For the Rev. Paul Werts, becoming pastor of First Timothy Baptist Church in West Philadelphia was a sort of homecoming. Raised in North Philadelphia, he joined the military at age 17. He was stationed in Colorado, which eventually became his home for nearly 30 years. He was the pastor of a church in Colorado Springs for seven years.
It wasn’t until 2001, when Werts and his wife Linda moved to Philadelphia to enter the pastoral ministry, that he came back East. Eight years later, he was called to lead First Timothy, located at 3948 W Girard Ave. On Jan. 17 in 2009, he took on leadership of the church and has enjoyed being pastor for the last four years. Werts said he believes there is truly something extraordinary about the relationships formed at First Timothy.
“First Timothy is a strong family-oriented church with close family ties. What makes our church special is there is a sweet spirit in this fellowship,” he said. “We have a lot of strong members who really love the Lord and are striving to serve the Lord and do kingdom-building with resources that he has provided.”
First Timothy offers an array of ministries to people of all ages, with a particular emphasis on teaching. The teaching ministry, called ACE, Adult Christian Education, is geared toward teaching the word of God and enlightening the community and members who are involved.
“We are committed to teaching and preaching the pure word of God. We are a spirit-filled church that seeks to lift up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to point people to hope and healing,” Werts said. “The leadership of our church has a lot of love for our church, and we are looking forward to doing greater ministry in the years to come.”
Along with the teaching ministries, there are “missions” managed by Sister Roberta Connor, including a soup kitchen and clothing giveaways. The soup kitchen opens for the community every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Clothing giveaways are held at various times throughout the year; the most recent one was Saturday, Feb. 16.
First Timothy also holds youth ministries, managed by Sister Kim McGrory. These include in-house gatherings, outings and trips, study groups and group activities for all ages. The church hosts “Moving Mountains Tutoring Ministry,” geared toward youths with reading disabilities. This ministry is held twice a week and First Timothy is in the process of opening up a similar program for adults. The Bryant Memorial Scholarship Ministry, managed by Sister Joyce Grace, focuses on providing funds to youths going to college upon graduating from high school. The ministry also provides school supplies to youths returning to school after summer break.
First Timothy hosts a prison ministry with approximately 28 incarcerated individuals. The ministry organized a pen-pal system to maintain communication with inmates who are looking to connect with the Christian community outside of prison.
Lastly, First Timothy has a music ministry which Werts believes is “very inspirational to the congregation.” It has three choirs, the Sunbeams, under the direction of Sister Joyce Grace, the gospel chorus, under the direction of Sister Barbara Geiger and the Pickens Hallelujah Choir, under the direction of Brother Rodney Holmes.
First Timothy was organized in 1917 as Mount Olive Baptist Church. It was at Eighth and Brown streets, then 1421 N. 16th St. before moving to its present location on Oct. 30, 1966, when the late Rev. A. Bryant was pastor.
“Rev. Bryant dedicated his life to the upkeep of our church, organized various auxiliaries and increased the membership. We thank God for his contribution to the formation of our church,” said Werts.
He also expressed strong appreciation for the late Rev. Claude Pickens, who assumed leadership of First Timothy in 1981.
“The late Rev. Pickens helped in the development of the church building. His spiritual advancement included the ordination of new deacons, new auxiliaries, the expansion of the missionary circle, soup kitchen for the homeless and poor, youth church and the junior deacon board,” he said. “He increased our community outreach activities, Bible classes and evangelistic ministries. There was an increase in involvement in the National Baptist Convention, Pennsylvania State convention, The West Philadelphia Baptist Congress of Christian Education, and many other activities throughout the city. We were truly blessed to have a pastor who exemplified our motto, ‘love is to care and care is to share.’"
Pickens was pastor until his passing in 2008. The following year. Werts was called to pastor.
Werts said he enjoys preaching the word of God to First Timothy, especially with his appreciation for the history and years of service his church has exemplified. In a recent sermon, he conveyed the message of the importance of ways to handling bad news. He explained it’s important to turn to the Lord when receiving bad news before turning anywhere else.
“I let the members know that there is power in prayer and faith,” he said.