The story of Northside Baptist Church is full of names. There are names like Dr. Sam Gore, our neighbor and friend who was instrumental in "planting" a new church on the north side of Clinton in 1969. Other names include Norman and Audra O'Neal, who worked faithfully to help us learn how to be a church, and of course, Nancy Bright, a theologian and poet who wrote liturgies and expanded our vision of theology and worship.
In fact, if you really want to know Northside, you might want to begin by worshiping with us on All Saints Sunday, which we observe on the first Sunday of every November. On that day we read the names of the real-life, down-to-earth saints, who have died while members of our church. We are young enough that we can still read this list in one service, but it is growing longer than we can believe. All Saints is a tender day for us because we still love these people and miss them fiercely, but it has become a day of true joy and hope because we can see how God has used these ordinary, peculiar saints to graft us into God's long story of redemption.
Northside began in the spring of 1969 with a survey sponsored by First Baptist Church, Morrison Heights Baptist Church and the Hinds-Madison Association to see how many people would come to a third Baptist church located on the north side of Clinton.
The response to the survey was good so the Hinds-Madison Association called a meeting in April of that year of the people who were interested and 51 attended. The temporary name of Clinton Park Baptist Chapel was adopted and the Association provided 5 acres of land at the present location. Our first meetings were in schools and businesses in the Clinton area. Reverend George Lewis loaned us a tent that seated 250 people. We also had two trailers, one we used for Sunday school and one for a Nursery.
Reverend Bill Watson accepted the call as interim pastor and a church was born. We met in that tent through rain and snow and cold and heat until our first building was completed on October 18, 1970. There were 26 families that signed as charter members. Soon after, we bought an additional 5 acres from one of our neighbors, Mr. R. D. Calhoun. We also built and dedicated a Children's Educational Building. In 1973, a kindergarten ministry was added under the direction of Mary Ann Greene.
Northside was unique in its beginnings. Those founding members decided the church would begin its ministry with an open door policy. In the late 1960's, that meant we did not deny anyone membership because of race. It was a courageous and unusual step at the time, and that decision helped make us a distinctive place. We hope and pray that we continue to live into the full implications of that one decision made long ago, though we have a lot of work yet to do.
Our church camping trips to Cooper's Lake brought us closer. We like to eat and used every excuse to have dinner on the ground, ice cream suppers and bar-b-ques. We have had some turbulent times also but through the grace of God, we have worked through differences to emerge with an identity and a purpose. A church is not a building but a body of believers who encourage, support, challenge, and accept each other just as Christ does. Northside is this kind of church.
Through the early members such as Ed Akin, Dick Brogan, and James Porch (our first pastor), we learned the true roots and meanings of our Baptist heritage. It was at Northside that the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church became precious gifts from our Anabaptist ancestors. Because of those foundations, Northside has always tried to listen to the voice of every member, and even privilege the voices of the meek, the quiet, and the poor. We have also taken seriously that freedom to interpret the Scriptures together freely, as led by the Spirit in communion with one another. Of course, these are risky ventures, and we have failed occasionally, but these are the kind of risks we believe we are called to take.
Steve McNeely, Northside's second pastor, led us to adopt a Laotian of two brothers and a cousin, as well as challenged us to consider theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was during his tenure that Nancy Bright joined us on the journey. Nancy was a lay theologian and writer who provided many liturgical writings and poems, and eventually at her death, left the church a large financial gift that resulted in the present large sanctuary. Her book of poems and writings, as well as a plaque in her memory, grace the foyer of that sanctuary.
Interim pastors have contributed their own unique gifts to Northside. Through Bob Shurden and Buddy Wagner, members were challenged to new concepts of worship-- from litany to a life of self-sacrifice. Then pastor John Stanley provided the move toward a style of worship patterned on ancient Anglican traditions. Robes and litany and the following of the traditional church year became the worship style. We share our Bible readings, church seasons, colors, and symbols with Christians the world over.
Through the years Northside has tried to tackle difficult questions without the fear that they would tear us apart. The question of the place of women in the church resulted in a year-long study by a committee of members. Their prayerful and deliberate recommendations to the church led us to elect women deacons and embrace women pastors. Our first women deacons served during the pastorate of James Byrd. Later, our first woman assistant pastor was Linda McComb with pastor John Stanley. Now, our youth are all included in speaking and taking offering and young women as well as young men are encouraged to offer their gifts to the service of God in whatever capacity they are called.
After a great deal of prayerful consideration Northside has come to support and join with a wide variety of Baptists across the country and around the world. We are deeply involved in the work of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and we regularly support CBF missionaries. We also support the Alliance of Baptists while we retain our membership in the Southern Baptist Convention. Just recently we have begun to increase our support of the Baptist World Alliance.
Other interims and pastors have served Northside, providing continued physical and spiritual growth. During the tenure of Tom Pearson we deepened our understanding of worship and widened our theological vision. During the pastorship of John Hendrix the large sanctuary was built, and we were led to center our common life around the table at the center of that cross-shaped space.
The current pastors of Northside are Stan Wilson and Susan Meadors. Susan has served almost twenty years, first as Minister of Youth and now Associate Pastor. Stan has served almost twelve years as pastor. With them we have focussed on both congregational and spiritual formation. Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, as well as mission trips to Macedonia, and Pearlington on our Mississippi Coast have provided concrete ways to practice God's love with those in need. We have joined in partnership with Premeira Igreja Batista em Bultrins, a Baptist congregation in Olinda, Brazil. We have begun an After School Ministry, reignited our garden ministry, begun a small recycling ministry, built a Youth Building and continued to address challenging issues.
One of our members, Bradley Pope, helped to establish and support the ministry of the Clinton Community Christian Cooperation (4 C's), that provides house repair, food, clothing, and meals on wheels to our neediest citizens right here in Clinton. In addition, many members are teachers or counselors, including those involved with Hospice Ministries, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and others.
Early on Northside adopted the symbol of the four crosses which you will find at the top of this page, and through the years many have asked us what they mean. The crosses stand for caring, sharing, growing, and proclaiming. But as members, we also believe that the last cross represents the one that each of us takes up in order to follow Christ.
Join us on the journey!
Pastors of Northside Baptist Church
Bill Watson called as interim pastor when church was formed, July 1969
James Porch February 1971 - April 1977
Bob Shurden (Interim) May 1977
Steve McNeely November 1977 - February 1981
Curtis Burge (Interim) March 1981
James Byrd August 1981 - July 1984
Buddy Wagner (Interim) September 1984
John Stanley June 1985 - July 31, 1990
Buddy Wagner (Interim) September 1990
Tom Pearson August 1991 - February 1995
Edwin Broadhead (Interim) February 1995
John Hendrix January 1, 1996 - January 1, 2002
Michael Johnson (Interim) February 2002
Stan Wilson July 1, 2002 - January 15, 2017
Bob Newell (Interim) 2017