History of Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church

The White Stone Missionary Baptist Church Number II was organized August 15, 1925, at 512 Williams Avenue, with Rev. Major J. Jenkins the founder. He was assisted by the late Rev. B. T. Pittman and Rev. Henry Greer. The officers present were Bro. Paris Miller, Bro. Frank Smith, Bro. Clarence Wheeler, Bro. James Winston, Bro. Jeff Wilkerson, Bro. Frank Thomas, and Bro. Tom Smith. The sisters present were Sis. Rosie Reed Logan, Sis. Estelle Wikins, Sis. Callie Henderson, Sis. Rosie Jones, Sis. Carnelius Miller, Sis. Susie Bell Grandberry, Sis. Rosie King, Sis. Annie Taylor, Sis. Mary Winston, Sis. Mary Smith, Sis. Hattie Smith, Sis. Clarence Wheeler, Sis. Mable Paulett, and Mother Vinnie Ellis.

The original church had its inception at 512 Williams Avenue in a very small building. As the church grew in number, the members worked very conscientiously and took advantage of every opportunity to help it grow. Later the church moved to Wallace Avenue for the purpose of expansion as the membership was continuously growing.

The church was showing great potential and Rev. Jenkins saw to it that it was well represented in all facets of state and national activities. The Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church was affiliated with the Aid and Benevolent and Riverside Associations, Ministers’ Alliance, Tennessee B. M. & E. Convention, National Baptist Sunday School, B. T. U. Congress, National Baptist Convention, and Baptist World Alliance.

During the church’s infancy, the following officers were elected to serve: Sis. Rosie James, Clerk; Bro. Tom Smith, Chairman of the Deacon Board; Mother Bessie Collins, Chairman of the Mother Board; Bro. Tommie Reed, President of the Ushers’ Board, and Sis. Rosie Reed Logan, Vice-President of the Ushers’ Board. Sister Rosie R. Logan organized the first # I Ushers’ Board, along with Sis. Carnelius Miller, Sis. Rosie King, Sis. Susie Bell Grandberry, and Sis. Annie Taylor. Brother Tom Smith organized the first choir.

Under the leadership of the late Rev. Major J. Jenkins, the membership increased to such an extent that larger facilities were necessary. In the fall of 1928 the church moved to its present location.

The members of the church worked hard to pay off the mortgages and debts of the church. Through hard work, prayer, and faith the Lord blessed the church to the extent that the mortgage was paid and burned. Some of the members that served so faithfully were Sis. Hattie Anderson, Sis. Rosie R. McGhee, Mother Vinnie Ellis, Sis. Ida Helms, Sis. Neely Cottrell, Bro. and Sis. James and Frankie Rankins, Bro. Jimimiah Morris, Mother Harris, Mother White, Bro. J. W. Thomas, and Sis. Berniece Caston Jenkins, the wife of Rev. Jenkins.

The pastor was a very benevolent minister. Each year at Christmas time he would give baskets of groceries to the elderly and the needy.

Under Rev. Jenkins’ pastorate White Stone Baptist Church was the first black church in Memphis to have a night funeral and also candle light services.

The late Rev. Jenkins also served two additional congregations namely Mt. Sinia Baptist Church, South Lauderdale Street, Memphis, Tennessee and the Haliburton Baptist Church, Nesbitt, Mississippi.

Many organizations were initiated into the church under Rev. Jenkins. Sis. S. W. Baylous organized the # II Choir, Sunshine Band, and Red Circle Girls. Sis. Mable Paulett joined White Stone Church in 1935. She went to work and reorganized the B. T. U. and organized the Gospel Chorus. She was also a Sunday school teacher.

In 1940 Rev. Jenkins was called to the Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York. He remained loyal to White Stone, however, and served both churches until his death June 23, 1943. His eighteen years of service stand as a great monument of his achievements. Rev. M. J. Jenkins’ funeral was held at the mother church of the Church of God in Christ at Georgia and Mississippi Boulevard. The Rev. C. L. Franklin, who was at that time minister of the New Salem Baptist Church, eulogized the late Rev. Major J. Jenkins.

The Rev. E. E. Green served as acting pastor until the fall of 1943 when the official board and pulpit committee recommended the late Rev. H. R. Jelks, who was at that time the pastor of the First Baptist Church, West Helena, Arkansas. He was chosen to lead the church, and from 1944 to 1946 the church continued to grow and develop until plans for a larger and more modern building began to materialize in the form of the present edifice. During the ground work and building, the services continued every Sunday at Mason Temple in the lower level. The progress of the church took some time. When the building was completed, dedication ceremonies were held shortly afterwards by the late Rev. H. R. Jelks, members and friends.

White Stone Baptist Church was among the first Black churches to have a complete air conditioning system and an electric organ of which Mrs. Ida Mae Lee was the organist. Rev. Jelks helped to pave the way for the progress of many auxiliaries, such as Boy Scout Troops, Junior Choir, Junior Usher Board, and others.

In the year 1955, Rev. Jelks was appointed to lead another congregation, the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church of Chicago, Illinois. At this time Brother Mack Winston, one of the city’s youngest chairmen of Deacon Boards, proved his worthiness for the position. He helped hold White Stone Baptist Church together while in search for another minister, along with the other deacons. Brother Mack Winston was the fourth chairman and served for a number of years.

During the interim without a leader, the church heard a number of spiritual preachers and eloquent speakers; however, no choice was made at that time because the church awaited a hearing from above. However, our waiting was not in vain.

A church is like a ship in some instances. It sails – sometimes on muddy waters, and again the water is clear. Sometimes obstructions are in its path, at other times there are none. Sometimes it has to ride the waves, yet at other times there’s nothing but smooth sailing. It must change captains at intervals. And there also must be “shore time” when it reaches its destination.

A church is not like a ship in that it always travels in one direction – toward God – its Heavenly Father, for He is the Captain of His Church. Yes, He allows man – His ministers to act as co-captain, only for a span of time, but He never leaves its helm.

One day in the year 1955, a minister, who was ordained by his brother – Rev. J. W. Williams, confessed his calling with a burning zeal to carry the Gospel to a lost world. He began his labor at Greater White Stone M. B. Church. This minister was the late Reverend Alton R. Williams.

It must have been “shore time” for Greater White Stone that day in 1955, because it was then that God made Rev. A. R. Williams the co-captain for this old ship.

Rev. Williams pastored Greater White Stone until January, 1972, when God kissed him to sleep. But those 17 years were packed “brim full” of worthwhile accomplishments for the church. Therefore they occupy a unique place in its history. The church succeeded financially, educationally, numerically, and most of all spiritually, and physically.

Financially, the church had no bank accounts – checking, nor savings. Rev. Williams introduced his program, and began teaching tithing. Before this time there were no tithers. Then, along with other members who were loyal financially, and with special financial efforts, the finances began to grow. Bank accounts were then opened. There were times when the accounts were depleted, because worthwhile projects were continually sponsored by the church. In 1972, he left a debt-free church with a total of over $32,000 in bank accounts.

Educationally, Rev. Williams taught all who would come in numerous ways. He organized a yearly Leadership Training School. There the leaders of this church were soon developed as teachers. Rev. Williams and other teachers taught the Word of God, and Church leadership.

He encouraged members to go wherever information for church workers was given. This included Memphis S. S. and B. T. U. Congress Annual Institute for Church workers. At that time it was held at Owens College, and St. John Baptist Church. Delegates were sent all over America to Congresses, and conventions with which Baptists affiliated. Delegates were sent to the American Baptist Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, to help develop better church leaders. His teaching ministry was certainly a large part of his pastoral work.

Numerically, many souls were converted monthly. He conducted many successful revivals. One was held at Mason Temple because of huge crowds. He deeply believed that the church’s mission was to bring lost souls to Christ and he “kept at it”. He baptized monthly whenever they came. Truly Rev. Williams added all who came in Christ’s name.

Spiritually – Greater White Stone was the “headquarters”. Every Lord’s Day Rev. Williams “thundered” the Gospel, with God as his Master and Inspirer, until people came saying, “I once was lost, but now I’m found…”

Several young men were inspired to preach and ordained by Rev. Williams: Rev. Harold Middlebrook, Rev. Claude Porter, Rev. A. Triplett, Rev. John R. Buntyn and Rev. Joseph McGhee, Jr.

The spiritual morale of the church was lifted so that no one was anywhere in the church except in the Sanctuary on Sunday morning. He saw an urgent need for physical expansion when the Sanctuary could no longer facilitate the Sunday Church School. He then led the church into the purchases of property, both adjacent to the Sanctuary, and across the street.

An Educational building comprising more than 30 rooms was added. The Sanctuary was completely renovated, and the entire church was furnished with new furniture. The furniture included a Baby Grand piano, and a new organ. Over S111, 000 was put into this project and the mortgage was burned several years prior to the time set by the contract. Thus the interest money was kept by the church.

His last project was a partial fulfillment of a vision, and dream to lead the church into foreign Missionary Work. The church sent him to Liberia, West Africa. There he saw an urgent need for “everything”, spiritual and physical. With the aid of members and friends more than twelve thousand pounds of clothing were sent to Liberia and distributed. A Foreign Mission campaign was sponsored by the church, and $10,000 was raised to begin a “Greater White Stone” Mission Church in Liberia. This was negotiated, and the foundation was begun before Rev. Williams’ death. The late Pastor praised Greater White Stone. He was aware that these accomplishments could not have been successful without the church that followed him. Truly he worked until his “Day was Done”. And the church marched forward under his leadership because God was at the “helm of the ship”.

Then on January 9, 1972, Rev. Williams preached his last Sermon. On January 11th, he taught his last lesson, sang his last song, and prayed his last prayer. On January 12th, God called him home.

On April 12, 1972 the Rev. Joseph H. McGhee, Jr. was elected as pastor of the Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church. Under the pastoralship of Rev. Joseph McGhee, our church’s property evaluation has risen extensively. Many improvements that were made include complete remodeling of kitchen and dining room facilities, and lower level. Several improvements were made in the present sanctuary. Much equipment has been obtained as needed to continue the improvement of the entire church structure. The work was paid for within three years of his leadership. One of his major goals has been to purchase additional property for the expansion of the church, sanctuary, and parking lot. His other goal is empowering our young people to continue their education.

Rev. Joseph McGhee, Jr. officially retired as the pastor of GWS after thirty-eight years of faithful and diligent serve. His exquisite and elegant Retirement Celebration as held on Sunday, November 14, 2010, at GWS and was well attended by friends, dignitaries, and representatives of the City of Memphis, as he was instrumental in contributing many wonderful things to the community and to his church as well. He has no regrets for the years of service that he gave to the Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church.

Rev. McGhee’s philosophy of life has been the following: “One must learn to work hard for what he wants to achieve. Christ has never failed to help people who are interested in helping themselves. To receive a blessing, one must be willing to give of himself. One must work while the day is present, for when night cometh, no man can work!”

Rev. Joseph H. McGhee went on to receive his reward on October 23rd, 2011.

On November 21, 2010, the Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church elected Reverend Roger R. Brown as the 5th Pastor to serve as leader of the congregation. He won the election by a landslide vote of the membership.

Reverend Roger Raphael Brown acknowledged his Ministry in 1977 at the Conant Avenue United Methodist Church, under the leadership of Reverend William E. Teague. He was licensed in the Ministry in 1982 at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit, MI, under the leadership of Reverend Charles Nicks, Jr., where he served as Director of Christian Education in 1983. Reverend Brown served as Associate Minister of Brentwood Baptist Church of Houston, TX under the leadership of the Reverend Joe Ratliff from 1986-1987. He also served as Associate Minister of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Westwood, Memphis, TN in 1988 under the leadership of Dr. James L. Netters, where he was ordained in the ministry in 1990. He served as Assistant Pastor of Mt. Vernon from 1990-1995, where he was Director of the Men’s Ministry from 1996-2008. In 2008, Reverend Brown co-pastored Mt. Gilead Ministries, Memphis, TN under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Cartwright, where he was in charge of Teaching, Preaching, Director of Ministries, Director of the School of Wisdom, implemented church software, and officers training program, new members program church leadership conference, and asked to assist the Pastor during a period of illness, to help bring order to the ministry.

In his ministerial related studies, Reverend Brown served as a delegate to the Sunday School Congress of Christian Education, National Baptist Convention, USA Inc., and earned a Second Level Certificate from 1981 –1983. From 1990 – 1997, Reverend Brown received a Second Level Certificate from the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. From 1988-2008, he served as a Christian Training Institute Instructor at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church- Westwood.

Since Reverend Brown has been pastor of Greater White Stone, the membership has grown by leaps and bounds. The gospel is being preached and souls are being saved. The Pastor has appointed several members who were formerly called “bench members” to work in the church and they are during it with much vigor and enthusiasm. He has implemented the Biblical principles of Tithing, & placed emphases of Annual Days on fellowship, development and training. He established a process of inclusion to adapt and complete a Mission and Vision Statement for the church. Pastor Brown led the efforts of the Publication Committee to establish a “Brand” for the church. This “brand” included a new logo and supporting material such as giving envelops, bulletin covers, stationary, & mailing envelops. Pastor Brown partnered the church with community partners to establish a Community Festival to reach out into the community. He infused “Worship in the Park” that brought GWSMBC members of all ages to worship and fellowship in a setting other than the church’s sanctuary. He placed Good Friday Prayer Service, Christmas Morning Service, Watch-Night Service, & Easter Sunrise Service back into the church calendar. Pastor Brown introduced and adopted new church management software to help with membership tracking, finance, organization, planning and development.

Pastor Brown also reinstated Pastor’s Bible Study Class. This Bible Study allows for interaction and questions and answers sessions. Additionally, the Bible Study helps the attendees to apply their daily living experiences to biblical principles. He placed special emphasis on Sunday School because Sunday School helps those in attendance to understand the historical aspect of the Bible. Pastor Brown also instituted a New Members Training Course. This course helps new members to understand the basic steps of salvation with a certainty, and the history of GWSMBC.

Pastor Brown established a young adult ministry to reach out to an age group that’s vital to the growth and continuation of the church. He put in place a media ministry to assist with the work of spreading the word of the gospel to all nations as we are directed to by The Great Commission. Under his leadership the church has increased its footprint in the community. The church has purchased much of the land adjacent to the church for future growth and expansion. It has also teamed up with the Center For Transforming Communities & several other churches in the community to form the South Memphis Shalom Zone. This partnership has helped to establish a clothes pantry, and a soup kitchen for the needy in the community.

Under Pastor Brown’s leadership the church has begun to grow spiritually, physically, internally, externally, financially, & with its presence in the community and the city at large. The future is looking very bright for Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church.