah Grant, Jasper Spann, Alfred Davis, and Harry Pearson who also served as the clerk. In the year of 1924, new additions were made to the official staff. Deacons M. Holland, Nehemiah Mahoney, and Ishmael Smith were appointed. Deacon Ishmael Smith soon afterwards entered the ministry.
In the year of 1931 a crisis was evident and many changes were made. A new pastor, Rev. A. B. McPhail was appointed and he was a very efficient pastor for six years. Under his pastorate the church grew and then disaster struck the church. Fire started in the steeple and destroyed the entire structure. For three and one-half years the church sought refuge in the Savage Glover School where services were conducted regularly. The church them moved to a small edifice, formerly occupied by the Fire Baptized Holiness Church on South Main Street. It was known as the Burns Church.
The church gained strength and the new church was erected during the pastorate of Dr. A. B. McPhail. The church moved into this unfinished 40 feet by 60 feet frame building located on a lot of 50 feet by 60 feet in 1934. Deacon Holland became the Chairman of the Deacon Board. Other deacons elected were Willie Thompson, W. M. Brown, S. Dukes, W. M. Giles and C. Duren. Rev. A. B. McPhail was soon called from his labors to his reward.
In 1938 the young Rev. B. F. Weston was extended the pastorate of his membership church. When he assumed the pastorate of the church, the church house was an unfinished frame structure. The membership was less than one hundred. The former Miss Janie Vaughn of Kershaw County became the first lady of Jehovah. To this holy union, they were blessed with two lovely children, Lois and Larry. Although very young and inexperienced, he received spiritual guidance from God and sound aid from Deacon Morris Holland and thereby led this congregation. Rev. B. F. Weston graduated from Lincoln High School in 1933. He received the B.A. Degree from Morris College and the B. B. Degree from Starks School of Religion at Benedict College.
In 1938 Jehovah had one choir, one usher board and one Sunday School Class. The church had a big wood heater in the center of the building. The pews were brown slatted seats. The pulpit and choir loft were at the front of the church. The church had outdoor toilets for men and women. There was a water pump in the back yard. A red rug ran down the center of the church in a wide middle aisle. The church had double doors and two side doors at the front and two back doors. There were no kitchen facilities. Under Pastor Weston's leadership, the church was remodeled in 1943 and the membership increased to the extent that a more spacious and modern building was erected in 1957. Mrs. Berniece Jackson donated the first fifty dollars on the fund for the new church. The church organizations continued to be revitalized and new ones were added under the leadership of Rev. B. F. Weston.
In 1976, Rev. B. F. Weston was named a Professor Emeritus by Morris College after serving on the faculty of the School of Religion for nineteen years. In 1978, Morris College awarded a Doctorate of Divinity Degree to its distinguished Alumnus.
Dr. B. F. Weston led the congregation in growth from less than one hundred members to over twelve hundred members. He helped organize five additional choirs, a scholarship foundation, a scouting program, an athletic program, and many new organizations during his pastorate.
Dr. Weston was the town's pastor, the children's father, the preacher's counsel and the disenchanted's comfort. His ministry was felt in nearly every household in South Sumter. He was the dean of pastors and the "godfather" of the community.
In December of 1980, Dr. B. F. Weston was called to his heavenly home. The church was without a shepherd to lead them for two full years.
Around the third Sunday in November 1982, God saw fit to send Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church a shepherd to lead the flock. Rev. Marion H. Newton became the pastor of Jehovah. Rev. Newton is married to the former Miss Corine Shaw. They are the parents of two daughters: Vanessa and Maria. He graduated from Jasper High School in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Rev. Newton received the B.A. and B.D. degrees from Morris College. He has done further studies at the University of South Carolina. Rev. Newton is a member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. He is a member of the South Carolina Educational and Missionary Convention. Rev. Newton is a great revivalist. Pastor Newton spent much time planning for further growth and development of the ministries and organizations.