First Salem Missionary Baptist Church
Saving Souls and Sharing the Gospel Since 1927
When First Salem Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1927, the humble congregation set a foundation that would share the Word of the Lord for decades to come. The church was organized as Antioch Baptist Church at 304 Hamblin Ave., in the home of Annie Bradley and led by Pastor Gaines. Throughout the years, various pastors have been called to lead the church. However, in 1951 the Rev. L.L. Tubbs became pastor and led for ten years, the longest term of service to that point in the church’s history.
By the 1950s the church moved from the home of Sister Bradley to its own buildings at 147 Parrish St., 323 Hamblin Ave., and to a new church at 70 River St. (the former Free Methodist Congregation). Its name also underwent changes as Antioch and Shady Grove until 1949 when it became First Salem Missionary Baptist Church. As the church grew, its pastors developed affiliations with other churches for fellowship, Bible study, and leadership opportunities. First Salem became members of such organizations as the Boyd’s Convention, Chain Lake District Association, and the Wolverine Western District.
In the new edifice, the Rev. L.L. Tubbs led upgrades to the church such as a Baptismal pool, new piano, organ, furnace, and pulpit furniture. By 1962 the church began to truly see fruit. Under the leadership of the Rev. Joseph H. Harris, membership nearly doubled. He led further remodeling efforts and in the purchase of five property lots on the corner of North Washington and Parkway Drive. The purchase was for a new church site, however, the City of Battle Creek requested the lots to create Dr. Claude Evans Park.
On April 9, 1978, the members celebrated 51 years of service in a new church at 370 Capital Ave., which included a parsonage. The church continued to grow, purchase more land, and expanded its ministry outreach to include a radio broadcast and Witnessing Club. Other pastors served each leaving their own legacy, including the Rev. Edward Seals who led the church in an effort to pay off its mortgage and see a continued increase in membership.
In 1998 the Rev. Craig Tatum and his family were installed in what would be the longest term of service to date. For 20 years the Rev. Tatum worked as a diligent leader to upgrade the church to become barrier-free for the elderly and disabled, expand its transportation service, acquire new land, and establish an educational scholarship in memory of the Rev. Lonzell English.
Reverend Tatum’s leadership led to extended roles within church organizations throughout Michigan through his services as Dean of the Chain Lake District and Wolverine. He secured more than $30,000 in grants for parenting programs and a computer center in the church to benefit the community of Battle Creek. Pastor Tatum moved on to serve as the leader of New Life Baptist Church in Saginaw, Michigan in May of 2018.
In September of 2018, the church soon voted and called Leon Coleman III as its new Senior Pastor. Pastor Coleman is supported in his ministry by his wife, Elder Nicole R.S., and their daughters, Layla and Nia. Together they bring new energy to the First Salem family with a vision of “Greater”. Greater efforts are in store as they work to serve the Lord, liquidate loans, renovate the nursery, and take the church into the 21st Century through technology that would allow the Word of God to be heard throughout the world.
Under Pastor Coleman’s leadership, the church has adopted new traditions. The church anniversary is used not only as a way to celebrate church history but to give back to the community. The Saturday prior to each anniversary celebration, the members reach out to feed hundreds of area homeless. In addition, First Salem has adopted a local elementary school to provide mentorship or assistance that the staff may need from community volunteers. Those struggling with substance abuse also have been embraced in their efforts to overcome addiction through a weekly Shephard’s Hands support group for those in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Since 1927, First Salem has remained faithful as servants of God in the community of Battle Creek. Their foundation made it possible for several churches in Battle Creek to grow from their humble beginnings. These church branches include Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, New Morning Star Full Gospel Baptist Church, New Deliverance Baptist Church, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, and Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. As First Salem continues to serve the community of Battle Creek for nearly 100 years, its pastors, leaders, and members will continue to preach the Gospel and bring souls to Christ.