Upon entering the large parking lot of the Baptist Worship Center at 4790 James St., you will be immediately impressed by the size of the facility. As you approach the building you will appreciate the “grandeur” of it all, you might even expect to be swallowed up by the multitudes who gather there for worship.
You would be wrong. Although it is a large church with hundreds of worshipers, the Baptist Worship Center is a warm and welcoming place where all who attend are welcomed like family. From the guests at the entrance to the sanctuary to the ushers who escort them, a warm atmosphere is part of the BWC experience.
“Last year we celebrated our 25th anniversary and we started in West Philadelphia and the Lord drew us to this community three years later,” said Bishop Millicent Hunter, who is the senior pastor of the church.
Hunter said the move to northeast Philadelphia was a blessing as the church served as a beacon in the area.
“God has truly allowed us to be a blessing to this region of the northeast,” she said.
The origins of the church read like a fairy tale. The church began at Hunter’s House in West Philadelphia 25 years ago as a Bible study gathering of five people. It quickly became too big for its accommodations and had to move.
The church is now located on what was once the home of a supermarket.
“It was a supermarket and a pharmacy, and when the supermarket got bigger and moved to another location, we had a church in Frankford, but when it became available God just worked miracles and crashed us. here, “said Hunter.
The move, Hunter said, was ideal.
“We are strategically located. Convenient transportation and we’re right off I-95 so it’s been such a blessing from God to be located here, ”she explained.
It requires both the work of God and the hard work of ministers to maintain the great church and its congregation.
” I’m working on it. I realize the importance of being kind, of being close and personal with people and I really try to cultivate a sense of family and a family atmosphere and I follow the example of Jesus who served multitudes and thousands while still being close to the people. “said Hunter.
“So it’s still a goal and something that I’ve really tried to do consistently, and it’s been wonderful,” she added.
Hunter recognized his responsibilities as a pastor to set the tone for the atmosphere during the service. “I am very intentional to be warm and to be among the people,” she said.
Evidence of this warmth was visibly apparent in discussions with people about their church and their pastor.
“The church is an amazing second home for me, it’s an opportunity for me to come in and freely worship, to come in and listen to the Word,” said Ariselys Cruz, a pastor who is a member of ‘a congregation for 10 years.
Cruz describes Bishop Hunter as “a powerful vessel used by the Lord”.
“She is able to pour out on people and accept people for who they are, how they are and where they are in their current status and help them build them and encourage them to be what God intended them to be. to be, ”said Cruz.
Reverend Iva Hall, who has attended church for over 20 years, said she was first drawn to the church because of the light.
“It’s the light, it’s got to be the light,” Hall said. “When I first came here it was such a feeling, it was personal. Even though there are a lot of people here, it’s still personal. That’s why some people, I think, have a problem with the big churches, but that’s not the case here.
Hall says worshipers share a warm and close relationship despite the church’s large size.
“Everyone is so friendly but, you know, it all comes from the head. We all feel this because of Bishop Hunter. It’s one of the things that really attracted me here and I’m not going anywhere.
It was while visiting the church with his mother and aunt about 19 years ago that Dominique Clark had his first exhibition at the Baptist Worship Center. She joined the following week.
“We enjoyed the Word, we loved that they had things for the kids and we were at that age and Bishop is dynamic. She has that personality that you kind of see and that draws people to her and I think I was drawn to her at first, ”Clark said.
Clark now works with the youth of the church and says that there is always something going on at the church and that it is important for the community to have an open and accessible church offering positive alternative activities for local youth.
“You prefer the neighborhood kids not to have trouble, you prefer to have them here,” she said.
As a youngster, Clark said she was at church seven days a week to participate in some of her many activities with other young people. She remembers doing her homework and spending time with other young people in church.
“When you think about it, it was a safe place and it’s still a safe place for people to come during the week to participate in the ministry,” she said.
Shawn Eaddy joined the church while in high school. Even though he lived in Virginia at the time, his mother drove him to church on weekends.
“She literally drove every Friday after school from Arlington, Va., Stayed at church on Sundays, and went home every week for four years,” he said, laughing at the memory.
There were times his mother would pick him up after school on Fridays to make the trip to Philadelphia if he had to be at church for activities such as a band rehearsal or a choir rehearsal. .
Eaddy has been a member for 20 years.
“It’s just family. Churches today have the stigma that they just want your money, they really don’t care about you. But here it’s just something so different. When you walk in they don’t care about your money, they care about you, so it’s personal, ”Eaddy said.
“This is such a family-oriented church that it will always make you back down,” he added.
Some families are trained at the Baptist Worship Center. Deacon Larry Buck and Deaconess Linda Buck met and were later married in church.
Buck’s membership in BWC began in the early days, when the church’s formative years for Bible study met at Hunter.
“I think I missed 1 Sunday in 26, 27 years,” he said.
“Bishop has cultivated ministers on how we are to treat God’s people because people come and they come as they are,” Buck said of Hunter.
“We don’t know what’s going on with everyone, but if you treat them with God’s love, that kind word and your smile can keep them coming back,” he said.
Buck said she first visited BWC after hearing about a wonderful preacher and decided to check it out for herself.
That was about 20 years ago and she has been a full and active member of the ministry ever since.
“I love Bishop Hunter, she gives off everything a godly woman should be,” she said.