This year, Cornerstone Baptist Church will celebrate its 60th year of ministry in Philadelphia. As the church closes in on identifying a new senior pastor to lead the congregation, committed and diligent leaders have kept the ministry and congregation moving forward, serving the Lord.
Cornerstone has been without a senior pastor for at least two years, guest preachers have been invited on Sundays to preach the Word to the committed families and frequent visitors who are faithful supporters of the church.
The Rev. Jonathan Brown, from New Birth Baptist Church, 21st and Clearfield streets, was the guest preacher on June 3. Brown’s sermon resonated with people in the congregation. “It’s just a blessing to be in the house of the Lord, I thank God that I made it this morning, He woke me up this morning, and he brought me here this morning,” said Roberta Lewis, who committed to joining Cornerstone on this Sunday. Her grand-daughter Delicia Jackson committed her life to Christ that morning. Delicia, 11, a shy fifth-grader at Williamstown Middle School, in Williamstown, N.J., is an active band member at school.
Cornerstone Baptist Church was founded by the Rev. Harold O. Davis in 1952. Deacon John Lewis has been a member since its founding. Remarking about the solidarity of the congregation, Lewis said, “This is a church that prays together and stays together.” He expressed some delight in that the church leadership is close to making a decision on a selecting a senior pastor, “We’re on the verge of getting one, hallelujah, thank you, Lord.”
Adam Frederick has served as a deacon for 16 years, and is the current chairman of the Deacon Board. He is proud of his Cornerstone roots, saying, “We are a Bible-based teaching church.” Active with the majority of the choirs, he is also involved in the Men’s Fellowship group. Keeping a congregation intact has been a challenge for Frederick, but he and other Cornerstone leaders have been successful in doing so. His greatest challenge has been “Keeping unity. You will always have division, so you have to be humble enough to deal with it.”
Guest preacher Brown is a son of Cornerstone: “Coming up under the leadership of Rev. Harold O. Davis, I started here when I was a kid, at 14 years old, and God called me in ministry. And serving in the ministry over 40 years gave me opportunity to let people know, dying men and women, that the wages of sin is death, and the gift of God is still eternal life. This is a church that I grew up in, and I thank God that I was able to come back this morning to share the Word, to let them know that there is power in the Word of God.”
Brown was optimistic in encouraging the congregation to support the church leadership as they narrow down the candidates to select a senior pastor, “My prayer for the congregation is that they stay faithful. It’s not easy for the chairman (of the deacons) to try to hold the church down for members. Sheep are being lost, but it’s by the grace of God that they be led by the (new) shepherd. They cannot go astray, they have to have a shepherd.”
Corey R. Jefferson, 29, is an active young leader in the church, “I have served as the church clerk for the last 10 years, I’m also on the gospel choir,” and he serves as the chairman for Cornerstone’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebration. In addition, “I’ve been with the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention’s Youth and Young Adult Division for the last 10 years,” among other leadership roles.”
Jefferson loves the family bond of the Cornerstone congregation. “We’re very family-oriented. Most of the youth here have grown up here, so we’re more like family. We love youth, we love helping each other, and we love fellowshipping, even when it’s not Sunday.” Neighborhood killings, teen pregnancy and school failure are major issues in which Jefferson feels the church community can intervene to make a positive impact, “It’s very encouraging to have a body of Christ that can help kids become educated.” Jefferson works in the cardiology department of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Cornerstone has embraced its talented young leaders, like Dominik Miller. Miller, 28, has been a member for about eight years, and she serves as the financial secretary for the church. On a weekly basis, “I keep the records for the church. I basically make sure that people and the bills get paid. I make sure that all money is accounted for that comes in,” said Miller, a graduate of Philadelphia University with an earned master’s degree in taxation. She went to Temple University for her undergraduate degree in accounting. Miller works full-time as an auditor for the city of Philadelphia.
Youths like Charles Jordan are just as inspiring; Jordan, 14, enjoys serving as an usher. He is an eighth-grader at Camelot Academy in Philadelphia. He is not shy about encouraging his peers to consider church fellowship and a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. “There are kids that youths can talk to here, it’s not a bad place to come to church; church isn’t like a bad place. You come to church to praise God, to learn things about Jesus, and other stuff,” said Jordan.
“I’ve been at Cornerstone all my life — I was born and raised here,” said Tasha Green. Green, 25, was appointed choir director by the recently retired Rev. Clifford H. Cutter Sr. Commenting on her Cornerstone membership, Green said, “We’re like a big family. That’s what a lot of people in the community need. We help each other, and we build each other up, and that’s what kind of community we are.”
Doris Butler Raymond, a member for 40 years, joined Cornerstone when it was first located at Broad and Master streets. Reflecting on her longstanding membership, she recalls Davis, the founding pastor, “He baptized me. I thought he was a beautiful pastor, I really enjoyed his preaching and how he brought people to Christ.”
Raymond offered her thoughts about the two-year hiatus of Cornerstone not having a pastor, “Well, we managed to survive. Every Sunday we have a different pastor, we made it. She is the former chairwoman of the trustee board. She remains a trustee, and as an active member of the Contract Committee she handles all outside contracts for the church, like the recent facilities contract for the annual divine service of the Keystone Grand Lodge of the State of Pennsylvania. In addition, for the last 15 years, she has served in a national ministry role, “I am a delegate representative of Cornerstone Baptist Church for the National Baptist Convention — I really enjoy it. You get to fellowship with other people, and you get to learn other ways (of doing ministry).”
There’s something about Cornerstone that keeps people engaged over time. Two longstanding members are Lear Green and Sally Anne Williams. Green, a member since 1953, shared, “Cornerstone is my life, I love it!” She is the former president of the Hospitality Ministry. Williams, 82, a member for 59 ½ years, said about the founding pastor, “Pastor Davis was a great, great pastor. He always taught us to have faith in God.” And she relishes the fact that she remains best friends with retired Pastor Cutter.
Cornerstone Baptist Church is at 2117 N. 33rd St. Phone: (215) 763-8383. Bible study: Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.; Sunday school: 9 a.m.–10am. Sunday morning worship is at 11 a.m.