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OLIVET INSTITUTIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH

OLIVET INSTITUTIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH

OLIVET INSTITUTIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH, one of the largest AFRICAN AMERICAN congregations in Cleveland, was established by a group of former members of Triedstone Baptist Church who gathered for worship in a small building on Quincy Avenue on 12 February 1931. The new church, known as the New Light Baptist Church, held its first services on 16 February, with Rev. C. John preaching the first sermon. The first pastor of the new church was Rev. A. W. Nix of Chicago. During his two year tenure, the New Light Baptist held its first revival and the congregation grew from a core group of 40 members to 150. Rev. N. H. Armstrong of Akron succeeded Nix in 1933. The congregation grew to some 500 members and the church changed its name to Olivet Baptist Church in reference to the ascension of Jesus from the Mount of Olives. Following the departure of Armstrong in 1937, the church relocated to a building on East 55th Street and Central Avenue, sharing quarters with MOUNT ZION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. The congregation dwindled to some 30 members before the arrival of Rev. Eugene W. Ward of Detroit at Olivet Baptist Church in late 1937. Within a year, Ward, known as the "Boy Preacher," dramatically increased the church membership, making relocation to more spacious quarters necessary. The church moved to the Bohemian Hall on Quincy Avenue in May 1938. The church purchased the building shortly thereafter, but was forced to change its name to the Second Olivet Baptist Church to avoid legal conflicts owing to the presence of another church in Cleveland with the name Olivet. Continued growth of the congregation again necessitated relocation to a larger facility. After a fundraising campaign, the church purchased a lot on Quincy Avenue in 1950 to erect its new structure. Ward left the Second Olivet Baptist Church in 1952, before the new church building was completed, and was succeeded by Rev. Odie M. Hoover of Montgomery, Alabama. It was during Hoover's pastorate that the church adopted its present name, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. The congregation moved into its new church building on Quincy Avenue in April 1954, paying off the mortgage seven years later. Rev. Hoover was committed to the struggle for civil rights and personally acquainted with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., making Olivet the headquarters of Rev. King whenever he visited Cleveland. In 1966, Olivet opened the O. M. Hoover Christian Community Center to provide its members and the community at large with fellowship and recreation. It was dedicated by Rev. King. Hoover passed away on 7 November 1973 after serving Olivet for 21 years.

On 30 December, 1974, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. assumed the pastorate at Olivet. He founded the Olivet Housing and Community Development Corporation (OHCDC) in 1975. This nonprofit organization has worked to develop and improve the Fairfax community as well as other Cleveland neighborhoods by sponsoring local services, programs, and projects aimed at enhancing the physical, educational, and economic well-being of local residents. Moss also set an example for other congregations to follow in the inclusion of women by ordaining Olivet's first female minister, Rev. Dr. Margaret Mitchell, in 1989 and appointing the church's first four women to the Trustee Board in 1990. In 1997, the Otis Moss, Jr. University Hospitals Medical Center opened near the church, the product of a close collaboration between Olivet and UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS OF CLEVELAND. The Medical Center has provided inner-city residents with quality outpatient care, including primary care, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and podiatry, and spiritual counseling, attending to their souls as well as bodies.

As of 2010, Olivet provided more than 50 spiritually-based programs and ministries to the Greater Cleveland community. Among them were an annual summer enrichment college tour, an athletic ministry, an investment club, a prison ministry, an after-school program, and Alcoholics Anonymous. The church has also sponsored the Rites of Passage Program which combines Christian and Afrocentric values to guide black children 11 to 15 years of age toward maturity. In 1999, the Olivet Housing and Community Development Corporation and the Olivet Health and Education Institute co-sponsored the National Conference on African American Health, Spirituality, and Healing, which brought together the religious and medical communities. In 2008, Olivet abandoned its plans to build a satellite Twinsburg campus, opting to use the funds to refurbish its historic building on Quincy Avenue instead. In April 2009, Rev. Jawanza Karriem Lightfoot Colvin of Washington, D.C. assumed the pastorate at Olivet. As of 2009, the membership stood at over 3,000.


See also RELIGION and BAPTISTS.