An Abbreviated History of New Sunlight Baptist Church
In 1896, Lou Cornish, along with a small group of Christians lead by Rev. D. C. Bowman and GOD’s guidance, met in Cornish’s Haskell Street home and called itself New Sunlight Baptist Church. From a brief period of worship in her home to a brush arbor and finally building their first church at 313 Haskell Street, the family grew with Rev. Bowman serving as its first pastor.
Early pastors served well following Rev. Bowman. Under Rev. Henry Williams (1914-16) a much larger edifice was built and stood for 40 years. Also, Rev. Alexander Oliver served from 1916-17, Rev. Edgar Keglar in 1917 for less than one year, and Rev. J. E. Dennis from 1918-19. Under Rev. A. A. Gundy’s tenure (1920-23), the church grew and purchased its first parsonage at 629 Franklin Street. After Rev. Gundy moved on, Rev. Robert Washington was chosen in 1923, but served only seven months.
Rev. Moses Tillman Jackson (1924-51) along with dedicated followers worked hard to get rid the church’s debt burden. Subsequently, he organized a successful general treasury system. In 1949, he dedicated a $75,000 edifice to GOD. He organized numerous ministries and auxiliaries including the Usher Board, Youth Department, Baptist Training Union, Laymen/Boy Scout Troop and other departments were revitalized until his passing in 1951.
Rev. Dr. Victor Elijah Washington (1951-94) was an energetic and dedicated servant leader. Under his guidance, the mortgage on the edifice was paid out, an annex built and a day care center constructed, the first to be licensed by the Louisiana State Department. Rev. Washington founded the Area-wide Baptist Youth Week Observance and under his leadership, Sunlight Manor, a federally funded apartment complex for low-income families was built. The membership grew immensely and many ministries were formed including a Women’s Home Mission, a Youth Department, Baptist Training Union, Nurses’ Guild, Laymen and Boys’ work and a Music Department. It also provided housing for the Theological Seminary, Adult Education and the Alcoholic Anonymous group. Dr. Washington retired as Pastor Emeritus in 1994 and passed on October 4, 1999.
Rev. Jerry Louis (J. L.) Franklin served as the church’s 10th pastor (1994-1997).
Rev. Kevin E. Donalson, Sr. (1999-2009) founded Agape House, a free food/clothing pantry for the membership and community. Haskell Street was renamed V.E. Washington Street in honor of the late Dr. V.E. Washington. The church was a haven for New Orleans and other coastal area evacuees who fled danger from the historic Hurricane Katrina. Twenty-five days later, the church, members, and community suffered extensive losses from another historic storm, Hurricane Rita. Under Rev. Donalson’s leadership, the church grew numerically, financially, and in ministries. The church also attained the Purdy Estate property adjacent to the church. Rev. Donalson moved on in December 2010.
Rev. Harold Robinson, Sr. (2010-2015) held a series of Leadership Conferences to empower and equip church leaders and established a Capital Improvement Program to work towards phased remodeling projects. Rev. Robinson celebrated his first and proceeding anniversaries with a non-traditional Evangelistic Outreach to lead others to Christ. He formed the Intercessory Prayer Ministry and the church’s upstairs and library renovations were completed. His tenure ended December 2015.
Rev. A. L. Williams, II, became the 13th pastor on July 22, 2017. During the past two years of his leadership, over 20 ministries are functioning and several are in the process of being revitalized. The newest ministries are the Social Action Committee and a Christian Leadership School (CLS), accredited by the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
As we continue our spiritual journey, may Christ’s spirit dwell in us as we share HIS glorious works.
NOTE: The complete history of New Sunlight Baptist Church is available in print and may be obtained by contacting the church secretary. – The Historical Committee, Sis. Lizzie K. Syas, Chairperson