The Church History
Second Freewill Baptist Church, formerly known as Pond Street Baptist Church, traced its history to the beginning of 1819 when the African Union Meeting House and School House Society was formed. Its sole purpose was to provide a 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. During that time, a majority of Negroes churches in the United States traced their history to this society. In 1830, twenty-six men and five women, led by Rev. John Lewis, withdrew from the society because of discontentment over the consent of some blacks to slavery, and they 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 was Pastor of the newly formed church until 1838 when he departed. Prior to his departure, however, the group met in homes until membership began to grow and the need for a hall became apparent. The church secured halls on Meeting Street and then Chapel Street to hold its worship services and fellowship. For a brief period of time, the church went without a shepherd until 1841 when Rev. Luke Waldron was hired as its Pastor. Under his leadership in the church built a place of worship on the corner of Pond and Angel Streets in September, 1841. 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 Rev. Luke Waldron, the Pastor. At that 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 adopted the name “Pond Street Baptist Church.”
Rev. Edward Scott became the next Pastor and served the church from 1846 to 1864. Prior to moving to Rhode Island, Rev. Scott’s history includes having been sold into slavery in the New Orleans slave market, where he later escaped on a vessel to New York. In 1864, after his tenure as Pastor, Rev. Scott and his wife moved to Paris Island, South Carolina to work among freedmen. He subsequently became ill and died on October 3, 1864. 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 location at the corner of Stewart and Pond Streets.
In 1963, during the pastorate of Rev. Bernard Holliday in 1963, the church was plunged into the most controversial period of its existence. The church body was informed that their church property was slated to be condemned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency as part of a 67-acre redevelopment project. As such, the church would be forced to relocate. After much deliberations, the church body decided to build at a new location in South Providence, an area they considered to be of most need. The land located at 75 Chester Avenue in Providence was consecrated and the new church building was dedicated in 1965 and continues conduct its worship services at this location to this day.
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. Dr. Virgil Wood, who provided the church with its longest tenured Pastor, serving for a total of 25 years before retiring at the end of 2005 and relocating to Texas.
After serving the church for six years as Associate Pastor to Rev. Dr. Virgil Wood, Rev. Dr. Ernest Ward became Senior Pastor of Pond Street Baptist church on September 3, 2006. He served as Pastor for Pond Street Baptist Church until 2011when he left the church and planted a new church in Rhode Island.
In January 2014, Rev. Alvin L. Johnson was called to shepherd the flock and he was installed at a banquet in his honor as the new Senior Pastor for Pond Street Baptist Church on Saturday, May 24, 2014. It was during his tenure that the church body officially reverted to its historical and original name “The Second Freewill Baptist Church”
and dropped its adopted Pond Street Baptist Church name. Rev. Johnson resigned as Senior Pastor in October, 2016 to return with his wife to his home in Rochester, NY.
Beginning November, 2016, Minister Sando T. D. Moore, II, a longstanding minister at the church and who formerly served as an Interim Pastor for the church, provided the leadership and spiritual guidance to the church body until September 9, 2018 when Rev. Dr. Cynthia Smothers was called to serve as its Intentional Interim Pastor. Rev. Smothers presently continues to serve in that capacity as the church body undergoes transitional and spiritual preparedness for God’s call for His shepherd to serve as the new Senior Pastor for Second Free Will Baptist Church. The church body patiently and faithfully await, in fervent and unceasing prayer, for God’s Blessing to be bestowed upon his disciples of Second Free Will Baptist Church. To God we give All the Glory! Amen.