Known as the “Friendly church on the hill,” this past Sunday, Brooklyn’s First Baptist Church of Crown Heights celebrated its 69th anniversary with the Rev. Rashad Raymond Moore. Sixty-nine years ago the church was founded by the late Rev. Clarence Norman Sr. and 20 members. The celebrations were held on Friday and Sunday, June 24 and 26, 2022. There was mighty praise song, followed by a health and jazz fair.
In March 1953 20 men and women birthed the “First Baptist Mission of Williamsburg.” Sis. Ethel Brown hosted the first prayer service at her home, with Clarence Norman presiding. In April 1953 the New Hope Baptist Association voted to recognize the First Baptist Mission of Williamsburg as a Missionary Baptist Church. That day, the First Baptist Mission became the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg. Clarence Norman was ordained and appointed its pastor.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Clarence Norman Sr., the church continued to grow. In April of 1962, the church secured the title to a building located on Monroe Street in Brooklyn. However, two days before Christmas in 1962, tragedy struck. A fire destroyed a large portion of this new church building on Monroe Street, leaving only the gym and Sunday School rooms intact. The First Baptist Church of Williamsburg soon resumed its worship in those spaces, but the search for a new worship space lasted nearly five years.
On July 1, 1967, The First Baptist Church of Williamsburg moved into its new and current location at 450 Eastern Parkway and changed its name officially to The First Baptist Church of Crown Heights.
Understanding its call to do both ministry and justice, the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights has addressed community issues such as job training, housing development, as well as services for the homeless and the elderly since its inception. Under Pastor Norman’s anointed leadership, numerous ministers also accepted the call to preach the gospel and were ordained, including Reverends Karim Camara, Beaulah Smith, Christine Caton, Ava Jolley, and Iana Ryan. Additionally, various ministries were launched, the community was transformed, and innumerable lives were changed.
In preparation to pass the mantle of pastoral leadership, Pastor Norman installed the Rev. Daryl G. Bloodsaw as the assistant pastor in 2011. The Rev. Bloodsaw worked closely with Pastor Norman in the years to follow to implement new programs, as well as prepare the church for ministry in the 21st century.
After 62 years of service as the undershepherd of First Baptist, Pastor Norman passed away in 2015. After its mourning period, the church gathered and voted overwhelmingly to elevate the Rev. Bloodsaw to the position of pastor, a position in which he served until September 2019.
In August 2019, the church again gathered to select its next leader. Accordingly, on Jan. 19, 2020, the Rev. Rashad Raymond Moore, a young minister from Brooklyn who had served at The Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem for many years, was installed as the third pastor in the 66-year history of The First Baptist Church of Crown Heights.
Building on the legacy of Pastors Clarence Norman and Daryl Bloodsaw, the Rev. Moore continues to lead the First Baptist Church with vigor. Under his prophetic guidance, Rev. Moore has deftly navigated our church family through the current health crisis of COVID-19, establishing an online presence that has kept us connected, encouraged, and charged to be a light for our community while in crises.
The church says, “Over the last three months we have seen transition and loss all around the world, and our church family was no exception. In recent months, we have lost long-time members of our congregation—men and women whose prayers and tireless efforts helped to sustain our ministry over the past 67 years. Though they have joined the ancestors in that great cloud of witnesses, we are so grateful for all of their efforts which were devoted to ministry at First Baptist, and for everything they did while they were here.”