A Brief Overview of Our History
Second Freewill Baptist Church, formerly known by its fictitious name as Pond Street Baptist Church, traced its history far back in the beginning of 1819 when the African Union Meeting House and School House Society was formed solely to provide worship and training place for Negroes, a place they would call their own. In 1821 the building to house the group was completed and dedicated. The majority of the Negroes churches in the United States then traced their history to this society. Not until 1830 that twenty-six men and five women, led by Rev. John Lewis, withdrew because of discontentment over some blacks consent to slavery and organized themselves as The Abyssinian Baptist Church. Three years later, The Abyssinian Baptist Church was admitted into a quarterly meeting of Free-Will Baptist churches of Rhode Island, which had incorporated in 1826, under the name of The Abyssinian Free-Will Baptist Church.
Rev. John Lewis continued to pastor the newly formed church until 1838 when he departed. Prior to his departure, the group met in homes but not for long when membership began to grow and the need for a hall began apparent and they hired a hall on Meeting Street and then Chapel Street. For a brief period the group went without leader until 1841 when Luke Waldron was hired as its pastor. Under his leadership in September of 1841, the church built a place of worship on the corner of Pond and Angel Streets. A year later in 1842, a charter was granted to the church by the Rhode Island General Assembly under the name, “The Second Freewill Baptist Church.” The charter was granted bearing the names of Cato Northrup, who was the church's treasurer then, and Luke Waldron, the pastor. At the time the church had a membership of about fifty. After 74 years of being located on the corner of Angle and Pond Streets, the church fictitiously adopted the name Pond Street Baptist Church.
Rev. Edward Scott began the next pastor and served the church from 1846 to 1864. Prior to coming to Rhode Island, Rev. Scott had been sold into slavery in the New Orleans slave market, where he later escaped on a vessel to New York and eventually moved to Rhode Island. In 1864 Rev. Scott and his wife moved to Paris Island, South Carolina to work among freedmen, but subsequently became ill and died on October 3, 1864 and he was buried in Providence.
Following the leadership of several pastors, Rev. Samuel DeWitt Proctor was installed as its pastor in 1945. Rev. Proctor proved to be one of the most popular pastors to serve Pond Street Baptist Church. It was during his pastorate the church moved from its long stay on Pond Street to a new-found location at the corner of Stewart and Pond Streets.
During the pastorate of Rev. Bernard Holliday in 1963, it became evident that the church was being plunged into what proved to be the most controversial period of its existence; it was learned that the church property was slated to be condemned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency as part of a 67-acre redevelopment project that would force the church to be relocated. After much deliberations by the church, it was concluded to build the new location in South Providence, The Area of Most Need, where the church is now located on 75 Chester Avenue.
The next several years proved to be a period of adjustments to the new community and a challenge to the church. Rev. Carl C. Banks was installed as pastor of the church followed by Rev. James Leary, Rev. Jack Clark, Rev. Charles Coverdale, and Rev. Virgil Wood, who served two terms, and subsequently retired.
After serving the church for six years as Associate Pastor to Rev. Dr. Virgil Wood, Rev. Dr. Ernest Ward became the next pastor of Pond Street Baptist church on September 3, 2006. He served as senior pastor for Pond Street Baptist Church until 2011when he resigned to move unto greater calling.
Today, our newly Pastor-Elect, Reverend Alvin L. Johnson has been called to shepherd the flock. He was installed at a banquet in his honor as the new senior pastor for Pond Street Baptist Church on Saturday, May 24, 2014. His dynamic and energetic leadership is beginning to reverberate throughout the church as he structures and puts the church on a growth path. Already the church has officially reverted to its historical and original name as The Second Freewill Baptist Church and has dropped the fictitious Pond Street Baptist Church name.