Macedonia Baptist Church History
In May 1930 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Reverend Elias Broughton led a small band of believers to worship and praise the Lord in a meeting place on Third Street in Albany, New York. Among the original worshippers were: Lon Houston, John Wood, King F. Gardner, Percy Taylor, Beelreth Nelson, Thomas and Amanda Laster, Sylvia Sutton, Lewis Blackwell, Leona Turnage, Bremington Stinney, Luie Rivers, Landy Thomas, Marion W. Joe and others whose names have been lost to posterity.
Within two years, this fledging church had grown to well over thirty members, at which time it became necessary to develop a formal structure. On October 13, 1932, Macedonia Baptist Church was incorporated, and began regular worship service at 31 Green Street, located in Albany’ south end. Macedonia was one of three Baptist churches, Morning Star Baptist Church being the oldest Black Baptist Church, Mt. Calvary being the second, located in the Albany area.
The First Officers
Sylvia Sutton, an original worshipper, served as the first church clerk. King F. Gardner, Bremington Stinney, Luie Rivers, Landy Thomas, Thomas Laster and Marion W. Joe were elected to the first trustee board. On January 4, 1935, Thomas Laster, Marion Joe, King Gardner, Sylvia Sutton, John Woods and Leona Turnage, under the direction of Reverend Broughton, negotiated and secured a $4,300 mortgage through the Home Savings Bank to purchase the former Engine 2 firehouse from the city of Albany, that was located at 157 Livingston Avenue in the Arbor Hill section of the city. For almost forty years, this old abandoned firehouse became the place where praise went up and blessings came down upon the Macedonia Baptist Church (ref. The Albany Times Union, August 25, 1953). The Mothers of the church were: Mary Perry, Bertha Hines, Leona Turnage and Mother Farrington.
During the thirties and early forties, Reverend Broughton provided the spiritual nourishment that allowed Macedonia to grow and prosper in the Lord. The untimely passing of Reverend Brought in 1945, ended a significant first chapter in the Church’s history, and yet serves as a reminder that Christian service is not measured in terms of longevity but rather manifested in the presence of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the hearts and minds of the congregation.
New Era of Growth
The coming of the young and dynamic Reverend Dr. George L. Burns in 1945 signaled a new era of growth, the fruition of hopes and dreams of Macedonia’s mothers and fathers planted fifteen years earlier. In 1953, almost twenty years after the purchase of the firehouse from the city of Albany, Macedonia saw the renovation of 157 Livingston Avenue converting the spiritual firehouse into a church for approximately $30,000. Prior to the renovation of the firehouse, the main heating system was a “pot belly” wood/coal burning stove.
The fifties saw Macedonia increase its service to the community. Members such as Assilee Threatt, Mae Johnson, Alice Jackson and Fannie Ford often conducted fund raising gospel concerts at Philip Livingston Junior High School. The funds raised were instrumental in the building of the original Arbor Hill Community Center which, at the time, was administered by the Interracial Council.
Under the leadership of Reverend Dr. Burns, the music ministry was formed and included a senior choir directed by pianist Edna Wood. The senior choir regularly sang on radio station “WABY” on a one-hour program every Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Harold Johnson, a member of Macedonia, hosted the program. The Macedonia Gospel Quartet, composed of young adults, was formed in 1954 from the youth choir. The youth choir under the direction of fifteen year old Doris Yvette Jackson was one of the largest in the TriCities area.
Minnie L. Burns, the wife of Pastor Burns, was ordained and licensed in 1957. Reverend Mrs. Burns served as associate pastor of Macedonia and later became the pastor of Universal Baptist Church of Saratoga Springs, New York. Macedonia has also been the spiritual nursery of other future pastors, preachers and deacon such as Reverend Southall, Reverend William V. Callahan, Reverend Van I Stuart, and Deacon Emmett H. Jeffress who became the pastor of Wilborn Temple Church of God In Christ, and Reverend Gertrude Harris.
A Tumultuous Time
The late 1960’s were a tumultuous time and a turning point in the history of Macedonia. Albany urban renewal transformed the Arbor Hill Community. It destroyed buildings and uprooted residents. Macedonia was not spared. The church building at 157 Livingston Avenue was taken by the city through “eminent domain” forcing the Macedonia congregation to seek temporary sanctuary at the Hope Baptist Church on Clinton Avenue, present site of Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church. By 1972, the church moved into it s fourth home located at 172 North Allen Street. Reverend Saul Williams was instrumental in assisting Reverend Dr. Burns with the acquisition of 170 and 172 North Allen Street and 2 Collins Place. During the transition period from 1967 through 1972 and the move from 157 Livingston Avenue to 172 North Allen Street, Macedonia continued to do ministry.
With a strong commitment to Christian fellowship, the congregation became actively involved in the Empire State Baptist Missionary Convention and the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. Macedonia continues to be represented annually at both bodies. Prior to the Church’s current affiliation with the Hudson River Frontier Missionary Baptist Association, Macedonia was a member of the Upper Hudson Missionary Baptist Association. Macedonia is also affiliated with the Capital Area Council of Churches.
Deacon Edward Bowser and Deacon Sam Jones ministered to the practical and the temporal matters of the body of believers and gave support to Pastor Burns in spiritual matters. Macedonia was one of the early Baptist Churches in the Albany area to have women ordained as deacons; the other church was Morning Star. In January 1985, Willie Mae Cherry, Marion Saunders, Ruth Turnage and Sara Lawyer (daughters of Leona Turnage) were ordained. The cross that hangs over the altar was donated by Mary Whitfield, sister of Reverend Burns, in memory of the Burns family. After forty years of faithful service, Reverend Dr. George L. Burns was called to glory.
Reverend Leonard D. Comithier
Under the profound tutelage of the Holy Spirit, Macedonia was guided by the Church’s associate pastor, Reverend Matthew Jordan, until the Church extended the call to the Reverend Leonard D. Comithier, Jr., in August 1986. Reverend Comithier was officially installed in November 1986. The pastoral tenure of Reverend Comithier is productive by many standards. The Spirit of intimacy with the eternal is being maintained and the Life of the Lord is being glorified. The spiritual growth of Macedonia is manifested in its ministries such as Outreach, Christian Education, Stewardship, Health, Women, Men and Youth Fellowship, Hospitality and Catering.
In addition to the Church’s numerical and financial growth, Macedonia continues to grow spiritually. In the past decade of the twentieth century, Macedonia Baptist Church has seen significant growth of historical proportion. In no other decade of the Church’s history has Macedonia witnessed a Diaconate Ministry of ten deacons and six ministers of the Gospel, and five choirs to include the Men and Gospel choirs, the Praise Ensemble, the Young Adult and the Angelic Choirs.
Unparalleled have been the establishment of the Heritage Library and the Rites of Passage Program, a very vital and necessary youth development program that guides your people towards greater understanding and appreciation of themselves, their past and their future.
The Vacation Bible School Program that originally started as a week-long half-day Vacation Bible School project and has grown into two week long, full day sessions. As a result of the Vacation Bible School visit to the Wellington Herbs and Spices, a working Afro-American farm in Schoharie County, has resulted in the Church acquiring a plot of land at the farm to grow vegetables to provide fresh produce to the Church family and faith community.
The community wide Mentoring Program for students who need academic support and the Scholarship Fund Programs that provides monetary awards for the continuation of academic excellence. Macedonia’s commitment to academic excellence was the impetus for the establishment of the Macedonia Scholarship Fund. The Fund provides financial assistance to Macedonia’s aspiring college bound students as well as students throughout the faith community. Since the scholarship fund inception nearly fourteen years ago, more than fifty thousand dollars has been awarded to more than sixty college students.
During the final decade of the twentieth century, the Macedonia Baptist Church embarked upon an expensive renovation project called Project ’90 which included a complete renovation of the kitchen/fellowship hall, sanctuary, offices and restrooms. In addition, the Church constructed a new ramp for the mobility impaired and redesigned the steps in front of the Church to allow our Church family and visitors’ greater access to worship service. A Memorial Garden was established as a living memorial to those who have labored with love in the Kingdom of God.
In the area of program development that touches the lives of those in the community, the Macedonia Baptist Church has partnered with community organizations such as the 100 Black Men to establish a computer satellite program of 100 Net, the Whitney M. Young Health Center, local colleges and the Albany City School District.
Since 1988, Macedonia has been instrumental in raising the awareness of hunger both domestically and internationally through the Church’s strong participation in the annual Church World Service Crop Walk. For ten consecutive years, Macedonia has received recognition for having the largest number of participants and for raising the most funds in the Capital District.
As we continue to build and rebuild for God’s Kingdom, Reverend Comithier’s strategic vision to make Macedonia a viable community resource, and the hard work and dedication of the Trustee Board and the faithfulness of the Church family was rewarded with the acquisition of Macedonia Baptist Church ‘s first investment property. The property was to house the Macedonia Baptist Church Catering Service. Macedonia’s Catering Ministry is known as one of the best in the Capital District. The property was also to be used as a conference and/or multi-purpose facility for local churches, fraternal and non-profit organizations.
In 2005, the Board of Christian Education hosted its annual retreat at Hudson Valley Community College. As part of the Church commitment to history, a panel of dynamic members provided a historical perspective of Macedonia’s Church History. Among the presenters was Sis. Goldie Crenshaw, who joined the church at age fifteen, organized the first Usher Board at age sixteen, served as its first president and continued to ser as an active member for more than forty years, shared her knowledge and wisdom if Macedonia’s growth over the years. Other members included Sis. Pauline Oglesby, Sis. Sybil Johnson, Deacon Mary Hood, Deacon Joseph Pedlar, Sis. Navralean Chavers, Minister Michele Chavers and Reverend Leonard D. Comithier, Jr., shared their experiences and reasons for continuing to serve faithfully. Each participant added to Macedonia’s rich history.
After Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the devastation suffered by our Christian brothers and sisters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Pastor Comithier made a special appeal to the members of the Church family to assist in raising funds for the Hurricane relief. Macedonia raised nearly $100,000 to be sent to the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., to help families who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Church commitment to leadership was highlighted on December 2005, during the Church’s 75th Anniversary year.
Macedonia Baptist Church is steeped in a rich tradition which sees it to God’s Judgment upon the inhumanity of classism, racism and sexism, and our faith is an expression of our sense of cultural vocation.
Under the Vision of Pastor Comithier and the direction of the Holy Spirit, another chapter of the Macedonia Baptist Church begins, as the Church relocated on November 20, 2011 to its fifth home at 26 Wilson Avenue in the Town of Colonie. The Macedonia Baptist Church continues to build and rebuild for God’s Kingdom, and this is due to Pastor Comithier’s strategic vision to make Macedonia a viable religious and community resource. It is our hope and prayer that Macedonia Baptist Church will become the paradigm to transform this city/town into an inclusive, loving and responsive community meeting the needs of the people in accordance with the will of God.
As Pastor Comithier leads us in this twenty-first century, The Horizon Leans Toward Us – Exodus 33.
Eyes have not seen what the Lord has in-store for us.