“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
Rev. & Mrs. Johnnie Watkins First Pastor & First Lady - 1940
Second Pastor Rev. N.L. Yancy (center) & members in front of our first box car Church
In the 1940s, the first planning of the church was discussed by Brother Bennie Bradford, Sister Sarah Bradford, Brother Caleb Holmes, and Sister Dessie Holmes. Before canvassing the neighborhood to find out who would be interested in organizing a church, the first home visited was that of Brother and Sister William H. Cheeks. Shortly thereafter, a second meeting was held in the home of Brother and Sister Caleb Homes to further the effort of starting a church.
On August 10, 1940, the Central Garden Missionary Baptist Church was organized by Rev. McKinley Williams for Rev. Johnnie Watkins. With Christian experience letters from Antioch Baptist Church, the membership comprised of Brother Johnnie Douglas, Brother Caleb Holmes, Brother Bennie Bradford, Brother Jim Guidry, Sister Dessie Holmes, and Sister Sarah Bradford, who united the members in order to be in good and regular standing with the church.
The first church meeting was held in the home of Brother and Sister Bennie Bradford. Members agreed that meetings would be held from house-to-house until further arrangements could be made. The church continued to progress, and the membership began to increase. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Jacko in the home of Brother and Sister Lonnie Hughes. The first altar was built by Brother Lorenza Robinson, Sr.
The tabernacle was erected in the yards of the home of various deacons until land was purchased from Rev. Johnnie Watkins. After the land was acquired, Brother Jim Guidry plowed the first furrow during ground breaking ceremonies. Then two boxcars were purchased for one dollar each and assembled side-by-side for the church structure, with sawdust used for the floor.
Central Garden M.B.C.Members in front of the Wood Framed Church
The first deacons were Brother Bennie Bradford, Brother Caleb Holmes, Brother Jim Guidry, and Brother Johnnie Douglas. More were added. Brother Holmes served as chairman. Church officers were Brother Bennie Bradford and Sister E.T. Robinson, who served as secretaries; Brother Johnnie Douglas as treasurer, Sister Dessie Holmes as the first president of the Missionary Society; Brother Lorenza Robinson, Sr., as Sunday School Superintendent; Sister Lola Watkins as pianist.
Rev. N.L. Yancy was called to pastor in March, 1942. Many accomplishments were made by the church under the stewardship of Rev. Yancy and Sister Yancy, and the membership continued to increase. Sister Doris Drew was the pianist for the choir, which comprised of Sister Corelle McNack, Sister Alma McNack, Sister E.T. Robinson, Sister Odessa Holmes, Sister Pinkie Lee Lacey, Sister Mary Lacey, Brother Willie Lacey, Brother Curtis Lacey, and Brother Clarence Lacey.
In 1943, with the help of God and the cooperation of other churches, a new edifice was built. It consisted of a small frame structure with the porch and double-door entrance. During that time, the Usher Board was established and Sister Dessie Holmes presided as president, Rev. Matthew M. Scott succeeded Rev. Yancy and began pastoring on March 16, 1945. Many new members were united with the church, and the music department was expanded, with Sister Emmagene Scott serving as pianist.
In 1950, Brother Ralph McNack became president of the Usher Board. The many church accomplishments were visible and appreciated. Pastor Scott and Sister Scott often sang along with the congregation with meaning, the song “Have a Little Talk with Jesus.” After six years of diligent Christian stewardship, Rev. Scott was called to pastor another church during July, 1951.
Rev. Bennie Blair was called by the members to pastor the church on November 5, 1951. With the loving support of many long-time members, his wife, Sister Eva Blair, assisted the pastor in his many efforts to improve the church. Sister Blair served as pianist, along with Sister Ethel Williams.
Much was accomplished spiritually and financially under Rev. Blair’s stewardship. Working through the help of God, the church was able to build a cafeteria, purchase chairs, and pulpit furniture and make other additions.
The song “I Will Trust in the Lord” was often sung, with great understanding and enthusiasm in response to the pastor’s teaching. Rev. Blair was later called to serve full-time at another church.
The members called Rev. Henry Bradford to be pastor on March 5, 1956. They greeted him and his wife, Sister Laura Bradford with great respect. Rev. Bradford had been recommended by Rev. Blair, and his stewardship instituted many changes that caused the church to progress.
There were three Associate Pastors: Rev. Jesse Edwards, Rev. George Patterson, and Rev. Gilmore. The deacons were Brother James Ervin, Brother Wilbur Roberson, Brother Adger Armstrong, Brother Caleb Holmes, Brother Jesse Shaw, Brother Ira Smith, Brother Wallace Sowell, and Brother Cleveland Jackson, who served as president. Sister Cloteal Walters became the pianist, with Brother G.D. Webb as choir president.
The choir, with Brother R.L. Johnson as musician, arranger and soloist and Sister M.D. Berryman as president; later became well known throughout the city. Sister Bradford was a member of the choir. During the mid 1960s, when both were teenagers, Sister Pat Anderson was pianist and Sister Iona Rice, who achieved a Master of Fine Arts in Music and became a great musician, was the organist. Sister Artie Blair, who had a beautiful voice, was the choir president. During the late 1960s, Brother R.L. Johnson became choir president.
During the early 1960s the choir members included Brother Nathaniel Martin, Brother Adger Armstrong, Brother Henry Armstrong, Brother Percy Walker, Brother William Cheeks, Jr., Brother G.D. Webb, Brother Norman Blair, Sister Magnolia Jackson, Sister Albertine Lee, Sister Virginia Smith, Sister Marjorie Smith, Sister Genette Cheeks, Sister Joyce Clay, Sister Betty Armstrong, Sister Verlene Roberson, Sister Doris Morning, Sister Alberta Morning, Sister Maggie Berryman, Sister Mattie Bryant, Sister Callie Sowell, Sister Beverly Martin, Sister Sharon Webb and Sister Betty Rogers.
On April 16, 1966, Rev. Ernest Brooks, Jr., succeeded Rev. Bradford. He was enthusiastic and through the will of God, determined to enhance all aspects of the church. He had served as Sunday School teacher, building fund chairman, trustee and had actively participated in the Baptist Training Union and Brotherhood. In 1965, he had been president of the Senior Usher Board.
During the late 1960s, Sister Cora L. Johnson organized the first Junior Usher Board and was president of the Senior Usher Board. Sister Leola King later became president. Usher Board members included Brother John Henry Smith, Brother Richard King, Sister Lola Jones, Sister Vernice Elder, Sister Annie Lovett, Sister Callie Sowell, Sister Ruby Webb, Sister Ruby Jackson, Sister Leola King, and Sister Joyce Brooks. As the pastor’s wife, Sister Brooks served in numerous capacities to enhance the church.
In 1968, under the stewardship of Rev. Brooks, the church was dedicated. The deacons were Brother C. Holmes, Brother W. Cheeks, Brother C. Jackson, Brother J. Shaw, Brother I.Q. Smith, and Brother J.M. Hebert. The trustees were Brother R.L. Johnson, Brother Norman Blair, Brother G.D. Webb, Brother Ruben Rice, and Brother Adolphus Anderson. Accomplishments included the purchase of church furniture, an organ, drums, enlargement of the choir stand, carpeting and redecorating the pews.
In the early 1970s, Brother Roy Cyrus became president of the Senior Usher Board after returning from The Armed Forces. During the late 1970s, Brother Ricky Harding became the musician/pianist. He was a young Multi-talented musician of 12 years old. Sister Jacquie Bowman, the sister of Sister Iona Rice, later became the musician/pianist.
In 1978, Brother Ronnie L. Smith, Sr. became president of the Usher Board. Sister Shirley Reese was vice president, Sister Cynthia Jackson was secretary, and Sister Wanda Webb was treasurer. Junior members included Royce Brooks, Dominique Dickerson, Lonnie Gatlin, Annette Jackson, Anthony Jackson, Geraldine Johnson, Reginald Smith, and Pamela Webb.
Senior members were Brother Bill Holmes, Brother Lawrence Lightfoot, Brother Ronnie L. Smith, Sr., Brother George Webb, Jr., Sister Alonza Jackson, Sister Albertine Lee, Sister Brenda Helaire, Sister Cheryl Jackson, Sister Cynthia Jackson, Sister Earlene Jackson, Sister Ruby Jackson, Sister Cora L. Johnson, Sister Helen Kendrix, Sister Shirley Reese, Sister Billie Smith, Sister Ruby Webb, and Sister Wanda Webb.
During the 1980s, Sister Alberta Cheeks remained general president of the Missionary Society and Brother Ronnie L. Smith, Sr., remained president of the Usher Board. Usher Board members include Brother Elder, Sister Katherine Wilson, Sister Darcelle Jackson, Sister Lillie Wilson, Sister Ann Norsworthy, Sister Frances Charles, Sister Patsy Edwards, Sister Patricia Townson, Sister Beverly Townson, and Sister Annette Jackson.
During the early 1980s, Sister Linda Phipps became matron of the Youth Choir. The deacon board was comprised of Brother Adolphus Anderson, Brother J.M. Hebert, Brother Glenn Cheeks, Brother Bennie Helaire, Brother Luther Sowell, Brother William Cheeks, Brother Shaw, Brother Caleb Holmes, and Brother Cleveland Jackson, who as president was followed by Brother Michael Hebert and then Brother Glenn Cheeks.
On March 21, 1981, the first Homecoming Banquet was held on the Marriott Brookhollow to bring the old and the new together to have a good time in the Lord. On July 29, 1984, the church celebrated “Jackson” Family Reunion Day” in honor of the oldest family in the church. Also, in 1984, Brother Luther Sowell became the church treasurer.
During the late 1980s, a male chorus was organized. The members included Brother R.L. Johnson, Brother Ronnie L. Smith, Sr., Brother Glenn Cheeks, Brother J.M. Hebert, Brother Adolphus Anderson, Brother Roy Cyrus, Brother Bennie Helaire, and Brother Luther Sowell. Sister Jacquie Bowman remained the pianist, and Sister Beverly Webb became the organist.
In 1987, The Mass Choir presented an “Inspirational Evening of Songs” with Sister Jacquie Bowman in concert. In 188, Brother Gary Cheeks became the male chorus president. Brother George W. Webb, Brother George D. Webb, Jr., Brother Sam Brooks, Brother Royce Brook, and Brother Melvin Murray became new male chorus members. On August 5, 1989, the Senior Choir presented a “Workshop Choir in a Musical Extravaganza” with Mr. V. Michael McKay as director. Also, in 1989, Brother Eddie McNack became the Sunday School Superintendent.
Over the years, the pastors and members have worked diligently to make Central Garden Missionary Baptist Church a place where there is Godly unity. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1).
In 1994, the membership called their seventh pastor, Rev. Gregory L. Cheeks. Under his leadership, the church has continued to grow and prosper. The programs of the church have expanded. Central Garden Missionary Baptist Church contributions to mission and education are indeed noteworthy. Of the many accomplishments made under the guidance of Rev. Cheeks, the most significant one perhaps, it that Central Garden Missionary Baptist Church has become a “team working” church. Our church continues to “believe it, conceive it, and achieve it.”
In the early morning of Sunday, January 26, 2003, the Central Garden Missionary Baptist Church burned to the ground. Although it was devastating to the membership, many people of goodwill responded by investing their time, energy, and resources. Members were reminded church house burned down but not the church.
In 2005, our church campus on 5909 Centralcrest was sold. The properties that were acquired for our new church campus in Central Garden were three properties along the Hempstead Highway, which belonged to the Holmes Family, the McNack Family, and the Cheeks Family, and one adjacent property on Gardendale, which the Briley Family owned. The acquisitions were completed at the end of 2005.
In 2006, under the direction of Pastor Cheeks, Imogene Thomas, and Deacon Eddie McNack, a community development ministry was formed and named Project H.E.E.D. (Health, Education, Empowerment, Direction). The main mission of Project H.E.E.D. will be directed not only toward education and empowerment but also health education and wellness from a social, spiritual, economic, and psychological perspective.
Our Youth Ministry has also grown by leaps and bounds. In 2005, under the direction of our first lady, Yvette Cheeks, youth services were started during morning worship. Youth church services have grown to not only meeting twice each month but also to two classes. In 2006, under the leadership of Carolyn Webb, Karen Smiley, and our youth musician, Courtney Jones, The Glory Angels Praise Dance Team was formed. In 2007, our youth pastor, Rev. Dondrea Walker started a step team for the young men and boys known as The Alpha and Omega Soul Steppers.
So, regretfully due to changes to the Central Garden community to mostly industrial/commercial properties with concerns for planting in an area without growth potential and plans by the Department of Transportation for a future HOV for .290 Frwy. on Hempstead Hwy and serious obstacles in getting building permits approved through the City of Houston ,the church voted to sell the property and look for a pre-built sanctuary to serve as the new CGMBC campus.
Because of God's providence and the guidance of our pastor and deacons, we purchased the current property and moved to our new CGMBC campus at 626 Canino Rd On 12/26/2016 we, the members moved ourselves (see below some of the pictures of us carrying bricks, burnt wood and the 2 previous cornerstones that survived the fire). CGMBC had its first worship service at our new campus on January 1, 2017.
Years after the tragic loss of a building we have emerged stronger from the inside out. Our new campus is larger than our old one and we are grateful to God for His faithfulness and Grace towards us. We are grateful to our former pastors for passing the torch. We are grateful to previous and current members for their faithfulness, prayers and, funds that have allowed us to reach this point. We remain humble and realize it is not by our work or will but, only with God's hand that all of this was done. The BEST is yet to come.
Our success is only found when we come together, when we work together, and when we stay together. Fellowship helps us to deepen our understanding, widen our wisdom and allows us to form better relationships with God and with one another. The reward is a greater love, a greater understanding, and a closer walk with Jesus Christ.