In 1907, Rev. W. L. Burr, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church authorized the development of a mission church in what was then considered the south side of Columbus to serve a growing, blue collar African American community. Rev. Burr could not have known that his vision would expand into the history of this African American congregation in Columbus, Ohio. Operating continuously for 115 years, the congregation of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church (originally named Mt. Olive Baptist Church) has withstood the vagaries of two pandemics (1918 and 2020), World Wars 1 and 2, the Great Depression, Jim Crow, the Korean War, the Civil Rights era, September 11, 2001, the War in Afghanistan, the Gulf War, and backlash from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Deacon William Franklin Payne and thirteen disciples began this south side mission during the spring of 1907. The thirteen founding members who supported Deacon Payne were: Rev. Charlie Carpenter, Inez Carpenter, Leota Collier, Clara Cooper, Wilbur Ellis, Mattie Franklin, Rev. David A. Jones, Anna Rucker, Alice B. Simon, William Simon, Lizzie Snow, Maggie Ward, and Deacon Willie Wheeler. The church originally met in rented space in the Jacob Stern Warehouse located on Donaldson Street. (Donaldson Street was demolished to make way for I-70). Although commonly referred to as Jacob Stern Baptist Church, it was officially Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
Mt. Olive Baptist Church held its first official worship service in April 1907. It was recognized by the Eastern Union Missionary Baptist Association in 1908. In 1908, the young congregation purchased a house on South Seventh Street and Fulton Streets. The congregation remodeled the structure and paid the debt on the house. As the church grew, it moved to the Hod Carriers Hall located at the corner of Washington and Mound Streets and later moved back to the property on South Seventh and Fulton Streets. To address the space needs of a growing congregation, it was decided to sell two properties the church owned (Washington/Mound and Seventh/Fulton), to secure the funds for a down payment on the Friends Church, 428 E. Main Street, which is the church’s current location. In 1920, the property was purchased, and it was at that time that the church’s name was changed from Mt. Olive Baptist Church to Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. The congregation worshipped in that structure for several years until it was razed, and the Social Service Center was built in 1957.
This congregation, particularly in its early days, has been comprised of people with modest financial means. Despite this history, this African American congregation has continued to purchase property to enable ministry and community outreach. Because of the steadfastness of the congregation, Mt. Olivet has become a significant property owner in downtown Columbus, completing eleven property acquisitions and seven major property improvements between 1925 and 2019. These purchases were made to enhance worship and ensure the comfort and safety of parishioners, but also to provide additional space for outreach and service to the community.
The church has long committed to a social justice mission. As early as 1927, the church established the Mt. Olivet Community Center designed to work with the court system to help rehabilitate court involved youth. In 1961, the Mt. Olivet Credit Union was opened to meet the needs of an African Americans who had difficulty securing loans from traditional banks. Additionally, the church continues to serve as a voting location for local, state, and national elections. Significant historical figures have visited Mt. Olivet during its 115-year history, through their presence recognizing the spiritual and social justice mission of the church. These individuals include: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Presidential Candidate John Kerry, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and Dr. Cornel West.
The educational wing, erected in 1983, was used to house a fully accredited elementary school for over 25 years, opening as the Mt. Olivet Christian Academy in September 1993, later renamed the Gloria S. Friend Christian Academy. It operated until June 2021, serving students from the community from kindergarten through sixth grade. As well, the church partnered with Head Start to house a preschool program during the early 2000s.
Among the significant uses of the commercial kitchen is the preparation of meals for the homeless and working poor which are served each Friday. Pre-pandemic, over two hundred meals were served each Friday in 2020. A free clothing bank continues to be available to individuals who are in need and is opened each week while meals are being served or as needed. Monthly, families and individuals in need receive free fresh fruits and vegetables and other goods from the church’s food pantry.
Families in crisis are supported with rent and utility assistance, once approved. The public assistance program provided close to $50,000 annually in utility and rent assistance to members of the community who were in need. A program for students in kindergarten through eighth operates during the summer at no cost to parents. Each of these outreach and assistance programs is administered through the church’s community development entity (Urban Resurrection Community Development Corporation) which is supported significantly through the church budget.
Mt. Olivet Baptist Church has independently and in partnership, provided needed services to the citizens of the Columbus community. Its ten pastors have stalwartly preached and taught God’s Word to the community while simultaneously responding to the needs of the people. Mt. Olivet began as a beacon to the African American community on the south side of Columbus; however,
it currently stands and will continue to be a healing station for the entire community.
DEACON W.F. PAYNE
REV. STARLING A. GRAYON, JR.
REV. J . W. THOMAS
REV. L.H. JOHNSON
REV. W. H. BEASLEY
REV. H. BEECHER HICKS, SR.
REV. HENRY JAMES STARKS
DR. CHARLES E. BOOTH