The Rose of Sharon Baptist Church came into existence on March 3, 1908, when sixty-five (65) people met in Butler Hall on Lee Street for the purpose of worshiping. Approximately six (6) weeks later, April 26, 1908, they invited a young minister from Avoyelles Parish to come and preach for them in their worship services. The group was impressed by the young Minister, Reverend James Wesley White, and on May 14, 1908 chose him to become their pastor, after he had preached in their Thursday night services.
The first Deacons were Brothers T. Bacon, Ed Butler, L. Byrd, Thad Miller, Frank Prothro, John Tabor and H. K. Young, Chairman.
The first trustees were Brothers William Ashby, Walter M. Beatty, H. A. DeLacy, Secretary, W. J. Jackson, Charles Johnson, Treasurer, Thad Miller and W. D. Prather, Chairman, W. R. Wright and Allen Thomas. The first Deaconesses were Martha Bookman, Delia Garrison, Rachael Burgess, Lydia Hood, Louisa Pea, Rachel Strong and Nep Powell.
The members, realizing that a permanent place of worship was needed in 1908, purchased a lot on the corner of Tenth and Saint James Streets. The building served its purpose very well, but unfortunately, was destroyed by fire in 1911. The members, not to be deterred by misfortune, constructed another building immediately thereafter.
Rev. J. W. White
According to the memoirs of Reverend James Wesley White in 1908, the first marriage ceremony was performed by him at the church uniting Frank Rogers and Fannie Cooper. The first funeral was that of Sister Charlotte Humphrey, and five candidates were presented for baptism. Further, according to his memoirs, some of the great and notable men in the area preached in revivals and special services at the church. A few of those men were H. C. Foster, A. L. Haygood, Charles L. Roberts and W. W. Roberts.
The members of the church had the foresight to see that the church needed to be properly organized. On April 11, 1910, The Rose of Sharon Baptist Church became incorporated by the State of Louisiana and the initial incorporators were Ed Butler, Louis Byrd, Daniel Johnson, Thad Miller, T. E. McPherson, W. D. Prather, Frank Prothro and John Tabor. It should be noted that Rose of Sharon probably was the first black church in the area to become incorporated.
The church prospered and grew under the pastorage of J. W. White and the congregation consisted of approximately 400 members. The church was well organized and had very active auxiliaries to implement the church’s programs. Some of the auxiliaries were Board of Deacons, Deaconesses, Trustees, Junior and Sanctuary Choirs, Women’s Missionary Society and its auxiliaries; Sunshine Band, Red Circle Girls, Young Women’s Junior Church, Board of Christian Education, and the Pastor’s Aid Society. The Boy Scouts of America and the Sweet Home Benevolent Society were organized and became an integral part of the church’s program.
Rev. W. A. White
On March 20, 1947, Reverend J. W. White passed this life. The church being well organized and blessed with strong, dedicated Christian leaders continued to prosper and grow. In 1947, the church elected Reverend W. A. White, son of James Wesley White, to serve as Pastor. Under the leadership of Rev. W. A. White, the church was renovated at a cost of four thousand dollars. The renovations included moving the choir stand from the upstairs balcony, installation of restrooms, and the relocation of the secretary’s office. The membership also purchased yet another piece of property adjacent to the church at the cost of approximately three thousand dollars.
More auxiliaries were established to carry out the church’s programs. The Brotherhood and Tots choirs were organized. Visual aids became a part of the teaching program of the church and a library was established to collect materials and equipment. The coffee hour was established wherein the members could fellowship once a month after the First Sunday services.
Through the years, Rose of Sharon has played a major role in the Eighth District Missionary Baptist Association, the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention and the National Baptist Convention, United States of America. The church has elected a building and planning committee, and on July 12, 1959, presented its plans for a new church. Those plans were accepted and the ground breaking ceremonies were held July 12, 1959. Approximately eleven months later, June 12, 1960, the new church was dedicated. The cost of construction was $175,000 and the mortgage note was burned June 12, 1966.
Again, the church purchased another parcel of property at a cost of $29,775.00. This parcel would be designed as a parking lot for the membership. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on October 21, 1966. With this parcel, the property owned by the church now extended from Saint James to Winn Street.
With the passing of time and improved transportation, Interstate 49 became a reality and transformed the physical environment surrounding the church. Yet, the physical plant itself was undaunted. The vision of Rev. White and the congregation was to expand as the church grew and it had accomplished its goal.
Finally, after some fifty plus years of continuous Christian service, Rev. W. A. White requested retirement on the fifth Sunday in November, 1997. He asked that his retirement become effective immediately and it was granted.
Pastor Larry D. Smith
The church remained administratively and spiritually strong during the interim period of searching for a pastor. Each member was asked to pray daily for God to send us a spirit-filled pastor. God answered our prayers. After some twelve (12) months of searching for a pastor, God sent The Reverend Larry Douglas Smith, Associate Minister of The Shiloh Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was overwhelmingly elected pastor by the Board of Trustees and the Congregation on the second Saturday in February, 2000. Rev. Smith was installed on March 12, 2000, and he became the third Pastor in the history of the church.
The church rallied behind Rev. Larry Smith and together they forged a new direction. Major emphasis was placed on membership revitalization. Prayer was the order of the day, “God provided the increase” and the membership grew. The Music Department overflowed with participation at every level. As a congregation the church demonstrated a zeal for Kingdom Building. Existing auxiliaries were strengthened and new ones were created. New programs and activities were developed to meet a variety of spiritual needs with special emphasis on youth, seniors and community outreach. The church committed to an annual fundraising drive (Rally Day) which provided additional funds to finance the new Church Improvement Plan. Additional property was purchased resulting in a new parking lot. To keep pace with technology, a twelve-station Computer Lab was installed, which was the result of collaboration between Southern University’s Agricultural Department and Rose of Sharon. The Lord answered our prayers. Rev. Smith has brought many improvements to Rose of Sharon and the rest of the story has yet to be told. To God be the Glory!