New Hope Baptist Church

Organized in 1866, New Hope Baptist Church is one of the oldest African American churches in Waco. Noted throughout its history for its excellent church music programs, New Hope is still a vibrant center of worship for Waco’s black community.

The end of the Civil War brought new freedoms to African Americans residing in Waco. Though blacks had previously been allowed limited worship opportunities at First Baptist Church of Waco, several African American congregants desired to use their increased postwar liberty to found a church of their own. Assisted by Baylor University President Rufus Burleson and First Baptist Pastor S. G. O’Bryan, eighteen black members of First Baptist formed a Missionary Baptist church on June 10, 1866. They named the church New Hope, a title befitting the spirit of optimism that fueled its establishment.

From humble beginnings, New Hope Baptist grew to become one of the more well-known African American congregations in Waco. The church first met in an old foundry building on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Sixth Street, a dilapidated space the church rented for $2.00 a month. However, this space soon proved insufficient as New Hope’s numbers increased. In 1867, New Hope built its first church building, a humble box-shaped structure measuring thirty by forty feet, in partnership with a local Methodist church. Both groups shared the facility, holding services on alternating Sundays. That building did not last very long before it was torn down to make way for a school for African American youth from McLennan County. New Hope rented the school on Sunday mornings for services until 1873, when they were able to construct a modest wooden church structure at another location. In 1884, under the leadership of the church’s seventh pastor, a large two-story brick church was constructed for the still-growing church. This building served New Hope until the current church was built in 1923 at the corner of Sixth Street and Marlborough Avenue (now 915 North Sixth Street).

Over the years, New Hope Baptist benefited from the leadership of a dynamic pastorate. The church’s original pastor, Stephen Cobb, willingly served the church for eight years without a stipulated salary.  Dr. J. Newton Jenkins, the pastor of New Hope from 1907 until 1950, is recognized as being the force that brought together a scattered and discouraged membership. In his first ninety days on the job, Jenkins was able to lead a fundraising effort that saw enough money raised to pay off all of the church’s debts. Jenkins’ successor, Dr. Marvin C. Griffin, was also a prolific pastor. Griffin pioneered a radio ministry and a citywide transportation system to the church on Sunday. He also strengthened the church’s ties with national, state, and local Baptist congregations.

New Hope Baptist was perhaps most well-known for its music programs. While the church had an informal choir as early as 1886, it wasn’t until 1895 that a structured music ministry was established under Dr. G.S. Conner and his wife Mattie. Thanks to the oversight of the Conners, by 1905 New Hope Baptist had a talented choir of forty trained voices to sing each Sunday. Soon thereafter in conjunction with students from Paul Quinn College, New Hope extended its music program to include a children’s choir and an orchestra. Dr. Conner presented at least one full-length operetta each year and cantatas at Christmas and Easter. Notable members of New Hope’s music ministry through the years include Jules Bledsoe, the grandson of Stephen Cobb and later an international opera star, and Vivienne Malone-Mayes, one of the first African Americans to receive an advanced degree in mathematics and the first African American professor at Baylor University.

From providing freed slaves with a sacred space of their own to empowering congregants through music, New Hope Baptist Church has worked for more than a century to lift black voices up in worship.

Images

First to Shepherd the Flock

First to Shepherd the Flock

Not only was Stephen Cobb the first pastor of New Hope Baptist Church but he also was the first licensed African American minister in the city. He served New Hope Baptist eight years without a stipulated salary and two years for $300 a year. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Commemorative Flyer

Commemorative Flyer

Despite its humble origins, New Hope Baptist soon became the leading church of Waco's African American professionals. Attracting teachers and the service staff to elite white families, New Hope gained a reputation among some blacks as a "silk-stocking church." Given the well-dressed deacons and congregants in the above photos, one can see how outsiders might have formed the impression that the church catered to upper-class African Americans. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Orchestra and Choir

Orchestra and Choir

In partnership with Paul Quinn College, New Hope Baptist formed an orchestra to accompany its accomplished choirs. Note that the majority of the musicians are women. In an era when women were generally barred from holding church office outside of Sunday school teaching positions, music ministry offered an ideal opportunity for women to use their talents to serve the church. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Training the Teachers

Training the Teachers

Sunday school superintendent Mack Hodges instructs a group of Sunday school teachers from New Hope Baptist Church. More women than men are present because female congregants were generally tasked with instructing the children and other women. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Debt Free (December 12, 1943)

Debt Free (December 12, 1943)

Having raised sufficient funds to pay their mortgage in full, New Hope Baptist held a special celebratory service in which the mortgage papers were burned. Here Mrs. J. O. Conner applies the torch to the church mortgage as the choir prepares to sing the hymn "Victory." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Piano Recital Program (1948)

Piano Recital Program (1948)

Only sixteen at the time of this recital, Vivienne Malone (later Malone-Mayes) was the pianist of New Hope Sunday School. The recital contained such varied musical selections as Bach's Fugue No. 5, Thompson's "I Love to Tell the Story," and Chopin's Prelude Op. 28, No. 22. Malone went on to become one of the first African-Americans to receive an advanced degree in mathematics. She also was Baylor's first African-American professor. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Church Bulletin

Church Bulletin

New Hope Baptist's mission statement is taken from Proverbs 29:18:"Where there is no vision the people perish." That the church still operates over a century after its founding speaks to the strength of the congregation's ongoing vision. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Young Voices

Young Voices

Children were encouraged to participate in the congregational life of New Hope Baptist by joining either the children's choir or serving as junior ushers. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Church Dinner (late 1970s)

Church Dinner (late 1970s)

Social events like concerts and dinners were an important part of congregational life at New Hope Baptist. They were generally held to mark special occasions such as church anniversaries and pastoral transitions. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Davis Studio View File Details Page

Dedication Ceremony for Historical Marker

Dedication Ceremony for Historical Marker

New Hope Baptist received a Texas State Historical Marker on November 6, 1983. Among the notable figures present for the marker's dedication were Waco's Mayor Jim Mathis and some of the descendants of Stephen Cobb, the church's original pastor. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Audio

Remembering the Founding of New Hope

Clemmie Holloway Long talks about the founding of New Hope with interviewer Rebecca Sharpless. | Source: Long, Clemmie Holloway and Willie Long Smith, interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless Jimenez, April 16, 1985, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Maids, Cooks, and Teachers at New Hope

Vivienne Malone-Mayes speaks of how knowledgeable the workers of New Hope Baptist Church were. | Source: Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, August 4, 1987, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Sunday Morning Music in the 1930s

Vivienne Malone-Mayes tells about the music played during Sunday Worship services at New Hope Baptist Church in the 1930s. | Source: Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, August 2, 1987, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Worshiping at New Hope in the 1930s

Vivienne Malone-Mayes explains how people worshiped on Sunday mornings at New Hope Baptist Church in the 1930s. | Source: Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille, interviewed by Rebecca M. Sharpless, August 4, 1987, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Paul Fisher and Prisca Bird, “New Hope Baptist Church,” Waco History, accessed June 29, 2017, http://www.wacohistory.org/items/show/27.
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