From a mind that germinated more than one church in the Tulsa community came Paradise Baptist Church of Christ, our name, according to its 1926 cornerstone. This Paradise was the brain seed of J. J. Latham and twelve others, aspiring to “spread the word” in the Gurly Hills addition of Tulsa. According to sources, Reverend R. D. Bowen officially organized the church on December 12, 1912 in a room of the Latham home. Reverend R. D. Jones was called as its first preacher.
“Why spread the word?” can be summed in a quote written in the American Baptist Pulpit, “We are engaged in warfare. Battles are to be fought daily. Victories are to be won daily. Victories are to be won for ourselves and for the Lord Christ.”
Through the years, Paradise has engaged in “warfare” to spread the word. Operating from, “The Old Roadhouse”, (at) approximately 822 North Greenwood, this band of warriors began spiritual encounters. Seeking a place of their own, the band purchased land at the corner of Bryant and Frankfort Streets. Bryant was changed to King Street after the (1921) riot. It took two years to erect a building made of “rusty” tin with a sawdust floor (and) with seats made from 1′ x 4′ planks.
Over the years, the band prospered under the guidance of leaders captained by ministers E. W. Franklin , M W. Montgomery and C. H. Whiting. The band initially built the basement for the church in 1917. C. H. Whiting built the second story after his arrival from Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1921. Unfortunately, the building was burned on June 1, during the infamous race riot. J. M. Christmas from Natchez, Mississippi, Oklahomans W. M. Bouner and J. W. Kelley of Austin, Texas, rebuilt the burned building in 1926. A parsonage was built in 1927.
After the short but successful pastorates of Bonner and Kelly, Reverend A. L. Branch, everybody’s friend, was called to Paradise on December 12, 1930. He led the congregation for 29 years. His quest was to free the band from current debt, as well as remodel and repair the 1926 building. Our first baptistery was completed under his guidance, alleviating the need to baptize wherever we could find water, street parks, other churches, or even the Arkansas River. Reverend Branch helped the “Band of Warriors” to continue to “spread the word” weathering the years of WWII. Before his appointed hour, he recognized his failing health, and recommended Reverend J. Castina Jackson to lead the “Band of Warriors”, on November 9, 1956.
Jackson’s ministry was characterized by education. In fact, he often admonished young ministers, “So you’ve been called, now learn what to say.” He established programs that focused on education and training programs for the young to “spread the word.” Under Jackson’s leadership, the 1926 building was demolished and an educational building was erected to serve the community. On a temporary basis, this facility was used for worship services as well. On September 18, 1960, we entered the present sanctuary. For twenty two years, he fashioned the battle to “spread the word.”
As warriors are slain, new soldiers rise to carry on the warfare. So it was with Prince Maxwell Jr., who had been influenced in earlier years by his father, Reverend Prince Maxwell, Sr. He accepted the shield on July 15, 1979. He was nurtured by “Little Jack” and grew in faithfulness and selflessness. During Jackson absence and illness Reverend Maxwell, led the church in all of its services. His belief that the family held preeminence next to the Father, Son, Holly Sprit and he continued “spreading of the word.” In general, he believed that families should be proponents of the word. The J. Castina Jackson Fellowship Hall was completed during the Maxwell Administration, providing the church with a larger kitchen, a library, an auditorium with a stage and a choir room. Reverend Maxwell served this church and community for twenty years prior to his retirement in July 1999.
During a brief period, July thru September 1999, the Reverend/Dr. Rena LaCour was approved as the Interim Pastor of the Paradise Baptist Church. A search for a new pastor was underway and her task was to continue the work of the church until that person was called.
On September 19, 1999, the mantle of responsibility for leading the band of warriors shifted to Sam Holmes Jr. Paradise had officially phased from Maxwell to Holmes, still intent on “spreading the word.” Reverend Holmes has brought with him an intense thirst for God’s word. In his “tool box”, he carries not only a zeal for teaching the word, but a zest for providing services. The operation of Ben Hill Park and the Image Builder Summer Day Camp are examples of his enthusiastic means of “spreading the word” in the spirit of What Would Jesus Do? It should be noted that the search committee was looking for a preacher and in Sam Holmes we found a gospel preacher, a gospel singer, as well as an outstanding gospel teacher.
Major improvements to the church building and grounds would indicate his leadership skills are growing as well. Under his leadership the PBC CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN (CIP) has raised enough funds to double the parking spaces, build and equip the “Sound Room” & replace most of the ageing heating and air condition equipment.
We’ve now moved on to taking Paradise into the new Millennium by improving Paradise’s digital and online presence by installing a video screen in the sanctuary, updating the website and instituting an App for giving.
As time has evolved, each leader has impacted the congregation and community based on his philosophies and ideologies but each fundamental attack has always been to “spread the word” — God’s word!!!
“It Just Doesn’t Get Any Better Than Paradise”