Remembering the old landmark

Published 4:43 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

I wanted to thank the Washington Daily News and Clark Curtis for a wonderful and inspiring story about the history and legacy of Spring Garden Missionary Baptist Church. The article chronicled and illustrated what the Church has meant to the Washington community for 156 years.

Often, I am asked by readers to write something personally about me. They ask about things that I like, what books that I have read, what people have inspired me, or what things do I feel have made me the person I am today.

I can summarize some of those questions by simply saying that I grew up in Spring Garden Missionary Baptist Church. The church is a ‘landmark of faith’ in my ancestry and has been an anchor of faith to me as well.  My great grandmother Mollie, born 1864, went Spring Garden and my grandparents were members of the church.  Pastor Cornelius Edward Askew was instrumental in helping to advance the spiritual, financial and academic advancement of the African American community.  He was pivotal in bringing Dr. Booker T. Washington to speak here in Washington in 1910, helped organize the first African American bank in Washington and married my grandparents in 1909.

It was at Spring Garden Church that I not only learned of the saving faith and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, but saw it on full display there.   From the men and women who taught Sunday School, ‘B. T. U.’ (Baptist Training Union), Vacation Bible School and those who organized programs and plays to teach us children how to grow in faith, to the Pastors and leaders who showed us what Jesus was like, not only in sermons but in deeds, established the blueprint for my life.

I grew from wondering at age five why the choir sang a song about laundry ‘Bringing in the Sheets,’ to understanding why the REAL words, ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’ were applicable to me as a young adult.  I learned that trying to be the Sunday School class clown and saying, “remember the Alamo and keep it holy” instead of “remember “God’s Holy Word and keep it holy” was not to be tolerated. It brought a quick snatch from the front of the sanctuary into the bathroom by my mom and my Sunday School teacher when I was seven. To make matters worse, I had to go back and stand in line with the other kids in front of the church saying their Bible verses, knowing everyone heard those smacks on my legs from mama. I learned to respect God’s Word.

I learned in this church that no matter where I went in life, I needed to stay grounded in the word of God.  When I moved to the New York City after graduating high school, I joined Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church. I was there for several years and then I went in search of a Baptist church that reminded me of Spring Garden.

I am who I am today in Christ because of my early teachings of faith in this church and a family who honored faith and helped me grow in it.

The 156th Anniversary of the church begins tonight, Wednesday, August 30th at 7:00.  Please consider coming to celebrate with us.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.