Our History

In 1802, the First Presbyterian Church erected a building on the corner of Bank and Catherine Streets. The records of the Church show that as early at 1839, a congregation of free men of color, known as First Colored Baptist of Norfolk, was negotiating to purchase this property. In 1840, these courageous Christians, who had formerly worshiped at the integrated First Baptist Church, purchased the building and started their own church.

This happened 25 or more years before the Civil War. Since Negroes could not be licensed ministers at that time, the congregation did not have an African American pastor until 1862. He was a college and seminary trained minister from Boston, and every Bank Street pastor since that time has been college and seminary trained.

Our church is the mother of several churches. First Calvary Baptist Church,
Norfolk; First Baptist Church, Berkley; Queen Street Baptist Church; and Holy Trinity Church are among those established.

For 119 years, Bank Street Church was a beacon of light to the religious and
secular community of Norfolk. On February 28, 1959, the members of the congregation felt the changes in structure of the community warranted relocation of the church; thus, they voted to build a church in another area of the city. Many sites were considered with the congregation deciding upon a plot of land on Johnstons Road and Chesapeake Boulevard in 1962.

In December 1968, the John B. Henderson Fellowship Hall and part of the educational building were completed to the extent that a grateful congregation marched to its first worship service in the first phase of the planned new complex. This building was dedicated during the month of January 1969 under the pastorate of Dr. John B. Henderson.

Dr. J. B. Henderson served the Church as pastor longer than any previous minister. For 31 years, he gave leadership which was recognized locally and nationally. On July 13, 1974, death ended his notable leadership.

Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church is widely known for its generous support of missions and Christian education. The Church sent members to Africa as missionaries, supported a missionary in Haiti, and built a chapel in Leagand, Haiti.

We have educated two young men from Nigeria, Titus Apoeso and Sam Adejimobic and assisted in the education of a young woman from Liberia, Florence McClain at Virginia Union University. With assistance from the Church,many young members have found it possible to earn a college education.

As the congregation prepared for the future between pastors, we were blessed with the services of interim pastors, namely, Reverend Dr. Joseph Dancy, Jr., and Reverend William K. Dixon.

We hope the history of Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church will give insight into the foundation on which we stand. Our past accomplishments were made by men and women of courage, faith, and love. Bank Street's illustrious past has a solid foundation on which to stand as it faces the challenges to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

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