The 1500 block of South Cooper St. looked like a block party as old church members and families, who had long moved away, recently came back to honor the late Pastor W.H. Bass.
“Coach Roosevelt Hancock (former head football coach at Hamilton High School) was inside the Fellowship Hall giving a photo, slide show presentation of members both past and present at Magnolia First Baptist Church,” said Roma Richmond Robertson, long-time member, and event organizer.
“But there were people outside everywhere greeting old friends they hadn’t seen in decades. The afternoon (Sept. 25) was such a joy.”
The Rev. W.H. Bass became pastor of Magnolia First Baptist in October 1972, according to recorded church history. He retired 30 years later on Dec. 31, 2002.
Many children were brought up in the church, and others knew Bass because of his love and involvement in the Magnolia Heights community.
“Rev. Bass believed in taking church outside of the walls and being a blessing to the community,” said Robertson.
“There were nearly 600 members in 1972 when Rev. Bass came. He ordained 18 ministers during his tenure who he affectionately called ‘sons.’ Seven made it back on Sunday. They are now all pastors of their own churches.”
Magnolia First Baptist named its Fellowship Hall in honor of their beloved pastor. An unveiling of the signage immediately followed the 10 a.m. worship service. Former members who returned for the occasion will remember Sept. 25 as “Homecoming Day.”
“I’m not a member of the church, but it was wonderful to be a part of the fellowship,” said Hancock.
“Everyone was just having a wonderful time, greeting old friends. Roma, an old friend, asked me to present the slide show.”
Robertson felt that the strong feelings of nostalgia and a desire to return to how things used to be may cause some to return “home.”
“People we went to school with came back,” said Robertson. “Some will probably return to the home church. It was like one big family reunion. They came at a perfect time to meet our new pastor, Rev. Sherman Helton Jr. This was only his fourth Sunday, but he’s doing a great job.”
Following the program and unveiling, a catered feast was spread for reunited friends and family. Retired Chancery Court Judge Walter Evans picked up the tab for the reception because of historic family ties.
“My grandfather was one of the founders of Magnolia First Baptist,” said Evans. “His name was James Young, a stone mason. W.H. Bennett Farmer was the other founder. My mother Lena Evans Jones, passed in 2006, as one of the oldest members.”
Magnolia First Baptist was started in 1926. The very next year, it moved to its present site under the first pastor, Rev. I.B. Bell. Under a succession of leaders, the church grew. It continued thriving under Bass.
Robertson is a part of the Richmond family. She is a lifetime member, who joined the church in 1969.
Honoring Bass, who died in 2019, was a suggestion Robertson brought up during a meeting at Magnolia, which had been closed for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her pitch was simple:
“‘I think we should name our Fellowship Hall in honor of Rev. Bass. He was our spiritual father, and I believe he is worthy of that honor.’”
The collective response was, “It is about time that we do it.”
Said Robertson: “We were all on one accord.”