Our History

It was the year 1885 and the time had come to break away from the First Baptist Church of Asbury Park, NJ (a predominately White church), located on the southwest corner of Main and Bangs Ave. A group of Blacks who had been worshipping at First Baptist decided they wanted their own place of worship. The pastor of First Baptist, Rev. Frank C. Colby, and the officers were duly informed. The pastor, officers, and congregation tendered their blessings and those Blacks of kindred spirit ceased to attend First Baptist and proceeded to organize a mission. The group’s immediate concern was that of a meeting place.

At first, worship services were held in a rented Salvation Army building located on East Springwood Avenue (Lake Ave.). Reverend R. A. Bolden of Newark, NJ was selected as the first pastor. The membership began to increase and a larger meeting place was rented—the upper story of a building on the northwest corner of Springwood Avenue—the site of the old West Side Drug Store. On September 20, 1891 a meeting was held to elect Trustees in order to become incorporated under the provisions of an Act to incorporate Trustees of Religious Societies. The first trustees of Second Baptist Church elected were S. P. Slover, S. Shortt, J. Riley, Sr., William H. Clark, J. Barber, H. Ward and B. Smith. On October 2, 1891 the Certificate of Incorporation was officially recorded.

The rented worship site continued to be used until October 25, 1901 when a one story used furniture store (which previously had been offered and used for short periods for worship purposes) and the vacant plot of land (present site of the Second Baptist Church and original parsonage) were purchased. The Reverend J. C. Price succeeded the Reverend Bolden as pastor. Acquisition and ownership of the land and a building heralded a new era in the determined struggle of the church to establish permanency. Through the efforts of Pastor Price and the steady growing membership, plans were developed and initial steps were taken to transport the purchased building to its present site on Atkins Avenue, to renovate it extensively and to beautify the grounds.

Reverend Duvall succeeded Rev. J. C. Price as pastor. He served as pastor for only a short while and was succeeded by Rev. E. M. King in 1911. Under the pastorate of Reverend King, efforts were successfully made to ease the church’s debt entailed by the many changes made to the church’s structure, and the planning of a Church Parsonage. However, in1922, the sudden death of Reverend King left the church without a pastor. In an attempt to fulfill the vacancy, an invitation was sent to Reverend John H. Ashby, Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia. At the time, Reverend Ashby was also engaged in Christian work and services at Virginia Theological Seminary and College, Lynchburg Va. The Reverend Ashby accepted a second extended invitation, and with his election to the pastor ship, he thus began 34 years of dedicated and devoted spiritual service to Second Baptist Church. Many of the present church features are the result of his untiring efforts working with the church membership to update the church edifice. The building was remolded; brick replaced the wooden frame work, a choir loft and organ was installed , the pulpit redecorated, a Baptist Pool constructed, church offices were included and the churches balcony was erected. In 1944 the church developed a new financial system; a $5000 mortgage was “burned,” a lot adjacent to the church was purchased and the Parsonage on Union Avenue was completed. Second Baptist present.

On July 1, 1956, after 34 years of service of active ministry to the Second Baptist Church, Dr. John A. Ashby retired. The Reverend Alfred L. Pugh the former pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist church, In Rutherford New, Jersey was elected pastor, June 25, 1956. Under Rev Pugh’s dynamic pastorate, the church doubled in active membership. Under Rev Pugh’s able leadership the Christian Education Building was built and dedicated to the service of God. Realizing the call to another field of service Rev. Pugh resigned in January 1967.

On January 15th , 1968 Rev. Verner R. Matthews, a graduate of Shelton College, and the New York Theological Seminary, and former Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York was unanimously elected pastor. Reverend Matthews was a seasoned world traveler. In 1970 he traveled around the world. In 1971 he toured Israel and Rome and in response to a, “Pulpit Exchange Invitation” in 1973 he traveled to Accrington, England. Under Rev. Matthews’ leadership the Second Baptist Church membership continued to grow and the church was able to burn the $75,000 mortgage for the Education Building, on Sunday April 12 1970. Under his ministry, a comprehensive Christian Education program was instituted and the Kiddie Kare Child Development Program Center (Day Care Unit) was established. In 1999, after 31 years of distinguished service as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Rev. Matthews retired.

An interim pastor, Reverend Arthur Lee Johnson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania served for 20 months while the church searched for new a pastor. Reverend Brian J. Wells, from Indianapolis, Indiana answered the call and was elected pastor in September, 2000.

During Reverend Well’s tenure as pastor, the Second Baptist Church family continued to grow leading to the establishment of two Sunday morning worship services. Through his leadership, needed infrastructure improvements were made within the church sanctuary (new pews, carpet and the choir area was brought down from the balcony); the educational building (new windows, air conditioners, carpet). He increased the collection of funds from church members and tenants of the church’s owned apartments; created the Audio Visual Ministry and he also selected an outstanding Minister of Music, Mr. Ron Joseph of Asbury Park, who significantly enhanced the music ministry of the church. Rev Wells resigned in 2007 returning to his home state of Indiana.

Rev. Terrence Keeling from South Jersey and Rev. Girdie B. Washington from Neptune, NJ served as interim pastors as the church searched for a new pastor. Rev. Keeling served 14 months and Rev. Girdie B. Washington served for 10 months.

In January 2010 Reverend Doctor Byron P. Wess was selected as the new Pastor of Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park (SBCAP) until his tenure ended in June 2012. During Rev. Wess’ tenure, the Second Baptist Church (SBC) website was enhanced to reflect all of the activities performed within the church. SBC celebrated its 125th anniversary by sponsoring four successful events to include a picnic, gospel program, Sunday Anniversary Service and an Anniversary Banquet held at a local restaurant. Over 200 church members and friends attended the banquet where church legacy members were recognized because their ancestors were founders of the church or have been a part of the church for over 100 years; also, long serving members who were stepping down from their positions within the church were also officially recognized. The Edythe Douglass Food Pantry Ministry was established at SBC in 2010. The food pantry has become a major ministry at the church as it has helped hundreds of individuals in the Asbury Park west side community to supplement their food and clothing needs.

In October 2012, Second Baptist Church selected Rev. William E. Colman, Jr. to serve as its Interim Pastor. Reverend Coleman serves as an Associate Pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, NJ, and resides in Ewing, NJ. In the spring of 2013, Second Baptist started a Boy Scout Troop #241 and a Cub Pack #241 at the church, and in August 2013, Second Baptist completed work on its new parking lot on the vacant lot it owned behind the church.

On April 17, 2016, the members of Second Baptist Church commenced its covenant relationship with Rev. Dr. Semaj Vanzant, Sr. in his installation as the 10th pastor of this ministry. During his tenure, the church experienced changes in many areas. Nearing the end of the summer of 2022, Dr. Vanzant left the pastorate at Second Baptist to pursue other interests.

The church family called Dr. Gloria White Allen as their Interim Pastor on March 1, 2023. Dr. Allen brought seasoned pastoral experiences, well honed administrative and leadership development skills, proven counseling knowledge, banking and budgeting expertise, and a deep love for the people at Second Baptist. In the five months that she was with us, Dr. Allen helped galvanize the people in a joy-filled manner and collaboratively charted a clear course so that God-glorifying ministry may continue. We are very appreciative of the contributions Dr. Allen made while at Second Baptist, and we will continue to lift up her family in prayer on her sudden passing (August 5, 2023).

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