“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) This phrase is so descriptive of our humble beginnings in the year of 1918 when a group of Christians met on the porch of Reverend A. Tombs’ residence in Allen Aly. Progressive Missionary Baptist Church was organized by Reverend B.J. Perkins. The membership consisted of about one-hundred fifty (150) members. Reverend A. Tombs was the First Pastor.
The Reverend B. Sewell was elected as our Second Pastor. He served for a short period of time.
In 1923, Reverend Harrison Green was elected as our Third Pastor. He served until his health began to fail.
Reverend A.M. Scott was elected as our Fourth Pastor in 1927. At the first service, under his leadership, more than one-hundred (100) members were added to the Progressive Baptist Church. During his tenure, the Number One and Number Two choirs were organized, including the Dr. Watts’ Chorus. Reverend Scott served until his death.
Assistant Pastor Floyd Daniel was elected as our Fifth Pastor. The membership increased under his leadership and additional ministries were organized.Progressive Missionary Baptist Church was located at the corner of Fourth Street and Vance Avenue when the government applied for the property. Progressive Missionary Baptist Church relocated to 394 Vance Avenue. The building was in need of repairs and our congregation was rapidly expanding beyond its worship space.
On May 6, 1947, Reverend Orelius Clyde Collins was elected as our Sixth Pastor. He led the congregation to another level in God’s divine mission. “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;” (Colossians 1:25) In1950, under the leadership of Pastor Collins, the property at 398 Vance Avenue was purchased. To make room for a new, beautiful, spacious sanctuary, our church building was demolished March 1, 1955 and worship services were held in the fellowship hall of Clayborn Temple.
On Sunday, September 5, 1955, one of the most significant marches in our church history occurred as a multitude of members marched from the fellowship hall of Clayborn Temple to our new sanctuary. On January 21, 1968, our church held a special ceremony for the “Burning of the Mortgage”.
Our visionary leader perceived another need for our church and purchased other properties that would be utilized in years to come to meet the needs of the church as well as community. In 1969, properties at 395 Pontotoc, 397 Pontotoc and a small sundry store on the west side of our church at 390 Vance Avenue were purchased. In 1974, ninety thousand square feet of raw land was purchased on the east side of our church that extended to the boundary of Southern Funeral Home.
Pastor Collins recognized a basic need for our congregation, which led to the construction of a fellowship hall in March, 1985 on a portion of the property purchased in 1974. In December, 1986, the hall was officially named for our Pastor, O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall. In his servitude role as one of God’s chosen leaders, Pastor Collins’ divine visions encompassed the idea of enlarging one of our annual day committees to include a woman. In 1985, our Pastor added Mrs. DeLois Broady, a Program Chairlady, to our glorious anniversary celebration.
In the year of our Lord 1986, another first at Progressive Missionary Baptist Church occurred with the naming of five women to the Trustee Board in the person of Sister Helen H. Bowen, Sister Georgia Cochran-Cannon, Sister Hazella Lofton, Sister Vicki C. Mickens and Sister Thelma Nelms.
“And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) On October 4, 1990, flames engulfed our sanctuary. The next Sunday, October 11, 1990, Reverend J.H. Joyner, Jr. Pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, extended a warm invitation to our congregation. Many other Christian church families continued to extend worshipping invitations to Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. Our Pastor, being a truly dedicated leader, made the decision to use the Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center as a temporary worship sanctuary, during the renovation period, which ended on March 10, 1991.
On March 10, 1991, our congregation marched from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center to our newly renovated church home, Progressive Missionary Baptist Church at 394 Vance Avenue.
On Sunday, March 7, 1993, Progressive Missionary Baptist Church celebrated its 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary with a vast array of major events. The events included the following:
* An Evening of Splendor held at the Wilson World Hotel.
* The unveiling of a Cachet of Pastor O.C. Collins, Sr. by Postmaster Wilhelmenia Harris.
* A banquet held in the O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall with guest speaker, Judge Bernice Donald.
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) In May, 1993, our Pastor became ill and assistance was needed to carry on the mission of the shepherd. Reverend James B. Collins, son of our beloved Pastor, began serving as Pastor-in-charge in July, 1993.
In January, 1994, three additional women were named to the Trustee Board in the person of Sister Ann Shaw, Sister Connie Scullark and Sister Walterine Bishop.
Our spiritually wise leader and courageous father, Pastor Orelius Clyde Collins, Sr. entered into his eternal resting place on July 31, 1994, leaving a legacy of forty-seven (47) years of service that will linger on forever in the hearts of the Progressive congregation. He came to Progressive Missionary Baptist Church with great plans, served faithfully and led his flock spiritually. Thanks be to God for a kind and benevolent shepherd, Pastor O.C. Collins, Sr.
The following ministers were ordained under the leadership of Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. from 1947 through 1986:
Rev. Delove Brooks, Rev. Mose HadleyRev. B.T. Miller, Rev. Golden Brooks, Rev. Walter Harmon, Rev. S.J. Parker,
Rev. Raymond Brooks, Rev. Wiley Harris, Rev. W.C. Powell, Rev. D.B. Burbidge, Rev. Maurice Henderson, Rev. Richard Relliford, Rev. Wayne Cartrell, Rev. John Isom, Rev. Jimmie Richmond,
Rev. Martin Chalmers, Rev. Mose Jones, Rev. James Robinson, Rev. O.C. Collins, Jr., Rev. Richard Jones, Rev. John Springfield, Rev. James B. Collins, Rev. William F. Jones, Rev. Amos Terrell,
Rev. Golden Edwards, Rev. L.C. Malone, Rev. Joe B. Williams, Rev. W.H. Fulton, Rev. Malone, and Rev. John Young.
On the September 11, 1994, Reverend J.L. Payne, Pastor of Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, officiated the unveiling of Pastor O.C. Collins, Sr.’s chair. Following this spiritual and emotional unveiling ceremony, the Reverend James B. Collins was unanimously elected as the Seventh Pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. Presently, the Progressive Baptist Church family is being led in divine Grace by the preaching, teaching and inspirational sermons by Reverend James B. Collins.
Pastor James B. Collins exemplifies many of the visionary leadership qualities of his father. In addition, Reverend James B. Collins has brought to his father’s legacy, new ideas, new plans and a commitment to excellence in leading Progressive Missionary Baptist Church into the 21st century. Under Reverend Collins’ leadership, the east parking lot has been paved, security lights have been installed and a new marque was installed in front of the church. The O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall was rededicated when beautiful aluminum letters were mounted on the building. Reverend James B. Collins has also acquired a state-of-the-art computer system, established a Christian Education Department, purchased a piece of residential property and drafted preliminary plans for our Family Life Center. Pastor Collins’ utmost dream for Progressive Missionary Baptist Church was to provide affordable housing in the church community for our elderly and needy citizens. Plans for achieving these goals were in their infancy stage, but progress could be seen in the purchase of a vacant lot and an apartment building at 389 Pontotoc.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) On Saturday, August 14, 1999, another chapter in our church history unfolded with the honorary naming of a portion of Vance Avenue between Third Street and Lauderdale Street in honor of the late Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. A free standing marker was unveiled during the ceremony, inscribed with “Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. Avenue” . It is located at Third Street and Lauderdale Street. The marker located in front of the church was unveiled by the three sons of Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr., Reverend O.C. Collins, Jr., Reverend James B. Collins and Reverend Timothy J. Collins. Other notable personalities were present or participated in the event, included the Mayor of the city of Memphis, Dr. W.W. Herenton, a number of city councilmen, as well as, officials from the state of Tennessee. Highlights of the event included Reverend J.L. Payne’s delivery of a powerful solo and City Councilman Joe Brown presented the Collins’ family with a City of Memphis Resolution that commemorated the honorary naming ceremony of Vance Avenue as Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. Avenue.
In June, 2000, Pastor James B. Collins saw a need to revamp the antiquated space in the church’s lower level. After several months of planning and structural improvement, the eating area, kitchen, Sunday School classrooms and restrooms were remodeled and included the addition of a women’s lounge.
In 2001 with the leadership of Pastor James B. Collins, the membership and The Men of Progress, renovations were made at the church. A fence for the buses and florescent lights for the O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall, lower level of the church, hallways and offices were installed. Also, carpet and a new computer software package was installed; the porch was tiled and the columns painted.
Brother Larry Sellers was crowned Deacon. Reverend Andre Taylor was licensed to preach by Pastor James B. Collins. In December of 2001, three Trustees, two Deacons and a newly formed Deaconess Board were added.
In 2002, the electronic gates for the wrought iron fence were installed, along with a new public address and taping system. This enabled us to purchase cassette tapes of our Pastor’s eloquent and spiritual sermons at the end of each service. Also, a 15 passenger van was purchased. Brother James Solomon and Brother Wesley Smith were crowned Deacons on February 3, 2002. During the same service, the Deaconess was consecrated.
On Sunday, January 12, 2003, two Trustees were added and Brother Calvin Rayborn and Brother Stanley Logan were crowned Deacons on October 10, 2003. During 2003, a new computer system was installed with Internet connection that provided email access and our email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. A closed circuit television with an intercom was installed at the outer doors to the O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall.
On January 18, 2004, Reverend Timothy J. Collins, the third and youngest son of our late Pastor, Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. was ordained at Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Rev. James B. Collins.
In 2004, the name of the Mass Choir was changed to Voices of Progressive. The fiscal year dates for our church was changed to December 1st through November 30th. Men’s and Women’s Day was combined to be held annually during the month of August.
At the Annual Church Meeting held on December 16, 2004, two were approved to be consecrated as mothers of the church and one woman, Sister Loretta Van Buren, was appointed Trustee.
At the Church Meeting held on April 21, 2005, the establishment of a partnership between Progressive Missionary Baptist Church and Executive Director Ken Bennett with Streets Ministries to lease a portion of our land to build a community life center to serve the residents of zip code 38126 was approved.
The ten unit apartment building purchased in 1996 was torn down in May, 2005 to make space for the relocation of our buses and vans.
On Sunday, November 6, 2005, Brother Vincent Rogers was crowned as a Deacon.
Beginning in 2006, Annual Men’s Day and Annual Women’s Day were celebrated separately on the fourth Sunday in July and the fourth Sunday in August, respectively. On Sunday, January 26, 2006, Brother Frank Jones, Jr. was crowned as a Deacon. In February, 2006, a new roof was installed on the sanctuary.
On June 3, 2006, Streets Ministries held an open house at its completed outreach and recreation center at 430 Vance Avenue. This facility was built on property leased to Streets Ministries by Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. A breezeway connects the building to the church. The black wrought iron fence, with three electronic gates surrounding both buildings and a well-lighted spacious parking lot, give a very distinctive appearance.
In November, 2006, the restrooms in the O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall were renovated, the floor was tiled and a covered entrance from the rear parking lot to the fellowship hall was installed. This covered entrance is named in memory of church member, Mrs. Lula Mae Jones. Aluminum windows were installed, as well as, safety doors. Additionally, the rear of the building was painted, new steps installed from the rear parking lot to the rear entrance of the church. Also, new steps were installed on the west exterior side of the sanctuary.
In January, 2007, 100 chairs were purchased for the O.C. Collins, Sr. Fellowship Hall. On Sunday, January 28, 2007, Reverend Charles Lee Ewing, II, preached his first sermon and was licensed to preach under the leadership of Pastor James B. Collins. Rev. Ewing is the son of Deacon/Trustee Charles Lee Ewing, Sr. and Mrs. Donna Collins Ewing and the grandson of our late pastor, Rev. O.C. Collins, Sr. and Mrs. Mamye J. Collins.
On Sunday, June 3, 2007, Brother Roger Clark, Brother Major Hulbert and Brother Michael Key were crowned Deacons.
On Sunday, September 30, 2007, Deacon Vincent Rogers preached his first sermon and was licensed to preach under the leadership of Pastor James B. Collins. He is the son of Mother Julia Rogers.
On Sunday, April 13, 2008, Deacon Calvin Leonard Rayborn, Sr. preached his first sermon and was licensed to preach under the leadership of Pastor James B. Collins.
Pastor James B. Collins was appointed Director General of the National Baptist Sunday School and BTU Congress, USA, Inc., Chairman of the Host Committee for the National Baptist Convention held in Memphis, Tennessee, September, 2009.
On Sunday, January 18, 2009, the Lula Mae Jones Memorial Breezeway was dedicated.
On Sunday, February 8, 2009, the Obie Ruff Memorial Usher Room was dedicated.
On February 8, 2009, Pastor James B. Collins became eligible for the designation “Senior Pastor” having reached his Silver Anniversary as a preacher.
On Sunday, March 29, 2009, Brother Kelvin L. Broadnax, II, preached his first sermon and was licensed to preach under the leadership of Rev. Dr. James B. Collins.
On Sunday, April 19, 2009, Brother Troy Brown preached his first sermon and was licensed to preach under the leadership of Rev. Dr. James B. Collins.
In February, 2010, Pastor Collins organized the Sanctuary Choir. Our choirs are Sanctuary Choir, Voices of Progressive, Youth and Young Adult and Male Chorus.
Effective December 1, 2010, Trustee Andre Williams was approved as the church Treasurer. Former church Treasurer, Trustee Richard Hurley, was approved as Treasurer Emeritus due to his failing health.
At the Annual Church Meeting on December 16, 2010, four women, Tracie Cole, Tonya Frazier, Erica Young and Ashley Drane, were approved for appointment as Trustees.
On January 2, 2011, Brother Walter Ingram, Brother Theodis Isom, Brother Johnny Pierce and Brother Timothy Williams were crowned as Deacons.
Our first Annual Deacon/Trustee Day was celebrated on Sunday, January 30, 2011 with Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton as guest speaker.
During the month of May, 2011, the sanctuary roof was repaired.
For the months of June, July and August, 2011, we worshipped in the gymnasium of Streets Ministries, because we had no air conditioning in the sanctuary. We appreciate two guarantors, Trustee Elton C. Higgins and Trustee Helen H. Bowen, who secured the bank loan for the installation of the up-to-code air conditioning system.
Progressive Ministries secured a concession stand at Fed-X Forum in November, 2011. Profits made from this endeavor were used to defray the cost of church members attending the National Baptist Congress and National Baptist Convention. We were blessed to have volunteers who committed to work the concession stand.
We have been blessed to have Sister Geraldine Brown to serve as Program Chairlady for our Church Anniversary, under the late Reverend O.C. Collins, Sr. and our current Pastor, Reverend James B. Collins, for a period of twenty-one years. Pastor Collins selected Sister Betty Cleaves Robinson and Sister Rosanna Williams Stepney to serve as the Church Anniversary Program Chairladies beginning in 2012.
Through trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, Progressive Missionary Baptist Church has come this far by faith and still remains a spiritual giant in the local church community. We will continue in the spirit of those great men and women who organized this church and guided its destiny throughout the years. We pray to God for guidance and strength to keep our Church Covenant, follow the Holy Spirit and be supportive of our Pastor as he leads us in the 21st century.