When we pass a garden
And see everything in full bloom,
We don't always think about the seeds
That were planted long before we got there.
The year was 1885. Less than twenty years earlier, the Civil War had come to an end and the South was in a period of reconstruction. While many Southerners faced economic crisis after the war, some former slaves---now free men and women---were thriving. They left the plantations and rural areas behind; and they settled in urban areas like Nashville. These settlers formed the nuclei of major black communities such as North Nashville.
Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church had its beginning when a loyal band of Christians---Irene Smart, Bill Smith, Ed Marshall and others---organized themselves and formed the West Cedar Street Baptist Church. It was one of sixteen Black Baptist churches organized by the end of the 1880's. For ten years they worshipped in a building at 1506 Cedar Street. Their hardships and struggles were many and they were beset by internal difficulties. However, in 1895 the group that was to become our mother church decided to relocate near the Stock Yard at the· corner of 17th Avenue North and Lyon Avenue (now Jo Johnston) Avenue.
God sent Reverend A. W. Porter as the church's first pastor. He was a strong and dynamic leader and is credited with giving this church direction and guidance which enabled it to maintain a position of leadership down through the years. He led many souls to Christ. In a livery stable near the Stock Yard, Rev. Porter conducted the first revival service. Among the converts were Sister Winnie Peoples, Brother George Bailey and Mother Shelby. Sister Peoples gave many, many years of dedicated service to this church.
The church was bearing much fruit. To raise funds for the purchase of our first church building, Rev. Porter held a rally at the old Mule Car Shed at 17th Avenue North and Cedar Street. By 1900, the church had its first permanent church home---a frame structure on Stonewall Street (later to become Fifteenth Avenue). With a new name and a permanent home, Fifteenth A venue Baptist Church continued to progress and Reverend Porter continued to make his ministry felt at Fifteenth Avenue, in Nashville, as well as throughout the denomination.
In 1927, Rev. Porter suffered failing health and Rev. Walter R. Murray was called as Acting Pastor. Rev. Porter passed in 1931.
As Joshua in Biblical times continued the spiritual work of Moses relative to the kingdom of God, so did Rev. Murray continue what Rev. Porter commenced when he was called to the Pastorate in 1929. Under the pastorate of Rev. Murray, there was a new upsurge in growth and activity. The spirit of this faithful and anointed leader was imparted to his flock. Despite a depression that gripped the nation, souls were added to the vineyard, a baptistery and dining room were built; and the membership was further crystallized with the establishment of several organizations. However, in 1951, the church was forced to again find a new home. The new location was 1203 Ninth Avenue North, our present site.
In December 1953, Rev. Murray went to his heavenly home.
On the second Sunday in April 1954, the Reverend Leroy Crinel was installed as the church's third pastor. Rev. Crinel proved to be a leader with strong convictions and a preacher of inspiring and well planned sermons. With a membership of five hundred or more and a need for more expansion, the church was remodeled again involving an outlay of$10,000. To eradicate this debt and to build a new church, a building fund was begun in 1958. Additionally, Rev. Crinel organized church clubs to assist in the fundraising, which were the Women's Progressive, Rose of Sharon, Willing Workers, and the Nurse's Aid Guild. Construction for the new worship place began in 1959. During the interim, worship services were held at Elliott School auditorium on Sixth and Jefferson Street.
Rev. Crinel's pastorate ended in 1960.
Rev. Enoch Jones was called to the pastorate in January 1961. Rev. Jones plunged immediately into securing sufficient funds for the completion of the edifice begun under the pastorate of Rev. Crinel. On Sunday, August 6, 1961, Rev. Jones and the jubilant members entered their new edifice singing, "We've Come This Far by Faith." Ten years later, the church liquidated the $100,000 debt incurred completing the new edifice. During the winter of 1979, construction began on the educational-recreational edifice that today stands as the Enoch Jones Activity Center.
Under Rev. Jones' leadership, Fifteenth Avenue Baptist added new dimensions to the service of God and mankind. The membership increased by several hundred people, enabling the church to raise its annual budgets while increasing its contributions to educational institutions, missions, and community services. Reverend Jones retired in 1992, having served as Pastor of this church for 32 years. He was honored as “Pastor Emeritus” until 2009 when he was called home to be with the Lord.
In June 1994 God sent Rev, William Buchanan to be pastor of Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church. A new model of ministry for the body of Christ became operative in us. Pastor Buchanan was a catalyst for Holy Spirit-inspired new dimensions in worship activities and led the church toward the fulfillment of a new vision God had set before us.
New ministries were added, including: Christian Education Ministry, Communication Ministry, Discipleship Ministry, Evangelism Ministry, Mission Ministry and the Resource Ministry.
In early 1999, the membership approved the establishment of the Community Development Corporation. Organized by Annie Carter, Arena Groves, Tanya Head, Eloise Jackson, Betty Jones, Louise McClellan, Arul Morton, Charles Robinson, Mary Smith and Atty. Smith, it operates as a vehicle to facilitate a social action ministry and allows for the delivery of more effective services to assist people in meeting their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
In 2000, the church began construction of Phase III of its building program.
On Sunday May 15, 2016, Pastor Buchanan departed this earthly life. He left to cherish his memory his loving wife and family as well as the Fifteenth Avenue family and the Nashville community. He is sorely missed.