GETHSEMANE BAPTIST CHURCH was founded in 1900 as a Baptist mission for AFRICAN AMERICANS at East 25th and Pittsburgh Avenue. In 1919, under the leadership of Rev. Washington M. Page, the congregation purchased property at 30th Street and Scovill Avenue and moved to that location in the same year. Rev. Page served as pastor from 1900 until 1933. Rev. Charles L. Thompson served as pastor from 1933 until 1935. He was succeeded by Rev. GLENN T. SETTLE who served from 1935 until 1947. During his tenure, Rev. Settle tapped into the rich sacred music traditions brought to Cleveland by Southern migrants during the 1930s and 1940s, and established the senior choir, for which Williette Firmbanks Thompson served as pianist and director. The choir gained a popular following beyond Gethsemane when Settle launched the Negro Hour broadcast on radio station WGAR. By January 1938, the group was known to listeners as the WINGS OVER JORDAN CHOIR. Settle used the choir to spread Christianity through Negro spirituals, and it became the first black choir with a national audience as a result of its broadcasts on CBS radio and its national and international tours. Following Settle's departure, Rev. Benjamin Franklin Colvin assumed the pastorate at Gethsemane and served the congregation from 1947 until 1961. During his tenure, the church relocated to its present location at East 79th Street and Chester Avenue. Rev. Wilbur R. Jones succeeded Colvin, serving from 1961 until 1988. In 1971, during the tenure of Rev. Jones, the congregation completed the construction of its present church home. Rev. Stephen D. Sullivan, a former member of the Cleveland school board, served as the pastor of Gethsemane from 1988 to 2010. Rev. Richard T. Parker, the pastor as of 2018, has served since 2011.
Gethsemane has reached out to the community, sponsoring a career fair for high school students in 1997 and a youth conference, "Youth Leading the Way to Christ," in 2003, among other projects targeting young people. In 2015, the congregation established the GBC Help Center, which distributes free clothing, food, and household goods to the needy. Gethsemane has also held annual Men's and Women's Day celebrations.
Article updated by Regennia Williams
See also RELIGION and BAPTISTS.