Historic New Light Baptist Church
The Church on the Hill with the Gospel for the Whole World
Celebrating 150 Years
One hundred fifty years of missionary endeavors are hereby presented in the history of New Light Baptist Church. New Light Baptist Church was organized on November 25, 1870, under a brush arbor on Garden Street, now known as South Alamo Street. The Church was organized with the following persons:
Rev. Caliph Whitley, Pastor
Jerry and Ama Jane Lee
Isaac and Martha Vancoat
Wilson and Millie Picket
Robert and Charlotte Goodson
Randle and Mary Thornton
In 1870, when New Light Baptist Church was organized, Texas was re-admitted to the Union by Act of Congress. During this same year, the Texas Legislature ratified the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Looking back one hundred fifty years, we can envision Reverend Whitely, the first pastor of New Light Baptist Church, and the little band of saints of God gathering with him under a tree on Garden Street in San Antonio, Texas, to hold their first meeting. It was only five years before this that President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation had granted freedom to negro slaves in the United States. Still under the shadows and darkness of slavery these thirteen pioneer Christian soldiers, under the leadership of Reverend Whitely, must have been looking forward to a new day of opportunity, perhaps the fulfillment of a dream and the promise of a new light of hope for them and their black brethren throughout America.
In 1870, the year New Light was founded, there were 12,256 people in San Antonio, including 1,957 Negroes. In 1888, the church moved to its second site in Garfield Alley and its third site was 333 Lavaca Street, and remained there until 1939.
Under the pastorate of the late Reverend Oliver Edwards, the first edifice was erected in 1913 and there the church remained for thirty-seven years. In 1938, it became evident that the community would change its status. The United States Housing Authority bought the property surrounding the church for a low-rent housing project for whites. From 1939 to 1940 the church went through its most trying period. The membership was moved to make room for the housing project for whites. Over two-hundred letters were written to various men in high positions including the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the plea that the Housing Authority had damaged our church by moving its members; therefore, the Housing Authority should at least buy the property so that the church could be relocated. Under the leadership of the late Rev. P. S. Wilkinson, Sr., $12,500.00 was asked for the property, but the final settlement was made for $7,500.00 in cash and the salvaged building.
On Thursday, March 6, 1941, the groundbreaking ceremony was held with the late Rev. P. S. Wilkinson being honored in lifting the first spade of dirt, and on April 1, 1941 the construction of the present church building was started. On January 18, 1942, the cornerstone was laid by Beacon Light Lodge Number 50. The occasion gave cause for individual and collective thankfulness on the part of the pastor, officers, and members.
The church entered its new home on February 22, 1942. “The Church On The Hill”. The congregation paid from $1000 to $3,200 per month on the indebtedness and on June 19, 1944, the debt was retired.
On February 19, 1946, the church began broadcasting its regular Sunday morning services and became “The Church On The Hill On The Air". The church owes its leadership to:
Rev. Caliph Whitely
Rev. Jerry Lee
Rev. Isaac Vancoat
Rev. John C. Calhoun
Rev. G. R. Cushionberry
Rev. Oliver Edwards
Rev. J. S. Hayes
Rev. L. A. Jones
Rev. Dr. P. S. Wilkinson, Sr.
Rev. A. G. Stewart
Rev. Jeff Smith
The present pastor Rev. Dr. Paul G. Wilkinson, Sr. has served since the second Sunday in May 2013.
New Light Baptist Church has mothered the following churches:
Greater Union Baptist Church
Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church
Emmanuel Baptist Church
Macedonia Baptist Church
St. Luke Baptist Church
New Light Baptist Church built and equipped Coliseum Park Baptist Church, the first time that one Negro Church had accomplished such a feat. The church sent thirty members and organized the Coliseum Park Baptist Church, March 18, 1952, and sustained the church until it was self-supporting.
The missionary spirit of the New Light Baptist Church reached out to the continent of Africa as the church supported a mission worker in Sinoe, Liberia, West Coast of Africa.
For 150 years the New Light Baptist Church has gloried in its fellowship under Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior. It is through prayer, faith, hope, work, and consecrated leadership that New Light Baptist Church grew from a small acorn in 1870 to a great oak in 2016. Just as the first few dedicated members of 1870 were guided by the Holy Spirit, so should those of us in 2016 who remain faithful stand on the shoulders of the 13 founding members be led by the Words of Jesus Christ – “I am the Light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (St. John 8:12)