The Rev. James R. Coel, the pastor of a circuit of North Carolina churches, relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in 1926 to become the Pastor of Fountain Baptist Church. After 5 years of serving, Rev. Coel resigned his position; and he and his members met in homes to form the Southern Baptist Church. The first service was held on April 5, 1931, with 250 to 275 members on Mulliken and Spring Streets.
After moving to several locations during the depression years, Pastor Coel’s health began to fail. Rev. James R. Grant was asked to take up the mantle. After Pastor Coel’s death on June 21, 1937, Rev. James R. Grant was elected Pastor.
Under Pastor Grant’s leadership, the church grew; became state incorporated in 1941, and was able to purchase the building at Preston and Streets in 1942. Because of the growth, the membership decided to purchase the 1700 block of Chester Street property with the God given mission to build a new edifice.
Rev. Nathaniel Higgs was called by God and preached his trial sermon under Rev. Grant. On October 4, 1965 Pastor Grant was called from earth to reward and in November 1966 Rev. Nathaniel Higgs was elected the third Pastor of Southern Baptist Church. Under his leadership the church took on many innovations such as, developing choirs, expanding ministries and being first to create an Early Morning Worship.
On June 4, 1972, the Southern Baptist Church moved into its new edifice at 1701 N. Chester Street. And on June 5, 1977, the church burned its 30 year mortgage in only four years and eleven months. In 2002 the church built the Coel, Grant Higgs Senior Housing Project providing affordable senior housing with close access to the church. Reverend Higgs was a strong and stalwart leader as Pastor of the Southern Baptist Church and represented the church as President of the United Baptist Convention of Maryland and Vicinity. Reverend Higgs also led the church in making the first investments into the Harbor Bank of Md , the first African American minority owned bank in the state and served on its Board of Trustees for the balance of his life. Reverend Nathaniel Higgs retired after 36 faithful and fruitful years of serving as the Beloved Pastor of the Southern Baptist Church.
After Reverend Donté Hickman preached at Southern in January of 1992 on his way to attend Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, Reverend Nathaniel Higgs announced in a prophetic manner that he would be the next Pastor of the Southern Baptist Church and the Lord caused it to come to pass ten years later. On Sunday, October 6, 2002 Reverend Donté’ Lamont Hickman, Sr. was presented and installed by Reverend Nathaniel Higgs and further ratified by the church as the fourth Pastor of the Southern Baptist Church.
On January 1, 2003, after a year of preaching, teaching, praying and preparing Pastor Hickman led the leadership and membership in creating a vision and mission statement for the church. Reverend Hickman studied and taught the church Rick Warren’s model of The Purpose Driven Church and emphasized that while the beginning of Acts 2 reveals the Pentecostal power and presence of God for the church that the end of Acts 2 reveals the purpose of God for the church through the early church’s practice of evangelism, worship, discipleship, fellowship and stewardship. And from those teachings our vision became Transforming the Church and the Community into the Kingdom of God. And our mission to accomplish the vision became Southern is committed to Encouraging People to Faith in Christ, Experiencing the Presence of God, Educating Believers, Embracing Family Values and Equipping Disciples for Spirit-filled leadership and living.
After establishing the Vision and Mission of Southern Baptist Church Pastor Hickman led the church in a half million dollar renovation of the building and sanctuary and introduced the church to a ministry of technology. He believed that the church had to engage successive generations and an ever evolving society with the Southern Baptist Church ministry of the Word of God and worship through media and technology. And in later years Pastor Hickman led the church in an upgrade of its technology from new lighting and Jumbotron screens in the sanctuary to being the first in the city to install an LED Wall in the sanctuary and pulpit to enhance worship, illustrate the Word and increase the vibrancy and evolving nature of technology in ministry. Pastor Hickman established the church’s first radio broadcast ministry and a Sunday morning television ministry on a major local television station and making it the number one gospel ministry television show in the state. In 2010 Pastor Hickman established Southern Baptist Church on social media by developing a Facebook page for the church that evolved into Twitter, Instagram and its own YouTube Channel to expand the church’s ministry presence.
After renovating the church Pastor Hickman reconfigured the worship services with a purpose-driven church approach to worship and reduced the time of services from three hours to 75 minutes with a worship format he called Summer Breeze that would eventually become the model for Sunday morning worship through every season. And he also introduced the church to electronic and online giving encouraging every member to financially support the church and it’s ministry more conveniently and consistently.
On September 12, 2010, through his divinely inspired leadership, Pastor Hickman extended the church’s outreach of local and global evangelism and discipleship by launching the first multi-site location of Southern Baptist Church in Harford County, MD at the Regal Bel Air Movie Theater in Abiding, Md. In just 5 short months, Southern Baptist Church Harford County outgrew its 325-seat worship space and on February 6th, 2011, Southern Baptist Church Harford County relocated to the Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, Md to accommodate more worshippers, to facilitate Christian education and children’s church and to duplicate the church’s ministry and missions. In 2014, Pastor Hickman lead Southern Baptist Church in acquiring the Joppatowne Swim Club inJoppatowne, Md, and cast the vision to rebuild it to become the permanent campus for Southern Baptist Church, Harford County. After the initial success of establishing Southern Harford County, Pastor Hickman a few years later established our next multi site location in Anne Arundel County and eventually moved it to Howard County to the Howard High School in Elliott City, Md. Pastor Hickman with the help of the Lord grew Southern Baptist Church from two services on Sunday in Baltimore to five services on Sunday in three locations with over 5000 members physically and virtually.
Seeing the urban blight and dilapidation that gripped the East Baltimore community known as Broadway East for over three decades, Pastor Hickman embraced the call of God to revitalize the community around the church through the utility, resources and support of the church. After he established the mantra of Restoring People As We Rebuild Properties he led the church in developing task forces made up of the membership to do a demographic analysis of the community for its real and felt needs and to offer the right services, programs and facilities to redress the needs of the community. Pastor Hickman then successfully and continually engaged the church to raise funds to acquire blocks and blocks of derelict properties and assembled acres of developable parcels to recreate the community and enable opportunities.
On April 15, 2016 Pastor Hickman realized his vision with the signature development of the church’s second low income housing tax credit project for senior citizens known as The Mary Harvin Transformation Center, a 62-unit senior housing facility and a community health center. This same project was burned to the ground after it was 50% completed the previous year during the uprising after the funeral of Freddie Gray who died in police custody. However, the church rebuilt the center and cut the ribbon on it on the anniversary day of the fire the very next year and the miracle was that it was fully leased up on the first day it was opened. Pastor Hickman named it the Mary Harvin Transformation Center after one of the last living founding members of the Southern Baptist Church.
After the uprising due to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody one of the elected officials touted in the Baltimore Sun newspaper that the riots were over and the fires were extinguished and the city could go back to business as usual. Subsequently, Pastor Hickman penned his first opinion editorial in the Baltimore Sun after a book entitled, “Adventures In Missing The Point” and emphasized the need to redress human needs and community capital in our urban environments to mitigate against cyclical community neglect, dilapidation, violence, disparities and poverty. His article caught the attention of Ron Daniels the President of Johns Hopkins University who invited Pastor Hickman to meet with him and then subsequently came to the Broadway East community where Pastor Hickman took President Daniels on a walking tour of the community around the church and shared with him his vision to redevelop the community. President Daniels told Pastor Hickman that he needed a master plan and introduced him to Ayers Saint Gross Architectural Firm.
Bishop Hickman led the Southern Baptist Church to sponsor the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan. The plan engaged and partnered with churches, residents, elected officials, business owners and community stakeholders in developing a grassroots plan that connected the redevelopment of the East Baltimore Development Initiative Situated around the Johns Hopkins Health System beyond the initial elevated railroad track boundary to the more natural community boundary and asset of the Lake Clifton Park, the second largest park in the city of Baltimore. Through Bishop Hickman’s persistent leadership, the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan was adopted by the City of Baltimore Department of Planning in September of 2018.
Bishop Hickman through the Southern Baptist Church, the Southern Baptist Church Community Development Corporation and the Mary Harvin Transformation Center Community Development Corporation that he organized to further the development arm and capacity of the church, acquired and razed three liquor stores to develop Southern Views, an 88-unit multifamily affordable housing project. Under the leadership of Bishop Hickman, the church took the risk of acquiring the former environmentally hazardous Bugle Laundry Factory that had been abandoned for over thirty years and demolished it and began development of the Southern Streams Health and Wellness Center, a 120,000 sq. ft. mixed use development anchored by Johns Hopkins and the Enoch Pratt Free Library, both projects scheduled to break ground in 2021.
In 2022, under Bishop Hickman’s leadership we will break ground on Southern Horizons, a 75-unit senior housing facility. And through Bishop Hickman’s leadership the church has acquired and razed the former Kash and Karry Supermarket, the Auto Dynamics building, three liquor stores and blocks of vacant lots and abandoned houses to continue the development of affordable housing, mixed use property development, a grocer and retail development, a Community Collaborative Public Safety Center and the Southern Community Arts Recreation Education Sanctuary (Southern C.A.R.E.S.). And through Bishop Hickman’s advocacy and sponsorship the former Lawrence G. Paquin High School was conveyed to the Lillie Mae Carrol Jackson School for Girls Middle School
In 2022 under Bishop Hickman’s leadership Southern will break ground on the Synergy Center in Joppatowne, Md. a mixed use center that will include a 74-unit Senior Housing facility and a 40,000 sq. ft. Community Center that will also facilitate worship space for the church’s Harford County location on a five acre property that was formerly the Joppatowne Swim Club. And in 2020 Bishop Hickman submitted a development plan to the Baltimore Development Corporation to obtain the property and development rights of the 40 acre property of the former Lake Clifton High School Campus to develop an Educational, Mixed Use Center, Retail Development and Job Center Hub in the center of Lake Clifton Park. “Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard and neither has it entered into the heart of man the great things that God has prepared for them that love him at Southern Baptist Church”. But we know that the best is still yet to come.