Its choreographed stroll down the center aisle sets the rhythm for the first hymn of the morning. The congregation stands. They smile, sing and clap along. Some sway and a few raise their hands in praise.
At Second Baptist Church in Everett, people come dressed in their Sunday best. A group of teen ushers hands out fans to each woman of a certain age, many wearing hats, and they keep tissue boxes on hand should the spirit move.
Since 1901, Second Baptist Church has been the place of worship for many of Snohomish County's black families. Among the people who call Second Baptist home are former Everett city Councilman Carl Gipson, Everett School Board Director Pam LeSesne and Ozie Greene, one of the first black men to integrate the Air Force. Greene's daughter Janice is the head of the NAACP in Everett.
Second Baptist celebrates its anniversary each year, including its 112th Sunday. It's a bigger celebration this time around because it includes the dedication of the church's newly remodeled community center next door.
Now a more multiracial congregation, Second Baptist has as one of its goals that the people serve God through serving the community.
"As Christians and as citizens of Everett, we believe we have an obligation to this community," the Rev. Charlie Jackson said. "The community center will serve hot meals to retired folks. It will be a place to help single parents and their children and be home to our youth group."
The community center is just one of Second Baptist's ministries. Church members give regularly to the food bank, make quilts for seniors in nursing homes, volunteer to help domestic violence victims, support the Cocoon House shelter for teens and regularly visit inmates of the Snohomish County jail.
People at Second Baptist know what it's like to struggle, Jackson said.
The people who organized the church were those who traveled to Washington state in the late 1890s and early 1900s looking for work and a better place to live. It wasn't that Snohomish County was without racism, it's just that other places were worse, Jackson said.
"The typical push-pull factors of racism were behind the migration," Jackson said. "Pushed from one place and pulled to another. Those who moved here first and proved themselves then opened the doors for others to come."
In the early 1900s, Second Baptist Church probably was one of the few gathering spots for black families in Everett, Jackson said.
The congregation's first church building was on Rainier Street. In 1922, the church bought property at Virginia and California streets. The 1960s were a time of major growth, including the construction of the current building, under the direction of the Rev. Leon Jones. The next pastor, the Rev. Matthew McSwain, served 20 years through the 1970s and '80s. In 1979, Jackson, then a young man, visited Second Baptist and met his future wife, Cheryl, who had grown up in the church. In 1991, Jackson was called to serve as pastor of Second Baptist Church. His brother, Greg, is the music minister.
Jackson said he loves his 120-member church family.
"Second Baptist is a gold mine of wonderful folks," Jackson said. "As I like to say, some of God's best people worship here."
The admiration is mutual, said Sheila Logan, a longtime member and a deaconess.
"We love our pastor and his family," Logan said. "There is never a time when he is too busy for any of us. At Second Baptist we care for one another, and it's important that we support each other."
Among the important relationships in the church are those between the men of Second Baptist, Jackson said.
"The older men act as mentors for the younger men," Jackson said. "I am confident that this will keep going because these men will leave a legacy. A strong male presence in our church is so vital for our youth."
When the Sunday service is over, there's another round of hugs among the congregation, invitations to dinner offered and plans made for the coming week.
Outside, some of the choir members hum the last hymn of the morning as they walk to their cars.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second Baptist Church has scheduled its 112th anniversary celebration service for 10:45 a.m. Sunday , 2801 Virginia Ave., Everett. At 12:30 p.m., its community center, 2416 California Ave., is to be dedicated, followed by the church anniversary dinner. More information is at www.sbceverett.org or call 425-259-6545.
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