The origin of Gethsemane Baptist Church began with a prayer band, praising God in a house on the corner of South Caldwell and Taylor Streets. In 1910, this same group of Christians purchased and moved a church from Chestnut Hill to its present site, and named it Graham Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.
The Church was an outgrowth of First Calvary Baptist Church, Salisbury, North Carolina. Rev. J. W. Pennington was the first pastor of the church which was organized on November 28, 1926 with 35 members. Brother Howard Wood came forth with the name Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. The first deacons J. H. Hargrave, George Moore, James Jenkins, Brother Johnson, Richard Giles, S.D. Montgomery, Howard Woods, C.S. Butner, John Alexander and J.B. Richardson. During this organization the following officers were selected trustees, church clerk, chairman of usher board, Sunday School Superintendent, treasurer of missions and choir.
The church prospered between 1916 and 1934, while the membership worked diligently in organizing the effective Christian training, worship and witness. The church joined the Rowan Baptist Association October 4, 1929 and installed a Baptismal Pool May 6, 1930.
The following ministers served as Pastors of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church:
- The Reverend J. W. Pennington
- The Reverend J.T. Lassister
- The Reverend W. H. Bryant
- The Reverend S.W. Mack
- The Reverend W. H. Long
- The Reverend E. S. Geiger
- The Reverend S. F. Daley
- The Reverend J. W. Marshall
During Reverend Bryant's pastorate, the church was renovated.
Under the leadership of Reverend W.T. Jackson, the church was completely renovated during 1964-1973. The church was brick veneered, an educational unit was added, and all new furniture was installed.
In 1974, the church was served by Reverend Michael McClain. With the coming of Reverend E. N. Young in 1975, there was a continuous growth in membership and the church's outreach in ministry attracted attention locally, state-wide and nationally. An organ and a public address system were added to make the services more effective.
Dr. A. O. Walker was officially called to Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church on March 19, 1978. Dr. Walker served as the motivator in helping the church to secure property for a new church, paved the church parking lot, and installed a new heating and air system. Reverend James L. Stowe, one of the sons of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, and was pastor 1984-2004. With the overwhelming growth in membership, Reverend Stowe led the church in a massive fund-raising which resulted in a new sanctuary in fewer than 2 years.
The new church was paid for in four years and eight months culminating in an Awards and Mortgage Burning Service July 26, 1992. Secondly, the construction of the new Education and Fellowship Building began April, 1992 and was completed December, 1992. The membership dedicated the edifice to God's service and named the building the James L. Stowe Educational Building.
In January 2005, Dr. Clary Phelps became the pastor of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. He was installed as pastor in March 2005. Our church has really flourished under the leadership of Pastor Phelps.
Under Pastor Phelps leadership Gethsemane purchased a long awaited parcel of land adjacent to Gethsemane, Organized Westside Community Foundation, a non-profit organization under the auspices of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church and remodeled the former church parsonage into the Gethsemane Outreach House which serves the community at large. Several new ministries have been organized: The Visitation Ministry, The Public Relations Ministry and the College Ministry, to name a few.
While we are experiencing growing pains, with the help of God and with his continued leadership, we will continue to grow as God continues to bless.