Our Church History
1906 - Present
In the year 1906, nine members decided to withdraw from the Mt. Moriah congregation, the mother Black Baptist Church of Marion County, FL. As reported in the 1993 Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church History: “To this day, no one knows why the group left Mt. Moriah.” (For further discussion on the possible reasons for the nine having withdrawn from Mt. Moriah Baptist, one should reference Chapter 1 – The Inspired Separation, of the church history.) The nine began to wander about like lost sheep without a shepherd. Being bound together in purpose and objective, the bewildered companions sought every available means to maintain constant contact with one another. Those wandering sheep were Sisters Mollie Harris, Pauline Howard, Isabelle Ladson, Dollie Williams, Annie Creech, Mary Dosen and Kelly Smith. Also Deacon W. B. Ladson and one child, Willie Ford was in the group.
An under shepherd of God, in the person of Dr. D. H. Brown, finally folded the scattered sheep and mobilized this noble flock. The act of the Holy Spirit, through Dr. Brown, led the people to Booker Hall on Havana Street, where they held their initial meetings and organized in the name of the Living God.
This body of nine realized an underlying power that was giving shape, structure and security to their lives. They used the first part of the Church’s name, “Hope” to identify themselves among those who are saved maintaining, “For we are saved by Hope.” The second part of the name “Well” was used to express their utmost desires of doing well toward all men.
Dr. D. H. Brown’s mission was to organize, not to pastor. Therefore, his mission ended after he organized the wandering sheep. The flock was provided an under shepherd in the person of Reverend James Roberts, who was assigned on the thirteenth day of December 1906. An act of the Holy Spirit led Deacon W. O. Ladson to will a plot of land, forty-by-sixty feet to Hopewell. Reverend James Roberts’ mission as under shepherd ended in 1908.
Also in 1908 God had a mission for a new man - Reverend J. R. Blackwell received the call to serve as under shepherd. His major task was the uniting of Hopewell with the Second Bethlehem Baptist Association; he did so when the Association convened in Dunnellon, Florida in 1909. He also licensed Deacon W. O. Ladson into the ministry. In 1913, Reverend J. R. Blackwell’s mission as under shepherd ended.
The Reverend A. L. Finley accepted the call to pastor the Hopewell flock in 1914. His task of erecting the former Hopewell was due to the growth in membership. Subsequent to that, a new structure was needed and was erected facing old Chestnut Street. In 1923, the Holy Spirit moved Reverend Finley to another field of labor and called to lead the flock for a period of eighteen months. Afterwards God assigned Reverend A. T. Timmons to the leadership of Hopewell and he led the flock until poor health rendered him unable to serve. He had ordained Reverend I. H. Preston and Reverend A. C. McQueen into the ministry. Reverend Timmons’ son in the ministry, Reverend A. C. McQueen carried on as interim pastor for nine months when Reverend Timmons was called to a higher ground in 1938.
Late in 1938 the Spirit of the Lord moved with yet a newer task and a new man, in the person of Reverend R. H. Lee. God brought more servants into the ministry through Reverend Lee. An additional eighteen feet of structure was added to the rear of the Church. God moved this man of God to another field of labor after his mission was completed in 1941.
In December of the same year, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl harbor, which was an act of destruction but, in January of the following year, God sent one of His “Son of Thunder,” Reverend J. E. McCrary to serve as Pastor of the Hopewell flock. His coming as under shepherd of the flock was indeed an act of construction. Reverend McCrary soon brought the flock out of Egypt. Many accomplishments were made during his tenure. With this powerful leader, the Church grew spiritually and financially, as Pastor McCrary was the first to introduce tithing as God’s means for supporting His church. Two ministers licensed previously, Brothers Addison and Young were ordained in addition to Reverends Chester Burns, Masters Ford, Robert Walker and W. E. Sims. God commissioned Reverend McCrary to construct a larger church edifice. A new name was given to the church in keeping with the growth of the church. Based on Reverend McCrary’s guidance from the Holy Spirit, the church body accepted Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church (GHMBC) as her new name.
On January 19, 1946, the new structure was completed. In 1964, after twenty-two years of service, God moved Reverend McCrary to the Truevine Baptist Church in Sarasota, FL where the task was greater.
The Lord then sent Reverend J. C. Wise to keep His mission moving. Reverend McCrary was sent to build a splendid church for the preachers to preach and Reverend Wise was sent to begin building a parsonage for the preachers to sleep. During Reverend Wise’s eighteen months of service new programs were projected and new ideas were executed. Reverend Wise’s departure warranted the need for a new shepherd.
On July 8, 1966, Reverend George W. Lee was called to pastor Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Lee accepted the call saying, “My eternal desire is to do the will of Him that sent me.”
Not only did God prosper GHMBC spiritually by having many souls accept Christ as their personal Savior, He also prospered the GHMBC economically during the forty-three year administration of Reverend Lee. Worthy of mentioning are all of the following: the complete renovation and remodeling of the church with a five-hundred person seating capacity; a new fellowship hall; and the completion in 1993 of a 198-page hardbound church history book. Under Pastor Lee administration the GHMBC family attained national prominence with the National Baptist Convention, USA (NBCUSA), Inc. as GHMBC family members served NBCUSA as employees with the Unified Program from 1994 – 1998. Additionally, the GHMBC family acquired property other than the lone site of the sanctuary. These properties include all of the following: the site of the current parsonage; the parking area south of the church; the current square block walking trail; the rental house East of the Reverend G. W. Lee Fellowship Hall, the rental property left to the church by Sister Leola Thomas; and a lot adjacent to the railroad tract South of the sanctuary. During his tenure Reverend Lee licensed Ministers Raymond Greene and Reginald L. Woods; he ordained Reverend Demetrius Franklin, Sr., and Reverend Jamie Gilmore, Sr. For forty-two years the Holy Spirit guided Reverend Lee to shepherd his assigned flock in love and joy so as to help them learn to love one another as family. He provided spiritually sound-fundamental guidance to the flock using the Baptist Doctrine, such that GHMBC and the Church made tremendous strides. Rev. Lee led the flock under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and was always willing and ready to bless someone’s heart.
Reverend Lee submitted his resignation as Pastor of GHMBC September 2009 due to failing health. He served as Pastor emeritus until his death on December 16, 2010. Reverend Richard Howard, Sr., was named Interim Pastor and a Pastoral Search Committee was appointed. After more than a year of searching, the Committee recommended to the Church, the present pastor, Reverend Edward Bland, at that time he was pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Dundee, FL. The church membership voted Reverend Bland in as Pastor; he accepted the call and was officially installed as the tenth pastor of GHMBC on Sunday, November 28, 2010.
The church has been blessed with outstanding preaching and great teaching from Reverend Bland. In his year of service over thirty new members have been added to the roll; Bible study on Wednesday nights averages an attendance of seventy-five plus; Sunday School attendance tips the scale of almost one-hundred every Sunday; Bible-based children’s ministry meets every Tuesday; updated audio-visual/technology improvements have been made; many other ministries have been added while the present ones have been strengthened and other capital improvements have been added to the Church.
Greater Hopewell moves forward in 2022 accordingly:
Theme: “Focusing on Christ to become more like Christ."
Vision statement: “A Spiritually Healthy Church Where Christ is Seen and Heard.”
Purpose statement: “Reaching the World with the Message of Christ to Change Lives.”
“To God be the Glory for the GREAT things He has done and Continues to Do at GHMBC!”