By Jon Wolff
The following is from a recent conversation with Venice Elder, Joe Washington who was a member of the First Baptist Church on Westminster Avenue and 7th Avenue in Oakwood in the heart of Venice.
Joe Washington: My name is Joe Washington.
Jon Wolff: You were a member of the First Baptist Church.
Joe: From the old church to the new church; I helped build the new church.
Jon: Yes sir. What are your memories of the church?
Joe: Reverend Holmes had a dream. He was a good preacher. He talked to my stepfather and my mother and all of them. And they started on building the church. Mrs. Holmes… I worked for her too. She was 97 when she died. I was there the night she died and I was there the night Reverend Holmes died. I used to take care of him when he got old.
Jon: What was life like in the church?
Joe: The music was fantastic. But now, you have thieves around. The new pastor that came in… he stole everything. And he should be prosecuted now.
Jon: That’s Horace Allen?
Joe: Yeah. But Reverend Holmes was cool. I used to drive him around… him and Mrs. Holmes. She lived a little while longer after he died. They were very happy together. You respected him. He was opinionated. He had a dream. And he had the followers. Most of the families, like the McClarys, like the Jacksons and the Washingtons and the other families around here, they believed in Reverend Holmes. He had a dream. He lived his dream.
Jon: That was to establish this church.
Joe: That’s it. He wanted that church there.
Jon: Here in Venice.
Joe: Yes. And they’re taking the name now, the First Baptist Church, and using it up there at the other church. The signs were put here by Reverend Holmes. The windows… what happened to all the windows?
Jon: There’s a lot of History in this church.
Joe: The McClarys were a big strong influence. And Johnny and Mrs. Sanders. Basically, we worked as a group. It started down the street there by Oakwood in 1908, if I’m not mistaken.
Jon: Do you remember a lot of activities here?
Joe: Wednesday night was prayer meeting night. On Sunday mornings, Sunday school started at 9:30. Sometimes you’d have 3:00 service. Then you’d come back at night for B.T.U.
Joe: Bible Training.
Joe: Reverend Holmes lived at that place. 24 hours a day. He had a dream.
Jon: This church was very strong in the Community at that time.
Joe: But now… if the leadership is not there. There’s been a lot of crooks around here. That’s all it is. Everybody wants money and wants this and wants that. It’s not the Community I used to know. We worked as a team. We were Baptists. We were family members, in a sense. It’s like a family.
Jon: Would you like to see the church revived somehow?
Joe: I want it to stay a church. I want it to be a church. It’s supposed to be a church.
Jon: It was built that way.
Joe: That’s right. Why is he [Horace Allen] selling it? What did he do? He got the greed. He’s over there on a storefront church trying to play the game. And he took the pulpits out there. He took everything. They wouldn’t even let me in the church the last few months. It’s all about greed.
Jon: There’s a big fight to revive the church and restore it to the Community.
Joe: I think that’s a good idea.
Jon: Support is building for that. Do you think we can manage?
Joe: Yes. It’s supposed to be for the Community.
Jon: A lot of people believe there’s Hope.
Joe: You’ve got to have Faith. Faith is the essence of all things. If you don’t have Faith, you’re not going to make it.
Jon: Then there’s a good chance we’ll make it.
Joe: If you believe. If you pray on it.