Highland Park Pastor Celebrates 10 Years, Looks Forward

WI Staff Report | 9/1/2010, 5:22 p.m.

The Rev. Dr. Henry P. Davis III has guided the First Baptist Church of Highland Park through a host of changes and improvements the past 10 years, including membership growth, broader evangelistic efforts and preparations for a major building project.

"I don't look at the current building program as a 'milestone' because we haven't cut the ribbon and walked in," Davis says of plans to construct a $30 million worship center.
"It's a work in process. Beyond any shadow of doubt, this is the biggest project that I've ever been a part of."

A weeklong celebration of Davis' 10th anniversary began Sun., Aug. 29, with his father, the Rev. Dr. Henry P. Davis, Jr., pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., preaching at the 7:30 a.m. service and two other guest ministers at the 11:15 a.m. and 6 p.m. services.

On Wed., Sept. 1, the Rev. Bobby L. Johnson of Van Buren First Assembly of God in Arkansas will lead both the noon and 6:45 p.m. prayer services. A special celebration reception and program are planned for Fri., Sept. 3.

On Sun., Sept. 5, the Rev. Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church of Houston, will preach at both morning Anniversary Worship Services. Davis' father-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Harold A. Carter, Sr., pastor, New Shiloh Baptist Church, Baltimore, will wrap up the celebration at the 6 p.m. service.

Davis acknowledges that church membership has grown to more than 3,000 as five spirit-filled worship assemblies are now held each week, and evangelism efforts have taken teams of ministers, deacons and lay members throughout Prince George's County and the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

"The Park," as Davis has nicknamed the church, has provided money, supplies and physical assistance to aid survivors from the Tsunami, Katrina, Haiti and other disasters.

"It's hard for me to measure the growth that has taken place over the past 10 years as I've simply sought to be faithful to God," says Davis, a charismatic leader known for his power-packed sermons and exceptional people skills. "I fully realize that everything is in the hand of God.

I'm grateful for how our church reaches beyond our walls to touch persons in our neighborhood and across the world in very tangible ways."

Davis adds that his messages "reach thousands via the Internet through our web site www.fbhp.org, which was not in place prior to my coming."

"There can be so many obstacles for persons coming to Christ and Satan is happy with that. That's why the church has to stay on the cutting edge. Jesus did not rest in trying to keep things comfortable for the Believer. He's to do more and to do it better than before."

When Davis arrived in Bowie in November 2000 from New York City, where he served seven years as pastor of the Second Canaan Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover had about 2000 members and the Highland Park Christian Academy enrolled students from Pre-K through fourth grade.

Today, the school has expanded through eighth grade. And, Davis recently launched a "Faith Forward" campaign that will lead to building a new $30 million worship center, complete with state-of-the-art amenities, including a basketball court and fitness center.

"I feel blessed that our church can be in such a position to plan and proceed in that direction," says Davis.

In addition to the tangible changes at the church the past 10 years, Davis stresses there have been other improvements, such as a change in the "content of our worship."

"The Word is the center of our worship and we've sought to remove the things which would have been categorized as fluff. Our goal is to lead persons to Christ to equip them so that they might grow in the faith," he says, noting that there have been more than 600 baptisms over the past 10 years.

Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, Davis is the oldest of four children, including twin brothers. They grew up in various towns along the New Jersey shore. He graduated with honors from New Jersey's Middletown High School, and earned a bachelor's degree in English from Norfolk State University in Virginia.

In addition, he earned a master's from Farleigh Dickinson University, a master of divinity from the New Brunswick, N.J. Theological Seminary; and a doctor of ministry from the United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio.

In other evangelistic efforts, Davis started broadcasting on WAVA- 105.1 FM nearly eight years ago. The sermons can be heard on Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. The church also has a Sunday morning broadcast in New York City that reaches listeners in Connecticut and New Jersey on WLIB - 1190 AM at 6:30 a.m.

On a personal note, the Davis family has been growing too. He and his wife, Weptanomah, added a son, Henry, about seven years ago. Their daughter, Lilybelle, nearly a toddler when they arrived, prepares to enter her senior year at Bowie High School. Mrs. Davis is working on her doctorate in Counseling Psychology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

"We can thank God for those who've come before us and that is why we must stand on their shoulders," says Davis. "When you stand on someone's shoulders, you should be able to reach higher and that's exactly what we're trying to do at Highland Park."