Matthew 16:18 says, “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.”

The time came in God’s scheme of things for a new church to be organized. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Forrest Jefferson was given this charge. That time came on February 27, 1939. The formal setting up of the same began. In the Union Tabernacle Building located on the southeast corner of Senate Avenue and St. Clair Street. Reverend Forrest Jefferson asked the Reverend S. S. Reed, then president of the General Baptist State Convention and also pastor of the St. John Missionary Baptist Church, to preside.

The Church organized with thirty-seven charter members: Birter King Jefferson, Earl and Ruth Landers, Wilber and Hattie Jackson, Henry and Hattie Labner, Bertha Baker, Lottie Miller Rucker, London Whitnew (deacon ), Aletha Sanders, Roy Rogers, Ella Mae Cook Culberton, Alice Stewart, Earl King, Reuben Miller, Thelma Roundtree King, Mattie Pollard, Webster Pollard, Ora Blair, Mildred Landers White, Flossie Hill, Murry Hayden (deacon), Helena Suggs, Mary Elizabeth Suggs Hall, Ernest Kimble, Ann Hatcher Bonnie Hatcher, Savannah Labner, James Jefferson, and John Gaither. The Reverend Jefferson was called to pastor.

Reverend Forrest Jefferson was born in the deep south in Raymond, Mississippi on April 25, 1880. He was a man of humble birth, yet destined to appear on the program of God years later in the city of Indianapolis. He molded the lives of many people, due to the power of God and the preached Word. As the man, the church also had a humble beginning. It started as a mustard seed and then grew into a mighty tree that has and is still yielding shade and comfort to many. Several books could be written about Pilgrim Baptist Church and its contribution made both to the community and the Union District Association. Under Reverend Jefferson’s fervent preaching and dynamic leadership, Pilgrim Baptist Church began to grow. Shortly thereafter, through much struggle and hardship, we outgrew our first location. God carried Reverend Jefferson and the members a little higher. The ground at the southwest corner of 19th and Boulevard Place was purchased.

On the first Sunday in December ,1948, the Pilgrim family marched from St. Clair and Senate to 19th and Boulevard Place, their new location. Still God added to the church, and very soon we outgrew this building. In May of 1957, another building was purchased at 30th and Clifton Street on the northeast corner. It was from this building God called Reverend Forrest Jefferson from labor to reward, March 25, 1967. An associate minister, Reverend John Browder, acted as interim pastor until December 1968. At a business meeting held the last Friday of December, a call was extended to the Reverend Stacy R. Shields, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Reverend Shields accepted the call to pastor the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Under his leadership, many souls were added and major renovation to the church building was initiated. But the future held some surprises. In May 1970, the church building burned to the ground and was declared a total loss. God directed Reverend Shields to rally the people to build a new building at a cost of over $250,000. Work began in September 1970 and was completed in April 1971 by the grace of God. Matthew 16:18 became more real, both to the Pastor and the members, “…Upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Let us regress a little at this point, to the morning of the fire, when members watched the church building go up in flames. Many felt all was lost. The Sunday following the fire, the Senior Usher Board was scheduled to observe its Annual Day with a Tea. Reverend Landrum Shields was contacted by Pastor Stacy Shields and the school on the corner of Rader and 31st Street opened its doors to us. The Tea was carried out as planned in the gym of School No. 41. The Reverend E. J. Odom opened his doors and the Pilgrim Family worshiped in the educational building of the Twenty-Fifth Street Baptist Church until April 11, 1971.

Pilgrim members led by the Pastor, marched into the new building on the 1st Sunday of April 1971. Entering now on the Clifton Street side, the address was no longer 1060 West 30th Street, but 3001-3003 Clifton Street. Since the day we marched into the new edifice, God was still blessing and adding to the church daily, as he promised in his word. We added a balcony and another educational wing.

As the Lord continued to add to the church, we again outgrew the current facility. The Lord gave the vision to Pastor Shields for a new building project. In the spring of 2003, ground was broken for a new sanctuary.

But God is sovereign. His ways are not our ways. On March 24, 2004, He called Rev. Dr. S.R. Shields from earthly labor to eternal reward. But even in the midst of our sorrow, the Lord has seen fit for His work to go on. On the second Sunday in May, 2004 the Pilgrim Church family marched into the new facility. The address has returned to the original 1060 West 30th Street.

During the time of pastoral transition, Rev. Benjamin Mitchell III, one of Pilgrim’s associate ministers, served as interim pastor. On November 5, 2005, Pilgrim extended a call to Rev. Dr. LeRoy Wadlington, pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi.

We give thanks to God for His wonderful blessings and pray we will continue to grow in grace day by day, and do that which is pleasing in His sight.