From its inception, members of Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church (HAB) have focused on how their church is called to serve its members and the local community. The original members split from two other congregations – Faith Temple and Southside Baptist Church – and agreed to form a single church in 1945 in a space they rented from the Little Theater in San Marco. They initially wanted to be called Calvary Baptist Church, but soon learned that there was already a church with that name in Jacksonville.
With their decision to build a new church came a new name. A member, WK Hatcher, offered to buy 14 acres of land on Hendricks Avenue beyond Oriental Gardens, near the end of town development, along a narrow State Road 13, not wide enough for that two cars can pass comfortably. Its only condition was that the congregation should match its contribution with funds intended for the construction of the first structure.
The church was built on a vision, as much if not more than it was on earth. The young church claimed to be “a new Church founded with old ideals and a new idea, that of offering children and young people a Church which is a place of worship and also a community center … We are convinced that no church is born. ‘has morality. the right to shut down during the week and then complain that young people are going elsewhere for their social and recreational life.
And so, the members first built not a shrine but a gymnasium. It became the foundation of the church’s recreation program which is still fundamentally important to its mission today.
HAB’s first service was headed by Dr. CM Coalson on September 22, 1946. In October 1946, when the Jacksonville Baptist Association met in October 1946, HAB reported eight baptisms. On May 16, 1947, William G. Power joined the church as the 100th member. HAB’s first marriage took place when Power married Betty Crovatt 15 days later on May 31, 1947.
Member Robert F. Darby, son of founding HAB member Fred Darby and architect of Reynolds, Smith and Hills, designed the church’s first sanctuary. The ground was inaugurated on January 6, 1957 and the first service took place on March 16, 1958.
True to its original vision of being a gathering place for neighborhood children, the Hendricks Avenue Baptist Recreation Association was formed in June 1958, led by Robert Carnes, the first full-time recreation director for HAB. Ball fields were created and in 18 months, 398 young people took part in various sports offered by the program.
Sports were open to anyone in the community with these requirements: be at least nine years old, pay a dollar a year fee, and agree to adhere to the rules of Christian conduct. The program was run by volunteer, unpaid recreation directors. Some are Harvey Jay, Mrs. CG Jones, Jim Abercrombie, George Clements and Randy Weathers.
The recreation program became the Hendricks Avenue Community Athletic Association (HACAA), a non-church organization in 1986. This enabled the program to receive funding and support from the city’s recreation department and be controlled by a board of directors. HACAA has been the springboard for a number of professional athletes, such as Dee Brown, David Treadwell, Rick Wilkins and John Callhan.
A long-standing mission of the church has been its work with internationals, teaching them both conversational English and citizenship classes. On April 15, 1966, Christine Garnett, a former missionary in Cuba, started a Bible scholarship at HAB with 12 Cubans. Two key figures involved in the international program were the Reverend and Mrs. Phil Maxwell, who moved to Jacksonville from Tallahassee in September 1968. In a typical year, they conducted English classes for 100 students from 27 countries. This ministry led to a Baptist mission for Koreans in 1980.
HAB is also unique among Baptist churches in its promotion of women leaders.
“In the Baptist tradition, women and men have not always been recognized equally,” said Dr. Kyle Reese, pastor of the HAB from 1980 to 2000. “We began to elect and ordain women to the end of the 1980s. “
In 1986, Ann Carter, Anne Birchfield, Evelyne Hanson, Sylvia McQuaig, Nannie Paul Thomas and Corinne Williams were the first women to be elected and ordained. Irene Albritton, hospital chaplain, was the first woman ordained to ministry by the HAB. In 1990, Cheryl Warner was the first woman elected as an officer deacon, vice-president, and the first woman to administer Communion. In 1996, Mary Wood became the first female deacon to the presidency.
“Hugh and I joined HAB in August 1987 after moving here from Nashville,” said Susan Greene. Hugh Greene, an ordained minister, retired from Baptist Health in 2019, where he was an executive since 1989 and CEO for 20 years.
“When we moved here we were told that there would be only one church for us – HAB. We had 3 young sons and drove from the beaches to attend, ”said Susan. “We joined because HAB is a progressive Baptist church – part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). We are an embracing church. We respect all religious traditions.
Susan has also been involved in the international outreach of the church. While serving on the board of the former YWCA, she received training to learn how to teach refugees English. She taught for seven years with nearly 40 other volunteers. They taught Bosnian, Sudanese and Burmese refugees resettled in Jacksonville by Lutheran Social Services in northeast Florida.
“We could feel and know what was going on in the world literally coming to our front door,” she said.
HAB’s most visible moment was when the original shrine was destroyed by fire on December 23, 2007. The blaze started early in the morning and burned undetected until it was impossible to prevent it from consuming the building.
The next day, Christmas Eve, members celebrated their worship service at the Family Life Center, which did not burn in the fire. At the end of the service, members of All Saints Episcopal Church walked in and announced that they had lunched for the members. Other churches also helped, loaning them music and choir dresses. Joyce Hanson, member of the HAB, recalled that a young Jewish woman and her family bought the Bibles from the church bench.
“The fire took the community into the HAB and the HAB even further into the community,” said Hanson.
The official opening of the new sanctuary took place on December 23, 2009, exactly two years after the fire. The choir performed Messiah, the same music that had been played the day before the sanctuary fire.
HAB has built a reputation as an ecumenical church willing to work with others – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic. Its pastors had a strong sense of the importance of community participation and involvement in roles outside the pulpit.
“HAB started interfaith cooperation in the 1980s,” said Reese. “Our members would serve as temple ushers on high holy days, and their members would do the same for us on Christmas and Easter. Before the Islamic Center had its own building, it used a Sunday school hall at the HAB for Friday prayers.
If you’ve driven along Hendricks Avenue between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in any year since 1983, you may have noticed large wooden crosses draped in royal purple until Good Friday when they are changed to black for mourning, then to white on Easter Sunday morning. This tradition began with HAB and inspired All Saints Episcopal and St. Mark’s Lutheran to build their own crosses.
This cooperative effort led the three congregations to begin an annual Palm Sunday celebration. In 1985, the three choirs and congregations gathered on the lawn in front of HAB’s gymnasium for a Palm Sunday service, then transformed palm fronds in their separate shrines.
HAB’s newest community initiative is the HAB Art Gallery, which opened in 2009. The gallery has permanent and rotating exhibitions throughout the year. Susan Greene was part of the Department of Art team that planned the HAB Art Gallery.
“It became very meaningful to see how the art opened up new questions and new thoughts and led to conversation,” she said. “We had people from many cultures involved. “
In 2013, the church also created HAB Ambassadors to welcome and engage with the more than 25 groups that meet on its campus. The HAB community garden was also established that year.
“From the very beginning, HAB has had the community in mind,” said Reese. “When I arrived it was a perfect match. I wanted to be active in the community, and HAB pushed me to be more active than I ever thought possible. It was a great gift for me.
BJ Hutto was named HAB pastor in 2020 just as church services and in-person activities were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his wife, the Reverend Rebekah Hutto, a Presbyterian minister, along with their daughter Hannah Ruth and their son Elijah live in San José.
“I’ve been here for a little over a year, and during that time we haven’t been able to get everyone in the room together at the same time,” Hutto said. “What I have seen so far, however, is a church that is careful, caring, and willing to go the extra mile to care for its members and those around it. It is a church that truly values fellowship.
“Since I arrived at HAB. I continue to meet interesting and interested young adults. People will always want to go to a place where they are loved, where they can come together and investigate interesting and critical questions in life. “
Robert Hill Jr. and his wife, Margaret, joined HAB about 20 years ago when they moved their family from Tennessee to Jacksonville. Hill is the former President and CEO of Acosta Sales & Marketing Co.
“Margaret and I have both served as deacons and our children have participated in mission programs,” said Hill. “The church has a history of strong pastoral leaders who serve in the community as well as in the church. He has a great chef in Pastor Hutto.
“The church will continue to change,” he said. “He will be flexible in his ministry and adapt to the comfort level of the members by reaching people appropriately and beyond his walls as needed.”
By Karen Rieley
News from the resident community