The anniversary message was delivered by Rev. Derrick Harkins of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. His sermon, titled, â€œWhere Do We Go From Here?,â€ was based on the children of Israel as they travelled from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.
He noted the historical gathering and journey started by the membership in 1839. He said that they had no idea of what was ahead, but they had a strong conviction that God knew so they trusted Him.
â€œIt is important to know how to face a point of no return,â€ Rev. Harkins said. â€œHow can we look back when God has placed so much before us. For every man and nation, [there] comes a time to decide. God draws us to a point of no return. When do we stand or move forward in faith?
The minister encouraged his congregation to move forward and possess what God has placed before them â€“ promise, abundance, and purpose.
Rev. Dr. Walter Fauntroy, Pastor Emeritus of New Bethel Baptist Church, was on hand for the celebration.
â€œIâ€™m thrilled to be here to celebrate 170 years of service of the first Black church in Washington, D.C., that came out of the First Baptist,â€ he said.
Trustee Elmer Brooks, grandson of Rev. Dr. Walter H. Brooks, who served as pastor from 1882 through 1945, said that he has been a member of Nineteenth Street since 1954. Over the decades, Brooks has been privy to several presidential visits, but he said that the move to 16th Street was most significant for him.
Though Pastor Harkins acknowledged the presidential visits as special, he said things outside of the limelight matter just as much.
â€œWe have really cultivated a strong understanding of our role in missions and trying to hopefully touch the lives of people who are living in real difficulty,â€ Harkins said.
â€œWe do that monthly with our mission to the homeless and there are some wonderful stories of lives being transformed because of that. Weâ€™ve had the privilege of being in Africa several times now and directly working with people who are struggling not only with the adversities of life, but dealing with HIV/AIDS. Those are significant because those are real lives, real people, real circumstances and thankfully, because of how we try to honor God here, weâ€™ve had an impact,â€ he said.
Rev. Harkins has been pastor at Nineteenth Street for 12 years. He was named pastor following the resignation of Rev. Dr. Jerry A. Moore, Jr.