Williams Chapel Baptist Church Celebrates 80 Years and Burns Their Mortgage

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From left to right: Front - Sister Virgie Smith in white, Millennial Sr. Pastor Dr. Kenneth Anderson, and Community Bank Officer Will Hobbs burning the mortgage. Deacon and Mrs. Farmer, celebration chairpersons, stand behind Sister Smith on the left. Photo by Sue Taylor.

Williams Chapel Baptist Church kicked off its 80th anniversary celebration with a banquet dinner on Friday March 22 where Oakland District 2 Councilperson Nikki Fortunato Bas presented a proclamation to millennial Senior Pastor Dr. Kenneth J.L. Anderson and concluded with a “burn the mortgage” service Sunday evening.

“I commend you and the congregation for the sacrifices making this possible,” said Community Bank of the Bay official Will Hobbs, who attended. “The debt is gone, and I know the payments will be made available for the many other good works at Williams Chapel.”

At the Sunday service, Anderson introduced Sister Virgie Smith, the original real estate agent when the current sanctuary was purchased, and together they literally burned the mortgage to the cheers of the congregation.

“We asked four banks to help us with a mortgage,” said Anderson, “but it was Community Bank of the Bay that believed in us, and we are so honored to have Will Hobbs present to celebrate.”

Founded in Oakland in 1933 with 15 members in a storefront at 5th and Henry, under the leadership of Rev. Elmo Williams, Williams Chapel made two more moves before March 1979, when they purchased the present location at 1410 10th Ave.

Senior Pastor Dr. H.L. Hudson appointed Anderson as assistant pastor in 2010. When Hudson retired in 2011, Anderson was called and installed on Oct. 29, 2011, as the sixth senior pastor of the church.

Much has been accomplished since 2011. On the 75th Diamond Anniversary, the church celebrated with honors from President Barack Obama, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, representatives from the state of California and the city of Oakland.

A year later, Anderson and the congregation initiated their $45 million, 75-unit, senior affordable housing project, and “we expect building to begin in 2020,” said Anderson.

The church partners with a health center, Alameda County, the City of Oakland, and others, while financing is being implemented, and in the interim is the first site of the “Safe Car Parking” program initiated by Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Four Oakland churches will provide 65 parking spaces and services for the homeless. Williams Chapel will have 10 spaces.

At the press conference March 13 announcing the “Safe Car Parking” program, both Chan and Fortunato Bas reaffirmed commitment to secure funding for the affordable senior housing project.

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