In 1938, at the close of the Great Depression, God inspired five committed individuals to give birth to a church that would eventually become the St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church. St. Paul is a vibrant church with a charismatic and Bible-focused pastor who has deeply rooted the congregation in practical Biblical teaching and doctrinal edification.
From its humble beginnings 74 years ago, when Rev. Paul Clifton Jackson founded the Community Baptist Church, along with founding members Alberta Brown, Bessie Jackson, Emma Jackson and Ethel Johnson, they conceived a good thing. In 1950, when the church was remodeled, the church was renamed St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church.
Today, St. Paul is drawing and adding young and old members to its congregation. The solid Bible teaching and preaching of Rev. Jermaine Heath, senior pastor, is transforming the lives of many new converts.
“I love my church! The first time I stepped into St. Paul, I knew that I was in the right place,” said Patrice Whitby-Allen. Whitby-Allen, 35, a divorcee and mother of two daughters (Cayla, 13, and Cameron 8), she admits that when she came to St. Paul, she had a lot of emotional baggage. She had some disappointing experiences at a previous church, and it discouraged her from pursuing her passion as a choir singer. “For years, I gave up my desire to sing. Now, at St. Paul, I’m back (singing) in the choir. I look forward to attending church services…the congregation is so supportive…I felt at home at St. Paul. I’m addicted to church,” Whitby-Allen gleefully proclaimed.
Lauren Nicole Moore, 19, is a sophomore psychology major attending Kutztown University. She’s been a member of St. Paul for 7 years. “I grew up at St. Paul, it feels like a second home,” shared Moore. Commenting about her beloved pastor, Moore shared, “I love Pastor Heath, I love to hear him preach!” She recalled one particular sermon that really resonated with her, when Heath preached about the Prodigal Son. Why did this sermon impact her so much? “God is willing to accept you back when you make mistakes. This is an important message for young people because we make a lot of mistakes,” said Moore. She boasts about St. Paul’s Vacation Bible School, because youth get to learn a lot about historical events and other unique Biblical facts that you may not hear during church service. She encourages youth citywide to attend St. Paul’s “Youth Explosion” the last Friday in October.
The Rev. John Croft, 59, is the uncle of Heath, and he serves as his nephew’s Associate Pastor. Croft has been a member of St. Paul since 2009. “My calling (to the pastorate) is to edify the people,” said Croft. He enjoys teaching Bible Study, and he is happy to witness the growth of the congregation in numbers and spiritually, “I see the growth of members’ knowledge of understanding the scriptures, some (members) are advancing their learning by attending (institutions of higher learning).” In 1997, Croft was ordained as a pastor by his renowned clergy brother, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft, senior pastor of The Church of the Redeemer Baptist, in South Philadelphia.
Andre Smothers, 71, has been a member of St. Paul since being baptized at the age of 8. “We go beyond the church walls to touch the lives of the people in the community,” shared Smothers. He’s proud that the mature saints of St. Paul reach out to mentor the newer members. When asked to explain why St. Paul has become popular with youth and senior saints, Smothers proudly replied, “St. Paul is a multi-generational church, we give the message of Christ! We deal with contemporary issues!”
“Pastor Heath is an awesome pastor, my husband and I have grown spiritually, my whole family is growing spiritually under Pastor Heath’s leadership,” shared Elizabeth Hayes. Hayes, 46, is a chef at the Hilton Hotel-Philadelphia Airport, has been a member of St. Paul since 2001. For Hayes, her spiritual growth is credited to better understanding of Biblical doctrine, “Pastor (Heath) breaks the Word down so easily ... I have learned how to demonstrate the love of God.”
The Rev. Jermaine Heath, 37, is an energetic man who’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves to take his ministry work beyond the church walls. Heath is one of Philadelphia’s most dynamic young preachers, for 13 years he served under his uncle Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft. Heath has been the Senior Pastor of St. Paul for 7 years.
Heath recalls some of his early challenges taking on the role as Senior Pastor at St. Paul, “Changing the mindset of the members (moving them from traditional beliefs) to building them up stronger in the Word (of God).” He also recalls other challenges like inheriting some church debt, legal church issues, and maintenance of the church properties that needed to be resolved. “Today (seven years later), the church, church office, church lot, our Family Life Center, the church legal issues and (the) financial debt (issues), are resolved,” shared Heath.
This year, the church theme is: “Great Expectations, Let the Journey Begin!” “God is expecting us to proclaim his message,” said Heath. His big concerns are edifying his congregation via active evangelism and discipleship of his members, and he’s very passionate about community activism. Heath recently hosted a community meeting of city officials, neighborhood residents, social service representatives and law enforcement, to discuss how the community can be better served and how St. Paul can become a better community partner.
St. Paul boasts approximately 19 different ministries, and according to Heath, “The Youth Ministry, Music Ministry, Men’s Ministry and the DIVAS (Women’s Ministry),” are probably the most prominent ministries at St. Paul. “When I arrived to St. Paul, we probably had 20 members, today, we have approximately 200,” said Heath. He is currently attending the Center for Urban Theological Studies to complete his degree in pastoral leadership.