The congregation at First Baptist Church of Highland Park celebrates its new home in Landover, Maryland, during a ceremony on Oct. 29. /Photo by Hamil R. Harris
The congregation at First Baptist Church of Highland Park celebrates its new home in Landover, Maryland, during a ceremony on Oct. 29. /Photo by Hamil R. Harris

The First Baptist Church of Highland Park filled with people, politicians and songs of praise this weekend as Rev. Henry P. Davis and church members dedicated their congregation’s new home in Landover, Maryland.

At a time when many families are concerned about keeping food on the table, educating their children and living in a world where they don’t have to fear the police, Davis made it clear during his sermon that having a new church home is more than bricks and mortar.

“It is not about the building — we are here to make a difference in this community and not to stand behind these walls,” said Davis during a “Consecration Celebration” on Saturday, Oct. 29 that brought numerous area lawmakers, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and other county officials.

“It’s fantastic, not just for the church but for the community itself, this building is right here in the community,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker as he walked in and joined the chorus of politicians who took part in the event.

Founded as a mission church in 1921, First Baptist Church of Highland Park is a congregation went from a wooden A-framed building to a concrete church structure along Sheriff Road in 1954. The new building is actually the fourth completed structure, located in the 6800 block of Sheriff Road in Landover.

“This new building means that we can serve the community more and win more souls to Christ,” said Vernell Lawson, a church member since 1996, as she stood at her usher’s post.

In 1993, the church opened a massive education building, named after the church’s former pastor, the Rev. James I. McCord, that serves more than than 100 children. After 27 years of service, McCord retired and in July 2000, the church elected Davis as its pastor.

In 2007, Davis launched the church’s “Faith Forward” campaign to build a 1,200-seat sanctuary, which is already too small. Today the church has more than 3,000 members and 70 ministries.

Many area pastors took part in the consecration service, including the Rev. Matthew Whately, executive minister of Reid Temple AME (North Campus), who hosted the event, and the Rev. John K. Jenkins, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, who presented the church with a check for $30,000.

But while speeches were still being made, James Hollomon, 76, slipped out to perform what he considered a more meaningful task: service.

“I’m headed to the nursing home to visit somebody,” said Hollomon, who moved to the area a few years ago from New York. He also volunteers at a D.C. facility called the “Southeast White House” to help those in need.

Hollomon said the church’s mission is all about service.

“You need that 100 percent,” he said. “So many people, so many different things.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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