The recorded facts of our early years as a church are very sketchy. Most of such records (as they were) have been either lost or destroyed. In attempting to get together some of the facts, Mr. Clarence DeHart interviewed many of the older members and persons who were direct descendants of those who were active in the founding of the church. It has been compiled and depended largely on the memory of individuals as to the events which took place at the time of this writing in 1939, 50 or 60 years prior. If we have failed to give due credit or have given undue credit or have been inaccurate in any way, we beg your indulgence.
The legal incorporation of the St. Philips Baptist Church occurred on February 10, 1891.
The following is the most accurate written record that we have of those days (this record is not in itself complete; it touches only the high spots):
We know that before organization at The Reformed Church (Richmond Avenue), there was a prayer meeting group that met from house to house. So far as I have been able to determine, the leader of that group was a Mr. John Taylor.
The Mission remained at Reformed Church for 14 months, during which time it was largely a Sunday School. Then, upon moving to the Park Baptist Church in April 1880, they were able to have services in the chapel there and used the church proper on special occasions. Their services were held in the afternoon. The Mission remained with Park Church for a period of 9 years; during the last five years, the Mission engaged in raising funds to build their own house of worship. During those years, the church leaders of the group were, in addition to Mr. Taylor, Mr. Leroy Dungey, Mr. William Beverly, Mr. William Reynolds, Mr. James Poole and Mr. John Cannon.
They received notable assistance from members of the Park Baptist Church, notably Mr. Wm. H. Moore and Mr. Alfred DeGroot, a prominent lawyer of that day. Mr. DeGroot helped with the legal work in acquiring property and contributed largely to the building fund. Mr. Moore, after the dedication, assisted in the legal organization of the church set-up and served the first 2 years following the organization as a trustee. When the decision was made to build the house of worship, it became necessary to raise funds. Mr. Dungey, Mr. Poole, and Mr. Beverly were most active in this work.
By 1884, sufficient funds were on hand to purchase the property at 134 Faber Street. It was bought in the name of Thomas Dungey and his wife (the property was secured through Mr. DeGroot over the protest of neighbors). Money raising continued until 1887, when the resolution to build was carried and construction started.
Mr. Leroy Dungey then lived across the street. His daughter carried water across the street for mixing concrete in the foundation. All of the plaster was donated by J.B. King Co. and various other materials were given by other companies of the community.
Here occurred something significant: the building remained unoccupied until all of the necessary funds were raised, and it was completely paid for – no headlong rush, just calm, sure and steady progress. The total cost was $3,030.30. When the payment was completed, plans were made for dedication.
First Step: Mr. Granville Hunt, a member of the Mission congregation, had been set apart for the ministry and ordained by the Rev. J.B. Hommedieu, Pastor of Park Baptist Church; Mr. Wm. Modell and Mr. Johnson, Deacons of the Park Baptist Church, also participated in the ordination service. Rev. Hunt then became the first formal Pastor of the church. On Easter Sunday, April 21, 1889, the church was dedicated, and Rev. Hunt was installed as Pastor. On the following Sunday, the Sunday School was organized. The Superintendent was John H. Cannon, Assistant Superintendent was William Reynolds, Secretary was Thomas S. Dungey, and the Librarian was George Cook. This was the beginning of the program of Religious Education.
Next Step: Incorporation and choosing of a name did not occur until February 10, 1891. The meeting was called by Rev. William A. Harris, then Pastor of Park Baptist Church, with William E. Johnson, Deacon of Park Baptist Church, and Thomas Dungey presided. Trustees were elected: William H. Moore or Park Baptist Church, William S. Dungey, John H. Cannon, William E. Hunter and James Poole.
James Poole suggested the name St. Phillips Baptist Church of Port Richmond in the County of Richmond and the State of New York. Following the election, the proper certificate was signed by presiding officers and witnessed by Frank I. Smith, who proved the same before a notary (Frank I. Smith recent surrogate – then clerk in the office of Alfred DeGroot, Esq.).
A Certificate of Incorporation was filed in the County Clerk’s office on February 13, 1891. The deed to the Church property was executed by Thomas S. Dungey and wife to St. Phillips Church and witnessed recorded in the County Clerk’s office on February 18, 1891.
Others who served on the Trustee Board: Mr. William Prine, S. Riddle, Leroy Dungey, William Beverly, Johnson Jones.
Deacons: William Beverly, John Brown, Horace Jones, Wiley Jones and a Mr. Randall.
1879 – Mission Samuel Christian
1880 – 1889 Surplus
1889 Granville Hunt, First Pastor
1891 William A. Harris
1893 Adam F. Johnson
1894 – 1901 Will Edwards, Allen, Thomas
1902 John W. Griffin
1915 E. W. Lipscomb
1919 L. W. Boynton
1928 William H. Moses
1929 James Moses
1932 L. H. Hatfield
1936 David W. Moss
1948 – 1954 R. G. Sharpe
1954 – 1996 William Ashford Epps, Jr.
1996 – Present Tony Baker, Sr.
Rev. William Ashford Epps, Jr. became the Pastor of St. Philips Baptist Church on April 4, 1954. Under the guidance of Pastor Epps, the membership outgrew the church building on Faber Street and lacked space to expand the church. The present site at 77 Bennett Street, Port Richmond was purchased with a mortgage of $80,000 from Richmond County Bank in 1966. It was paid off in two years and the cornerstone was installed.
February 20, 1966 was the last Sunday in the church at 134 Faber Street, Port Richmond. On February 25, 1966, the Senior Choir had their first rehearsal at 77 Bennett Street.
On Saturday, February 27, 1966, the Missionary Society sold dinners as a fundraiser (the first fundraiser for the new mortgage). On Sunday, February 28, 1966, the first sermon was preached in the new church by Rev. William A. Epps. St. Philips was also blessed with a wonderful assistant to the Pastor, namely Rev. James Douglas Browne. He came to St. Philips in 1956 and became the Assistant Pastor the following year. Rev. Browne was a strong crusader for the betterment of all people. Over the years, he was responsible for the Christian Education programs. He also produced numerous dinner theater programs as a fundraiser for the St. Philips yearly Scholarship Awards.
Rev. Epps retired on September 30, 1996 after a long and dynamic spiritual leadership of 42½ years. At that time, St. Philips Baptist Church was blessed with the arrival of Rev. Tony Baker, Sr. as Pastor. This marks his 24th year as the spiritual head of St. Philips and each year has seen growth and improvement. Rev. Agnes McBeth joined the ministerial staff in March of 2003 and was voted in as the church’s first female Assistant Pastor in June of 2007.