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Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church (“CTBC”) or “Christian Tabernacle”) is a member of the American Baptist Churches, USA.
CTBC held its first service of worship on July 8, 1962. On August 5, 1962, the newly formed worship group received fifty-four persons as its first members. The new church congregation was organized under the pastoral leadership of Reverend Allen H. Smith, a graduate of Yale Divinity School. Reverend Smith had just completed a year of service as associate minister of the St. Albans Congregational Church, Jamaica, N.Y.
After sixteen months of worship at 308 Dixwell Avenue, New Haven, CT, the late Mrs. Lillian O. Wright informed Rev. Smith of the availability of a church building at 449 Newhall Street, Hamden, CT. Rev. Smith, Deacons James Jenkins, Nathaniel Hurse and Trustee Thomas Holloman investigated the property and initiated action to purchase it. The young church hardly had any credit record, so it was necessary for three persons to assume personal liability as guarantors of a mortgage note. Three men Deacons Jenkins, Hurse and Trustee Holloman assumed liability for the sixteen-month-old church.
After moving to the Hamden church facility on Sunday, November 24, 1963, the church experienced steady growth in membership and established an outreach ministry to the Hamden neighborhood. In 1966, the membership sponsored the James Cleveland singers of Los Angeles, California in one of the largest gospel programs ever given in the New Haven area.
On the occasion of the church’s 10th Anniversary in 1972, the church honored posthumously, Deaconess Lillian Wright, who died in 1966 on her birthday, February 14th. Church officers Jenkins, Hurse and Holloman were also honored for having assumed such personal liability on behalf of the church.
The membership began to increase and the building occupied in 1963 became too small for the needs of the congregation. Trustee Earl Gordon initiated a conversation and a relationship with Eli Whitney Vocational Technical School of Hamden, to explore the possibility of their building trade students constructing a new church. He was successful! Construction began during the academic years of 1974-75 and 1975-76. On Sunday, June 13, 1976, Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church entered its new church; however, the Service of Dedication for the new building were not held until October 31, 1976.
The celebration of the church’s 25th Anniversary was a joyous occasion. The church had paid its mortgage debt and marked the occasion with a special mortgage burning service on Sunday, October 11, 1987. Since 1987, the membership has continued to grow numerically and most importantly, spiritually.
The next sixteen years was a time of transition for the church. The year 1990 was a spiritual test for the congregation; the outcome of which was the formation of several new committees: By-Laws, Budget Oversight, By-Laws Transition and the Church Advisory Committee. That same year, the founder, Rev. Allen H. Smith, accepted a call to become the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist church of Gary, Indiana. In October of 1991, the church established a Pulpit Search Committee and asked pastoral assistant Rev. Bonita Grubbs to serve as interim pastor.
Reverend Harry Riggs accepted the call to become Christian Tabernacles second pastor in January of 1993. On May 2, 1993, he was introduced to the congregation. For eight years, Pastor Riggs brought to Christian Tabernacle, a first lady, Deidre, two young children, Jordan and Alexandra, and a ministry to Glorify God, to Call People to Discipleship, and to Live as A Caring Community.
During Reverend Riggs tenure, five associate ministers were added, including Reverend Keith A. King and Reverend Lawrence Aker as part-time Youth Minister. In addition, the following ministries were established: Tuesday Bible Study, Project Love, Praise and Worship, Praise Dancers, Precepts Bible Study, Adelphi Steppers for Christ, a Clothing Closet, the Mary B. Ashford Outreach Support Project, a newsletter, a Tape Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Kids Club, Childrens Discipleship, the Book club, and the Singles Ministry. A second Sunday morning worship service was implemented at eight oclock to meet the needs of the growing congregation. Additionally, architectural plans were prepared and the Building By Faith committee launched efforts for renovation and expansion of the church.
In June of 2001, Reverend Riggs accepted a position with The American Baptist Churches. He left Christian Tabernacle Baptist church on August 19, 2001. Reverend Dr. Curtis Cofield, II assumed the role of Interim Pastor in September 2001. Reverend Curtis Cofield, III was appointed in February 2002 to serve as Youth Minister. The church established a Pulpit committee that embarked upon finding a new servant to lead God’s plan for His people at Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church.
On October 11-13, 2002, CTBC observed its 40th anniversary, with a theme of God’s Plan for His Church. Associate minister Rev. Keith Alan King, former youth minister, delivered the keynote address to launch the weekend celebration. A special service planned for and by the youth was held on Saturday and Reverend Lawrence Aker, also a former youth minister at CTBC, delivered the word. Reverend Alan H. Smith, returning with members and a choir from First Baptist Church in East Chicago, Indiana, delivered the Sunday service sermon. Members and friends came to the celebration in large numbers, requiring that the service be held at the Hamden Middle School, followed by a love march to Christian Tabernacle and a prayer for the church’s future.
After searching far and wide to identify a new pastor, on May 16, 2004, the Pulpit Committee presented the names of its candidates before the church and the congregation overwhelmingly selected one of its own,
Reverend Keith Alan King, to become the new servant to lead God’s people. One of his first acts as Pastor was to invite the church membership to pray for thirty days about the Lord’s plan for Christian Tabernacle. On July 15th, Reverend King assumed his official role and on July 18th, Pastor King was introduced to the congregation and delivered his first sermon in his capacity as the third Pastor of Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church. Under Pastor King’s leadership twelve new associate ministers have accepted the call to preach the gospel and serve God’s people at CTBC. Pastor King’s vision is centered on the church becoming unified through the “We Are One Ministry” which establishes a system of care designed to keep members connected by consistently bearing one another’s burdens and celebrating one another’s joys. To this end, the church membership is divided among twelve groups that are supported by an assigned associate minister, deacons and group leaders. The groups lead prayer services and host activities such as “pot blessings” to strengthen fellowship. Under Pastor’s King’s leadership, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there has been substantial growth in membership and development at CTBC. The church facilities have been improved through major renovations to the sanctuary and the addition of an elevator, new classrooms and office space. Expansion has occurred through additional property purchases in the surrounding neighborhood. In addition various new ministries have been added to meet the needs of the growing congregation including the Senior’s Ministry, Prayer and Praying Hands Ministry, Wellness Ministry, Joshua Generation Leadership Ministry, Jeremiah 29:11 Ministry, Nehemiah Ministry (addition support), Friday Night Alive (youth service) and a summer enrichment camp.
CTBC’s missionary work also expanded with more outreach to nursing homes and community outreach days. On an international level, the church supported the dispatch of its members to Haiti and Togo.
In August of 2009, Pastor King and fifty members including fourteen youth, partnered with Cornerstone Baptist Church of New York and traveled to South Africa on a missions trip. Pastor King also leads the effort to establish the Clergy Ambassador’s Program which seeks to formalize the relationship between police and clergy to assist in reducing crime and improving the quality of life in the community. Over forty African-American and Latino clergy have been trained as Clergy Ambassadors. Pastor King continues to focus on how the church can remain relevant in an ever changing world filled with brokenness, addictions and crime.