The History of Forest Chapel Baptist Church
Under the leadership of the Rev. Homer Harris, a group of dedicated Christians helped a God-given vision become reality by establishing the Forest Chapel Baptist Church in 1916. With the help of God, land was purchased and a worship place was constructed in the Forest Park area. The founding visionary, Rev. Harris served as Pastor of this great church for four years.
During the early years of it’s existence, Forest Chapel was under the leadership of Rev. Harris, Rev. C.L. Wilder, Rev. Butley, Rev. Bowden, Rev. R.T. Mathis, Rev. Spear, Rev. Miller, and Rev. Henley. Though these ministers pastored for a brief time and their contributions cannot be fully enumerated, we give special recognition to their efforts. These ministers of the Gospel facilitated the early development of Forest Chapel Baptist Church.
After many years of ministerial changes, the Rev. V.S. Neal was called upon to pastor the church. Rev. Neal was a strong supporter of Forest Chapel’s children. Under his steady leadership, many youth organizations were established. Rev. Neal realized that this church’s future would be fostered through its young people.
In 1952, the Rev. E.D. Dorsey succeeded Rev. Neal as Pastor. Rev. Dorsey was instrumental in broadening the recognition of Forest Chapel in the surrounding community. He was a driving force in motivating the membership to build another edifice. Tireless efforts were given by Rev. Dorsey and the membership to establish the funds to purchase land from Sister Maud Whatley and Brother Henry Reid. The current sanctuary and Fellowship Hall are outgrowths of Rev. Dorsey’s leadership and the dedication of the members. Rev. Dorsey served until April 1965 when he was called to his heavenly home.
On November 5, 1965, the Rev. R.L. Newby, Sr. was installed as Forest Chapel’s next Pastor. Rev. Newby was an inspirational minister with a vast knowledge of the Bible. His expressed goal was to always uplift the name of Jesus. During his leadership, the church edifice was bricked, an annex was built and new furniture was purchased. Also, the church office and kitchen were renovated. In addition, growth in membership was visibly evident during Rev. Newby’s time as pastor. The Lord called Rev. Newby home on November 5, 1990.
Rev. Marion E. Lawrence was officially installed as Pastor on January 6, 1991. Rev. Lawrence had served faithfully as assistant pastor during Rev. Newby’s illness. Rev. Lawrence’s leadership lasted a little more than eight years. Through his leadership and continuous messages of leaning, focusing and depending on God, the church family witnessed positive growth and change. During his first year as pastor, the sanctuary was re-carpeted, the pastor’s office furnished, and the sound system was updated. To show love and appreciation to Rev. Lawrence during his leadership, the youth choir was renamed in his honor.
During Rev. Lawrence’s leadership, the church was blessed with many renovations. An awning was erected over the church entrance and a church steeple was placed on the roof. The church was blessed to purchase a van and the construction of another office. Also during this time, God brought many new members and believers to join our family. On February 6, 1999, God dispatched His angels to take the soul of our beloved pastor to his heavenly home. Rev. Lawrence’s dedication and humble service to the Forest Chapel Family will always linger in our hearts.
The strong and unyielding leadership of this church under the guidance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, kept the Forest Chapel family together for 19 long months without a pastor. With the help of God, the commitment of members and the generosity of our sister churches, we were able to experience growth in our ministries and worship services each Sunday.
On September 3, 2000, the Rev. Jimmy R. Gibson, Sr. was installed as Forest Chapel’s Pastor. Shortly after his tenure began, many new members joined our Christian family and many were baptized into the faith. During Rev. Gibson’s leadership, several ministers were added to the official staff and the media ministry was created. Other notable improvements made to the church facilities, included a renovated vestibule and the addition of a church marquee. Rev. Gibson’s leadership ended on July 1, 2007.
Rev. Gabriel C. Stovall was installed as Pastor on November 2, 2008. Prior to leading as pastor, Rev. Stovall served as an associate minister, musician and Youth Pastor at Forest Chapel Baptist Church. Under Stovall’s ministry, the church embraced its mission, the desire to “Transform Lives Through Our Worship, Our Witness, and God’s Word!” Rev. Stovall’s leadership ended in July 2011.
On January 20, 2013, Rev. Kraig Hawkins was installed as the senior pastor of Forest Chapel Baptist Church. In a relatively short period of time, Pastor Hawkins has set in motion numerous ministry movements and advancements. Pastor Hawkins’ commitment to the youth is evident in the growth of the youth ministry, Josiah Generation. His focus on Christian Education has led to the expansion of Vacation Bible School to include adult classes and the growth of the “Wonderful Outstanding Word Wednesday” (WOWW) Bible Study.
We pay homage to the men and women of the past whose undying faith, determination and strength contributed to the growth and development of the Forest Chapel Baptist Church. The entire church family gives thanks and praise to God for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do through and for this great ministry. We truly have reason to praise God for His “MIGHTY ACTS!”