God has always blessed the church with leaders and members whose main interest has been the welfare and success of the church, both spiritually and physically. He has permitted the membership to experience and endure the building, destruction and rebuilding of the church. Greater Salem has become a dynamic church that is ever seeking to find a way to better promote God’s program.
Building the Foundation – 1926-1934
Early in the year of 1926, being led by the Lord, the Rev. Franklin assembled a small group of believers in a mission at 14th and Chestnut Street. Within months, Rev. P. Caycee organized the mission into a church with the name, Southern Baptist. After sincere prayer and meditation, they issued a pastoral call to Rev. Franklin. In1927, Southern Baptist moved to Magazine Street where they worshipped until the summer when Rev. Franklin took a leave of absence. The membership agreed to call Rev. F.K. Armstrong to lead them. Following Pastor Armstrong’s recommendations, the church was renamed Salem Baptist and moved to the U.B.F. Hall on Magazine Street. Under this dynamic leader, the membership rapidly increased. Soon, the U.B.F. Hall became too small to
God has always blessed the church with leaders and members whose main interest has been to accommodate all of its members. In June 1928, the church moved to a larger building at 927 W. Madison Street. The membership continued to increase and was renamed Greater Salem Baptist Church during the administration of Rev. Armstrong. Rev. Armstrong resigned in January 1934.
The Whitaker Years – 1934-1956
Following the resignation of Rev. Armstrong, the church was led to call Rev. W.H. Whitaker as pastor. He was installed as Pastor in March 1934. Greater Salem continued its rapid growth under the guidance of this God-sent Pastor. In 1935, the church moved to a larger building on 12th Street where it remained for nearly one year. The first purchase of church property, located at 1007 W. Chestnut Street, took place in 1936. God continued to bless Greater Salem with an ever-increasing membership. This necessitated the purchase of the adjacent property. In the spring of 1948, ground was broken and our first church edifice was erected. In the latter part of that year, the cornerstone was laid and the church was officially dedicated with God’s divine help and through a dedicated membership, the mortgage was paid off within eight years. Rev. Whitaker served faithfully for approximately 21 years until God called him home in July 1956. The Lord graciously provided Rev. P.H. Smith to carry on His work while the church searched for another dynamic spiritual leader.
The Ryan Years – 1957-1967
The man chosen by God to fill this role was Rev. William H. Ryan. He accepted and assumed the duties of Pastor in November 1957. Like his predecessors, Rev. Ryan was a strong pastor who maintained Christ as the church’s foundation. He also led the membership to erect a 32 room educational building, which include a pastor’s study and clerical office space. The membership exceeded 1,000 during the 10 plus years of Rev. Ryan’s leadership which ended with his death in June 1967.
The Boyd Years – 1967-1975
After the death of Rev. Ryan, his friend and fellow servant of God, the Rev. T.B. Boyd III, was extended a call. He accepted and assumed the duties of pastor in November 1967. Rev. Boyd advised well and spiritually. He was faced with an adverse situation similar to, but quite different from that of previous pastors. In March 1972, our church building was destroyed by fire. Worship services were held at historic Central High School. While rebuilding and planning was carried out. With the cooperation of the church, Rev. Boyd made immediate plans to rebuild.. The new edifice was built and ready for dedication in May 1973. During his leadership the church was able to burn the mortgage during the 50th Church Anniversary on February 12, 1978. “The Lord hath done great things for us; wherefore we are glad.” Psalm 126:3. Pastor Boyd continued to lead the lost to Christ at Greater Salem until ill health and the advice of his physician forced him to resign in 1974. At that time, the membership and staff was led by Rev. C.R. Royston, who had served as assistant to Rev. Boyd for three years. He served faithfully and spiritually until the official Church Board recommended him to become pastor.
The Royston Years – 1975 -2000
Rev. Royston accepted the ”Call” to pastorship in July 1975. With Pastor Royston, God sent along new ideas and concepts. He set about instituting a number of new programs designed to provide avenues for membership to do God’s business. The church mortgage was burned within three years after the beginning of his Pastorate then during the celebration of the church’s 50thAnniversary. Greater Salem began to realize energy and growth during these years. History is not a stagnant thing. Many outstanding programs were instituted during the Royston years. The Tape Ministry, Bible Drill Team, the GoodNewsLetter, the Rap Drug Support group, Bible Studies for youth, Discipleship Training for adults and youth, Men’s Bible Study, Evangelism Team, Children and Teen Church. Rev. Royston retired in May of 2000.
The retirement of Rev. Royston was a turning point in Greater Salem’s history. The church was again met with the challenge of pulling together without a pastor. The Deacons stepped up to lead the church during this period. Through much prayer, diligence and hard work it became clear that the Rev. William M. Blackford, IV was to be our interim pastor.
A pastoral search committee was formed to begin the search for the leader that God had for us. The church pulled together to support the pastoral search committee in this arduous task. Through much prayer and much more prayer and hard work, the committee made the recommendation that the Greater Salem Church extend a call to the Rev. William M. Blackford IV. The call was made and accepted; and in December 2001 the sixth pastor of Greater Salem Baptist Church was installed.
The Blackford Years 2001-2003
A time of extensive change began under the leadership of Rev. William M. Blackford IV. He hit the ground running and challenged the church to keep up. Under his dynamic leadership the church established a new vision and mission. The church’s leadership was inundated with training opportunities and was challenged to “serve” more and provide more opportunities for others to serve. Ministry leaders were expected to lead by example in making sacrifices and thus also encourage others to make sacrifices. Each area of the church faced Pastoral Scrutiny to ensure that it addressed the objectives found in the church mission statement. Under his watch, the church was “Striving To Be the Spirit Filled People of God”. Rev. Blackford resigned his pastorate in November 2003.
Pastor Hackett 2004-Present
Pastor Keith S. Hackett accepted the call to Pastor Greater Salem and was installed in July 2005. Under his leadership the Men’s Ministry has flourished, the 18-35 year of age. Sunday School, the Friday Noon Bible Study and Wednesday Evening Bible Study have continued to increase in numbers. During this time of rededication and restoration the church continues “Making disciples for Jesus Christ – one heart at a time, one family at a time.” We continue to be a hospitable church accepting anyone to come in as part of God’s fellowship.