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Church History

Gethsemane Baptist Church was organized on October 5, 1949 at the Masonic Temple at 509 High Street, now known as Martin Luther King Blvd., in Newark, NJ.

It became Gethsemane Baptist Mission on April 26, 1950 at King Hiram Craftsmen’s Center at 105 Broad Street and 3rd Avenue in Newark, NJ in recognition of service by the Permanent Council of the North Jersey Baptist District Association, Rev. J.H. Billups, Chairman and Rev. T.H. Alexander, Secretary.

The name Gethsemane was suggested by Rev. N. Gilemare who was helping with services at that time. His wife presented us with our first Pulpit Bible.

Through an invitation extended by Rev. B.F. Johnson, the Pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, all candidates for baptism of Gethsemane were baptized by Rev. Johnson at Metropolitan Baptist Church with the “Right Hand of Fellowship” being extended by Rev. Johnson, his officers and members. The members of Gethsemane Baptist Church participated in the Communion Services with Metropolitan every first Sunday for many months.

The first elected officers of Gethsemane were: Deacon Cupid Johnson, Chairman and leader; Bro. John B. Sneed, Treasurer and Sis. Daisy Miles, Church Clerk.

After the organization of Gethsemane, the membership began raising funds to purchase a church home.

On November 22, 1950, a call was extended to Rev. James E. Smith of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church of Rutherford, NJ to become the Pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church. On November 30, 1950, Rev. Smith accepted the call. Rev. Smith came to serve on Sunday, December 10, 1950. He officially took over the pastorate on Sunday, February 4, 1951.

Having a deep interest and concern for Gethsemane, his first achievement was to secure a more convenient place in which to worship. Rev. Author W. Jones of Pilgrim Baptist Church, along with his officers and members, welcomed us to worship in the chapel of Pilgrim which entrance was located at 35 Jay Street. While there, we purchase a lot at 326-330 15th Avenue and on April 12, 1953, a ground breaking ceremony was held to begin erecting Gethsemane from Pilgrim Baptist Church. The upper sanctuary was begun in October, 1954 and was completed in November of 1956. Much of the work was done by the men of our church.

Under the leadership of Rev. Smith, many achievements were accomplished and the membership grew. We were well represented in all National Baptist Conventions and Affiliations. Rev. Smith served as Pastor from February 4, 1950 until July 11, 1976 when he retired because of failing health.

On July 2, 1977, a call was extended to Rev. James A. Whitaker, an associate of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark. He accepted the call on July 9, 1977. He sat in

on services as a viewer on 10th, 17th and the 24th and began as Pastor on July 31, 1977. From September 25, 1977 through October 3, 1977, installation services were held in his honor, ending with a banquet on Sunday, October 25, 1977 at 3:30 P.M.

Rev. Whitaker served and was inspirational in the beginning of our celebration of Senior Citizen’s Day. He served from July 31, 1977 until October 5, 1986.

On April 29, 1987 an invitation was extended to Rev. Manuel L. Sykes, an Associate Minister at Bethany Baptist Church, who was preparing to graduate from Drew University in Madison, NJ. Rev. Sykes accepted the call and met with the Joint Boards on May 7, 1987 at 7:30 PM. On Sunday, May 24, 1987 at 4:00 PM, the day following his graduation from Drew, Rev. Sykes was installed into service at Gethsemane. From the very beginning, he utilized his time and energy helping the Church to regain its former greatness. Many have joined, rejoined and have been baptized under his leadership. Change is never easy, but with the help of those who believe, Rev. Sykes dedicated himself to the dreams of his congregation at Gethsemane and the people of this community. Therefore, becoming “The Man with a Purpose”.

On August 23, 1992 Rev. Sykes preached his last sermon as Pastor at Gethsemane. Having planted seed on good ground fulfilling his purpose, he was led to return to his native home of Florida.

Our present Pastor, Rev. Kenneth Young, Sr., was ordained at the Church July, 1995 by the North Jersey Baptist Association’s Moderator, Rev. Robert Curry, Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in South Hackensack, NJ. He was installed Sunday, September 25, 1995 at 3:30 PM. The Rev. Donald Hilliard, Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Perth Amboy, NJ and Rev. Bembry, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of East Orange, NJ officiating.

Rev. Young, formerly an Associate Minister at the Somerset Assembly of God, is a graduate of Rider College in Lawrenceville, NJ and Zarephath Bible College in Zarephath, NJ. He is a certified and licensed Christian Counselor and Management Counselor and a graduate of Seton Hall University Seminary in Church Administration and Counseling.

Rev. Young began immediately to enlighten the leadership of the Church through direction and workshops. He provides opportunities for members to broaden their Christian experience and knowledge of the Bible. He also takes an active role in winning souls to Christ from the community. Rev. Young is seriously committed to the vision on mission of the church which is winning souls for Christ. He is also challenging the members to “Catch the Vision and Strive for Spiritual Excellence”. Therefore, he is truly a visionary leader and pastor preparing the church for the new millennium year.

As Gethsemane continues to press on through the Greatness of God, the members have endured, persevered and prevailed into a Greater understanding of the Will of God and now find Glory in everything knowing that “All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord”.

“Striving for spiritual excellence in righteousness, love and unity” is the heart beat of our Church’s mission and has been for the last 57 years.