The history of Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church is like a fine tapestry whose threads are the interwoven legacies of each of our pastors. As you read this history, you will come to appreciate how each pastor contributed his individual strengths and talents for the glory of God and the spiritual growth of our church. Please click the titles below to read more about our church history.
Rev. Charles Henry Harge (1931-1946)
The history of Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church is like a fine tapestry whose threads are the interwoven legacies of each of our pastors. As you read this history, you will come to appreciate how each pastor contributed his individual strengths and talents for the glory of God and the spiritual growth of our church.
When a small group of Christians (Wallace and Gladys Poole, Bertie Bell, and Carrie Green) began to meet in each other’s homes in 1931 to fellowship, they were fulfilling the dream of their worship leader, the Rev. Charles Henry Harge. Rev. Harge, preaching since the age of 12, was known as the “boy preacher.”
His vision was for this small group of worshipers to ultimately evolve into a larger following. After much prayer and soul-searching, Rev. Harge held a revival in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church. This event was one of the most significant in the church’s history because it set the stage for the formation of Gospel Tabernacle.
The church membership now included such notables as Willie Abrams, Johnnie Mae Smith, Martha Sebree, and Mary Bland. The growing membership led to relocations to 1428 Pennsylvania Avenue, 1516 West Lafayette Avenue (the home of Eliza Holland), and, in 1935, to 1212½ West Saratoga Street. Rev. Harge completed his work at Gospel Tabernacle in 1946 and moved on to pursue other endeavors.
Rev. Luke G. Reynolds (1947-1959)
World War II had triggered substantial growth in Baltimore’s steel and oil refinery industries. This prosperity drew hundreds of Black families from the South looking for a decent wage. As Baltimore prospered and grew, so did Gospel Tabernacle. In 1947, the Rev. Luke G. Reynolds took over the helm of Gospel Tabernacle.
Rev. Reynolds was a “fiery preacher” who possessed great vision and integrity. Under his leadership, the church was reorganized and rededicated. Rev. Reynolds was particularly concerned with the youth of the church, and made this very clear during his first service when he asked every child to come to the altar for prayer. He knew the future of the church lay in its children and seeking to teach by example, directed the formation of the Junior Usher Board. Rev. Reynolds passed away on January 4, 1959.
Rev. William Tapscott (1959-1964)
The Rev. William Tapscott, a teacher at Booker T. Washington Junior High School, became the pastor of Gospel Tabernacle in 1959. A quiet, witty man, Rev. Tapscott had a reputation for “getting things done.” Noting that the church had outgrown its West Saratoga Street location, he began searching for a larger church home.
On one of his many outings, Rev. Tapscott happened to see a “For Sale” sign in front of a church at 3100 Walbrook Avenue. A tour of the building convinced him that this was Gospel Tabernacle’s new home. On the first Sunday in January 1961, Rev. Tapscott closed the doors at 1212½ West Saratoga Street for the last time. He proudly led the congregational march to the new church location at 3100 Walbrook Avenue.
During Rev. Tapscott’s tenure, the day nursery was established, Gospel Tabernacle’s participation in the Churchwide Institute and the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention was expanded, and the mortgage payment period was substantially reduced. Rev. Tapscott passed away on August 23, 1964.
Rev. Dr. Edgar L. Reid (1965-1990)
In April 1965, the Rev. Dr. Edgar L. Reid, an amiable, young man full of dreams, ambition, and faith, became Gospel Tabernacle’s new leader. Rev. Reid was known as the “builder” because he had the foresight to encourage the Joint Board of church officers to approve the purchase of a number of properties that were in close proximity to the church.
Rev. Reid was an innovator who spearheaded major changes at Gospel Tabernacle. Under his leadership, Finance Committee members were required to be bonded; savings and expense accounts were established; the church was renovated and expanded to include two alcoves; air-conditioning and a church bus were purchased.
Other accomplishments included: the establishment of the Noon Prayer and Praise Service; the first Eating Together Program in West Baltimore; the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, basketball and bowling teams; the Soup Kitchen Ministry; the mini-choir; the Ames-Robertson-Sebree Youth Missionaries; the Voices of Tabernacle Choir; and the United to Help Ministry. During Rev. Reid’s tenure Gospel Tabernacle became mortgage-free and its membership celebrated by “burning the mortgage.”
At the time of his sudden death on September 16, 1990, Rev. Reid was in Jefferson City, Missouri, to preach at the 130th anniversary of the Second Baptist Church, where he had been the pastor for six years prior to coming to Gospel Tabernacle. Ironically, the theme for this momentous occasion was “A Backward Glance and a Forward Look at the Year 2000 and Beyond.”
Rev. Reginald L. Kennedy (1991-Current)
We acknowledge that God sent our next pastor to us knowing the future and heightened level of ministry He had planned for Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church. Called to the profound responsibility as the 29-year-old pastor of Gospel Tabernacle in January, 1991, the then Rev. Reginald L. Kennedy, like the biblical Jeremiah, is known as the “weeping prophet.” And like Jeremiah, the “word of the Lord” came to him as a young child that he was called of God to do a great work.
And when God calls us to serve Him, He never fails to equip and enable us. The Master Potter formed this ordinary clay pot in his mother’s womb and over time and through life experiences, filled him to overflowing with extraordinary ointment. The glory doesn't come from him but from what God has placed inside him. As a result, many have been set free and their lives changed spiritually, emotionally and physically.
A man of tremendous gifts, Pastor Kennedy is also a man of exemplary character and profound humility. He has a compassionate heart for God's people, serving his congregation with great commitment, genuine love, and a wonderful smile and word of encouragement. An anointed and gifted teacher, preacher and administrator, Bishop Kennedy is known for his down-to-earth, life-applicable, realistic approach to preaching and teaching God’s Holy Word. Pastor Kennedy’s sensitivity and obedience to God’s direction has caused Gospel Tabernacle to experience tremendous growth, with numerous souls saved and “numbers added day by day” to the church. He has encouraged and promoted the implementation, revitalization and transformation of well-balanced ministry programs to meet every possible need in the church, the community, and in our ministry to the nation and the world.
Under his leadership, extensive building projects have enabled the purchase and conversion of dilapidated area properties into church-owned parking facilities and apartment houses; and the installation of an elevator to increase the church’s accessibility to our senior members and to persons with disabilities.
A $3 million expansion and renovation project was completed in mid-2006 that permits GTBC to minister to the present and future generations of the church and community. A new wing of the church houses a multi-level Family Life Center, incorporating the church’s administrative offices, bookstore, computer laboratory, nursery, health suite, multi-purpose hall and classrooms. Emphasis is not only placed on the studying and learning of God’s Word, but meeting the unmet needs of the community in which the church exists. These needs include GED and job placement programs, and after-school homework and computer assistance for children. Also recognized is the need for recreational and senior day care centers in the area. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Hundreds of people witnessed a historical event in the life of our great church and the life of our pastor on July 10, 2005, when Pastor Kennedy was consecrated to the sacred office of “Bishop” by the Sacred College of Bishops of the Family Bible Ministries Worldwide. His election acknowledged Pastor Kennedy already had the anointing of a Bishop and he had already been doing the work of a Bishop. As a Bishop, his work spreads beyond our local church and impacts other parts of the Body of Christ. He also has significant influence over other churches and serves as a “trainer” or “improver” of other ministers and pastors. He has nurtured, developed, trained and ordained several ministers for the work of the ministry, several of whom are serving in pastoral capacities. The mantle of Bishop simply gives Pastor Kennedy a more suitable and descriptive title for the anointing under which his life in ministry has operated since he was divinely chosen at the age of eleven.
One of the greatest individual and collective blessings under Bishop Kennedy’s leadership has been the number of armor-bearers—sons and daughters of Gospel Tabernacle—God has raised up to assist, encourage and support the work of the church and pastor. The goal, wrote the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:27 NIV, is for the church—pastor and people—to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” How appropriate for “The Church Where Pastor and People are One in the Spirit.” At the present time there are almost 40 associate ministers, male and female alike.
The Recent Years
A lot has changed in the world since Pastor Harge’s dream birthed Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church 81 years ago. Technology has created digital TVs, VCRs, cell phones, computers, the Internet and microwave ovens. Yet with all the improvements, we work longer hours, face more stress, make more money and have less time and energy to enjoy what we’ve accomplished. The innocence of the 1930s has been replaced by the pessimism and distrust of the 21st century. Family structures now include single parents, live-in partners and homosexual unions. Divorce, HIV and AIDS, domestic violence, abortion and suicide can be found in every family tree. The news media is filled with stories of corruption, corporate collapse and scandals of all kinds. Acts of terrorism have caused great grief and tragedy. Our nation, and the world, are in severe crisis … ethically, morally and financially. But in the midst of those 81 years of change and turmoil, while other churches struggled to find meaning and simply survive, Gospel Tabernacle grew strong. We have been blessed, but why? How did it happen? What lessons can we learn? What has “81 years in the light of God’s glory” taught us?
In Matthew 16:18 NASB Jesus says, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." Christ's guarantee is valid only when He builds the church His way. When you follow His blueprint, you can be sure that He is doing the work through you and that nothing, not even the gates of hell, can stop Him. A church built to the Master's plan will begin with the right raw material—a saved congregation. If the church is to be built Christ's way, it will be redeemed and therefore empowered by the Holy Spirit. Each of the five pastors of Gospel Tabernacle—Charles H. Harge, Luke G. Reynolds, William Tapscott, Edgar L. Reid and Reginald L. Kennedy—followed the blueprint found in Acts 2:42 NASB: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Those are the vital elements that make up the actual function and life of the church—Bible study, fellowship and prayer.
We must continue to be a church focused on God. We must pray that our church will continue to hear God’s voice. Everything we do should be designed around being guided by God’s Authoritative Word—the Bible. Worship must be more than music or a sermon. It should enable us to feel God’s presence. Fellowship strengthens our relationships one with another. As a church family, God’s grace is a reminder we may stumble but help is there to give us a lift. Our walk with God and our faith in Him should grow stronger. God’s amazing gift of grace is meant to be freely shared with friends and strangers through our witness for Him. Holistic ministry, which is God’s love at work within us for good deeds, whether in church or community, must continue. And our work of missions, where we reach beyond our church walls with acts of love and charity for those in need, will continue to increase. Over the last 81 years, much has changed in the world, and all of it serves as a vivid reminder that our need for God’s church is stronger than ever. We must be bold, proclaiming God’s Word to the world.
What has not changed in 81 years is that the mission Jesus had while on earth continues to be our mission since we are the Body of Christ. What He did in His physical body, we are to continue as His spiritual body, the church. What is that mission? Introducing people to God! Second Corinthians 5:18 TEV says, “Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.”
We will continue to do what the Lord has asked us to do, but in a greater way. Gospel Tabernacle is no longer trapped in the traditional “Baptist” way of things. We already operate in the fivefold gifts of ministry as outlined in Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT, “…He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ ...” We are a Baptist church whose members speak in tongues, lay on hands for healing and deliverance, and liberally sprinkle holy oil. There will continue to be a serious day-to-day pushing of the Gospel of Christ, with no time for playing in the middle. Gospel Tabernacle will continue to keep our shoulders to the Gospel plow, and continue to lift up the blood-stained banner.
To God Be ALL the Glory!