In the Beginning…1935-1965
It was in 1934, on Thanksgiving night that Mother Carrie Parker had a vision of establishing a new church. The realization of this vision occurred when a group of southern Free Will Baptist church members who had relocated from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. soon found that there were no Free Will Baptist churches in the area. Calling themselves the Willing Workers Club, they initiated plans for a new church, and in March 1935, held their first formal worship service at 1609 11th Street, N.W., under the name "New Hope Free Will Baptist Mission."
In April 1935, the founding of New Hope Free Will Baptist Church moved forward when the church was officially organized under the Northern Annual Conference of the United American Free Will Baptist Church, thereby making it the first Free Will Baptist church in Washington, D.C. The Reverend E.D. Swinson, who was pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church along with several other ministers assisted the church with worship services until a pastor was elected. The first officers of New Hope were Deacon Isaiah Parker, Chairman of the Deacon Board; Deacon L. Britt, Vice Chairman; Brother Pendleton, Chairman of the Trustee Board; Mother Carrie Parker, Head Mother and President of the Choir; Brother Bowden, Superintendent of Sunday School; and Sister Geneva Thompson, Secretary. Sisters Ruby Parker Evans and Dora Mae Swinson were the first persons to be baptized. Deacon Elijah Parker was the first ordained Deacon.
Other foundation members from the church's inception through the early 1940s were: Mother Daisy McIver, Deacon Lubee Britt, Mother Lucy Parker, Brother Rudolph Parker, Brother Rufus Parker, Mother Emma Fleming, Deacon Joshua Fleming, Mother Carrie Parker Banks, Brother Odell Smith, Sister Blanche Smith, Sister Minnie Edwards Jones, Mother Elizabeth Johnson, Brother Arthur Clark, Deacon Willie C. Johnson, Mother Leola Johnson, Brother Elton High, Sister Geneva High, Sister Grilla Nelson, Sister Levella Atkinson Morgan, Sister Pearl Winstead, Sister Hester White, and Deacon John Smith.
The Senior Choir, organized by Sister Minnie Edwards Jones, was the first and only choir in the church until 1945 when Mother Lucy Parker organized the Unity Gospel Chorus. In the beginning the chorus was made up of singers who were members of other churches throughout the city. Later in 1951, the Sunshine Band (which evolved into the present day Junior Choir) was organized by Sister Pearl Winstead. Also during this time other choirs were formed.
Directed by Reverend Bess, Sister Emma Fleming organized the first formal Usher Board. Members included Sisters Emma Fleming, Pearl Winstead, and Hester White and Deacon John Smith. In 1948 Sisters Emma Fleming, Leola Johnson, and Grilla Nelson were appointed Junior Mothers.
Early church clubs were the Willing Workers, Ernest Workers (organized by Mother Lucy Parker in 1945); and the Busy Bees (organized by Sister Minnie Edwards Jones in 1946). The purpose of the clubs was to further fellowship among members and serve as the fundraising arm of the church. When a new member joined the church, they were initiated into one of the clubs.
In 1937 Reverend Wiley Miller became the first elected pastor. Reverend Miller served for 18 months after which Reverend E. Lucas served as acting pastor until the election of Reverend T.T. Ferguson who served from 1940 to 1944. Reverend Arlester Bess was elected Pastor in 1944 and served for five years. In 1949 Reverend T.C. Dixon was elected pastor and served faithfully for 13 years. In 1962, after the departure of Reverend Dixon, Reverend J. Marion Bradley served as pastor for approximately nine months and in October 1963, Reverend Clifton Jones was elected pastor and served for four years.
As a result of the division of the United American Free Will Baptist Conference in 1950, New Hope became a member of the United Free Will Baptist Conference. In 1972 the name of the United Free Will Baptist Conference was changed to the Northeast Free Will Baptist Conference.
The Lord continued to bless New Hope and the membership grew. Seeing the need for a larger place of worship after several temporary locations, Trustee Clifton Johnson and other members of the Trustee and Deacon Boards (Deacons Elijah Parker, Fedo Powell, and Joshua Fleming and Trustees Elton High, Louis Barham, Eric Smith, and William Anderson) purchased our present church home and parsonage.
Evolution of the church continued under the leadership of Reverend Clifton Jones. On the 4th Sunday in November of 1965, we marched from Lincoln Park into our current church home - 754 11th Street, S.E., which is recognized as an historical edifice, protected by the Historical Preservation Society.
During Reverend Jones' tenure, we were blessed with an Associate Minister, Reverend Robert O. Freeman who had joined New Hope in 1953. Upon the departure of Reverend Jones in June 1967, Reverend Freeman served as acting pastor until he was elected pastor in June 1968. He labored and served faithfully for 31 years until his retirement in 1998. From 1953 prior to becoming interim pastor, Reverend Freeman served as Usher, Male Chorus member, Trustee, Deacon, and Associate Minister. Other milestones were reached in our history when he was elected 2nd Vice Bishop in 1990, 1st Vice Bishop in 1993, and Bishop in August 1994 of the Northeast Free Will Baptist Conference.
Under Reverend Freeman's leadership, Sister Gloria Perry became the first ordained Deaconess. As
ministry needs increased a Nursing Home Ministry (organized by Evangelist Dorothy Allen - the first female Associate Minister); a Pastor's Aid Ministry (organized by Mother Mary Grange; an Audio-Visual Ministry (tape and videos); a Christian Education Department, Senior Usher Board No. 2 (young adult Usher Board organized by Sister Helen Parker and directed by Deacon John Smith); and the Junior Ushers. Mother Carrie B. Freeman, First Lady of New Hope, organized in Ever Ready Chorus in 1976. Additional choirs that were organized included the Gospel Choraliers (rebirth of the 1968 Youth Choir) and the Spiritual Voices (a young adult choir).
On October 1, 1998, Reverend Ernestine Howell Battle, Associate Minister of New Hope, was elected as interim pastor. Under her leadership we continued to build on the firm foundation set by Reverend Freeman and the church prospered. Reverend Battle was elected pastor on October 1, 1999, making her the first female pastor in the church's history. She is an accomplished pastor, who prior to becoming interim pastor, served in the capacities of Missionary, Usher, Associate Minister, Sunday School Teacher, New Members Orientation Instructor, Bible Class Teacher, and Christian Education Director. Sustained spiritual growth was inaugurated under her leadership through a ministry of excellence. Fulfilling a vision from the Lord she developed several new ministries that impact the whole individual by speaking to the social ills of today - ministries that advocate a strong spiritual relationship with God: The Heavenly Lights (Seniors' Ministry); the Daughters of Destiny (Women's Ministry); a Pastoral Care Ministry, an Outreach Ministry, The Overcomers' Ministry (for individuals suffering from or coping with all types of addictions or abuse); Family Life Ministry; a Liturgical Dance Ministry; a library; an Automation Ministry; an Enrichment (tutorial and computer lab) program for children as well as adults; a certified Bible Study program; and a Culinary Ministry.
In dedication ceremonies, respectively, Pastor Battle paid tribute and honor to Reverend Freeman by naming the church annex "The Robert O. Freeman Fellowship House" (May 20, 2000); to Associate Minister Lucille B. Parker (deceased) naming the church library in her memory on December 9, 2001; and to Sister Wilhelmina Winstead (deceased) naming the secretary's office in her memory (July 11. 2010).
On May 9, 2010 the officers, members and guests of New Hope celebrated the newly renovated sanctuary in a "Spirit-filled" dedication service, after having to hold worship services for over six months in the multipurpose room at Chavez School.
Reverend Battle's leadership has been exemplary, as New Hope continues to progress spiritually, financially, and physically.
As a new day dawns we see the flowering of the seeds of change that were planted in 1935 with other milestones yet to come. As we greet the future generations, as well as the present, and pay homage to the past generations, we express our purpose in the words of Paul, "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul's master passion was soul winning. This can be said of New Hope Free Will Baptist Church. We extol the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has wrought wonderfully in and through New Hope. We express our gratitude towards Him who has led us as a congregation throughout the years.