On Sunday, November 14, 1943, one hundred and seventy-five persons met in the chapel of Mr. J. Everett Price’s Funeral Home at 1120 North 25th Street, Richmond, Virginia. This group of God-fearing people had been led by the Holy Spirit to separate themselves from the Mount Olivet Baptist Church to seek the Lord’s direction in formulating a new worshiping community. After prayer, the first order of business was to call a spiritual leader. An invitation was extended to Reverend Freeman Roosevelt Berlack.
Secondly, they formed a temporary organization and then established some officers including Deacons, Trustees, Church Clerk, Treasurer and Bible School Superintendent. Many people volunteered their time, talents and finances to help establish the church.
The name for the new church community was inspired by God when Reverend Berlack recalled a statement by the President Franklin D. Roosevelt; “In the strength of Great Hope, we will meet our common cause.” Pastor Berlack stated it would symbolize the faith that these worshipers had in their God and their future.
On January 22, 1944, a church edifice was purchased from the Church of the Nazarene congregation for seven-thousand dollars. By June 1944, Great Hope had achieved permanent recognition and was formally organized as Great Hope Baptist Church. This recognition was based on sixty-two organizational letters received from Mount Olivet Baptist Church. These letters are still a part of our archives. Pastor Berlack was unanimously elected Pastor for life. In thirty-six months, the mortgage was burned.
March 1, 1954, Great Hope purchased a new building from the Venable Street Baptist Church congregation. This larger facility, located at 2101 Venable Street provided more space for the growing membership and its many programs. Great Hope also established a Child Day Care program in this building.
On October 31, 1971 Great Hope gave a Service of Appreciation and Recognition for Dr. Berlack who decided to retire.
Reverend David J. Winters was installed as Great Hope’s second Pastor on February 27, 1972. Many additional organizations were started and the church was completely renovated. Several ministers were ordained or licensed and a Sunday Morning nursery was established. Dr. Berlack, our founding minister, passed away on January 29, 1982 and was funeralized at Great Hope Baptist Church with Reverend Winters delivering the eulogy.
In 1982, Pastor Winters accepted a call to the Greater Corinth Church in San Antonio, Texas. Reverend Henry Miles was elected interim pastor and served the church with dedication, inspiration and humility.
On October 26, 1983, God directed the congregation to extend the pastoral call to Reverend Dr. Earl L. Bledsoe and he was installed as Pastor on May 5, 1984.
Since 1984, the church has accomplished even more including the purchase of additional property, new buses, installation of a computer system, major renovation to the Main Sanctuary was completed with new pews and carpet installed ordination of new ministers and the establishment of a year-round 8:00 a.m. worship service. The church is involved in the One Church One Child Program, CARITAS, and Feed the Hungry Outreach Program. The 50th Church Anniversary celebration began in December of 1992 with a parade and was followed with a celebration that lasted 11 months. A beautiful anniversary journal was published and a banquet was held on Friday, November 19, 1993 at the Radisson Hotel.
Our history has been a great one and has included the contributions of many people through the years. In the near future the Archives Ministry will complete a detail book listing of all Church Officers as well as the names of those who have donated items to the church.
Dr. Bledsoe in his colorful manner continues to be a forceful leader in these changing times.
In 2015, Members of Great Hope Baptist Church voted to offer Reverend Melvin F. Shearin, II, the position as Pastor. Rev. Shearin accepted the offer to become the fourth Pastor of Great Hope Baptist Church.