On November 11  at 2 p.m., New Salem Missionary Baptist Church (NSMBC) located at 2186 Hawkins Mill, will celebrate 138 years serving citizens in the Frayser Community.

Pastor Frank E. Ray and the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church on South Parkway will be the special guest.

A homecoming program for members past and present is planned, with food for the soul, food for the body, along with fun and fellowship for all those present. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Going Home a Different Way”.

NSMBC is one of the oldest African American churches in Memphis. The first worship place was a small wood frame building on Overton Crossing. In 1955, two of the deacons, who just so happened to be brothers and builders, Caldwell and Freeman Smith, constructed a new edifice for worship at 2186 Hawkins Mill.

Pastors and members have come and gone. The church building, however, has remained and ministry has continued. Individuals who chose to remain in the community as members of the church have seen some hard times in the past two years. In January 2016, the church was vandalized and burglarized. In September of the same year, parts of the church were destroyed by a fire determined to be arson.

In June of this year, Carol Macon, a former childhood church member, was notified the church was in financial difficulties and the doors of the church would be closed. After she and others went into a period of prayer, Macon enlisted the guidance of Dr.  L. LaSimba Gray, the retired pastor of New Sardis Missionary Baptist Church and a Memphis-area civil rights icon. She and Gray worked together at Highland Oaks Elementary School. She is the retired principal of the school. Gray was the pastor New Sardis, the church that had adopted the school.

Pastor Gray was adamant in his concern about the closing of doors of any church. He gave guidance and volunteered to be a consultant to the members, so the doors would not close, and the devil would not win!

Pastor McKesson Haynes and Deacon Rickey Love also played an important role in the improvements to the building – not only to the physical building – but also in Kingdom Building as well. McKesson, a retired contractor, used his talents to finish the downstairs of the church at little to no cost.

Love has been a member for 25 years. “When the announcement was made that the doors would be closed, I continued to work on the physical building as I prayed for God to turn some things around. He did just that!”, Love said.

Criss, the chairman of the anniversary and homecoming, is working tirelessly to ensure November 11, 2018 will be a day to remember.

“Going back to my home church has always been a joy to see members old and new. This time was different. My heart was joyful to see the people left who weathered the storm together. However, to see the building almost empty, the financial burden the church was experiencing, and the work that needed to be done was heartbreaking. We had much work to do.

God is faithful and continues to provide. We came back home with a different mission this time and our theme – Going Home in a Different Way” reflects that. God is doing a new thing on the spot of ground I entered over 50 years ago,” said Criss.