Members of Bright Hope Baptist Church celebrated its 110th anniversary last Sunday with a special service to mark the occasion.
Throughout its history, Bright Hope has grown from a small number of believers meeting for prayer into a thriving, growing congregation, now holding services at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
During the anniversary service, members of the church filled the pews to join in the celebration. The church also used the occasion to install dozens of church leaders in various ministries.
“Bright Hope Baptist Church is the best church in the world!” said Pastor Darron McKinney Sr., who was installed two years ago.
“At Bright Hope we seek to offer hope to the hopeless and we identify ourselves as the House of Hope,” he said. “Our aim in all that we do is to extend the hope, to let individuals who feel hopeless to know that Jesus can give us hope.”
Bright Hope is a multi-generational church where people of all ages gather for worship and fellowship, McKinney said. A significant number of youth have begun attending and participating in church activities since McKinney’s installation.
“We praise God that we are a multicultural church and this church has been one known for great preaching, great singing and having been the epicenter for social change,” said McKinney.
“It has been the place where individuals come to learn more about God. Bright Hope is going to continue moving forward as the church of the city. That is what God put in my heart and I believe that the Lord is going to continue to make that a reality.”
McKinney said he was honored and thankful that God has chosen him to be the sixth pastor to lead the church and said he stood on the shoulders of the great pastors who preceded him.
Deacon William Raymond has been a member of Bright Hope Baptist Church for 47 years and began attending the church at the age of 13.
“It was the community involvement,” Raymond said, when asked what led him to the church.
“They had a summer camp and I lived in the community and my friends were coming here to camp and one day they invited me, and I came to camp. Then they invited me to a morning service, and I went to the morning service. I enjoyed it and have been here for 47 years,” Raymond said.
“I stayed because I love the people, I love the ministry, I love the leadership that we have here and the pastors that we have had at Bright Hope Church who make us come together and worship together and it’s real. That’s why I stay.”
Brenda Willingham is president of the Presidents Council, which ministers to the church and the community.
“We help the sick and the shut-in, the homeless and our children,” she said of the Presidents Council, which also engages in other civic activities throughout the community.
“This church is a loving church,” said Willingham, a member for 27 years. “We love each other, we help each other, we jump in when we need to and work with the community very, very well.
“What we do here at Bright Hope is so unique I think we just draw people in. We just love everybody,” Willingham said.
“It’s unique in the way that we go about doing the different programs we have, just delving into our children and trying to help them grow through education. We really push education and that’s why I say that we are unique.”
“We are getting a big influx of younger people in the last couple of years which I’ll say [is] because of Pastor McKinney, which is exciting because it’s going to mean we are going to continue to grow,” said Lynda Henry, who chairs the trustee board at Bright Hope.
Asked about the members of Bright Hope, which Henry has attended for some 20 years, she said simply, “They’re wonderful.”
“You think you just come and sit on the pews and you keep to yourself, but then something happens and you see how much love there is in this church.”
Henry said a friend invited her to the church two decades ago and that once she experienced the love at Bright Hope, she never looked back.
“Once I came here, I was just so impressed with how good the people were and that’s why I stayed,” Henry said.
Bright Hope isn’t a “stuffy, stuck-up church,” she said. “You could go to any person here and get encouragement.”
Deacon Garfield Jackson called the 110th anniversary celebration “a wonderful day in the Lord.”
The celebration began with a banquet on Saturday and continued during Sunday service.
“Everyone contributed. We had singing, we had preaching, we had so much going on here today and it was just a great day in the Lord,” Jackson said.
With nearly 30 years at Bright Hope, Jackson said his wife of 52 years, Doris, drew him to the church. The two were married at the church and call Bright Hope “family.”
“I met her and she brought me to Bright Hope and the rest is history,” Jackson said.
“We’re all loving people. We all care about each other and it comes to the surface when something goes wrong or there’s a crisis — and it’s not just bad stuff, but we come together for good stuff as well,” he said.
As the surrounding community has changed, Jackson said Bright Hope is no longer the neighborhood church where members were able to walk to the church, but they still get there.
“A lot of us travel to come to church here at Bright Hope because of the love. It keeps us coming,” Jackson said.