The History of West Hyattsville Baptist Church


On May 14, 1950, West Hyattsville Baptist Church was begun by the Mission Committee of the First Baptist Church of Mt. Rainer, in the form of a Sunday School which met at a residence at 5823 33rd Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland. The Sunday School continued for several months until the group was no longer able to assemble at the residence; however, many of the people continued to attend Sunday School at the Mt. Rainier Church.

On March 11, 1951, a building was rented at Ager and Jamestown Roads and a new Mission was begun, sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Mt. Rainer. At that time, Dr. Paul L. Bard, Missionary of the Southern District Baptist Association was placed in charge of the Mission. By October 1951, the average Sunday school attendance was at 46 and the Worship Service averaged 27 attendees.

The First Baptist Church of Mt. Rainer, with the assistance of a gift of $500.00 from the Baltimore Baptist Church Extension Society, purchased 30,000 square feet of land at the corner of Nicholson Street and 31st Avenue as a site for a new building. In the fall of 1954, the Church Extension Society challenged the Mission congregation to raise $2,281.08, in order to receive a $2,000 gift from the Society with which to repay the Mt. Rainer Church for the land indebtedness. This challenge was accepted and the money was pledged in a single service.

Eagerly, the little congregation began to anticipate the construction of a building on their property. Ground was broken on May 15, 1955 and construction of a building began soon after on June 28th. Mr. Hinton Harris who was serving as the minister of the Mission was the Building Foreman for the new place of worship.

Although the work on the building was incomplete, dedication and open house services were held on January 1, 1956. From September 1956 until the spring of 1958, Rev. Henry Martinez served as Interim Pastor, commuting from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on weekends.

On July 1, 1958, Rev. Richard L. Muse of Raleigh, North Carolina was called as the first full-time pastor of the Mission. Under his leadership, the Mission prospered and on March 8, 1959, it was constituted as West Hyattsville Baptist Church. Rev. Muse served the congregation for one year and four months after it became a church, resigning on July 10, 1960.

Following his resignation, Rev. R.I. Berghauser was called as Interim pastor (1960 – March 1962) and served until Dr. Alva E. Thompson became the second full-time pastor. Dr. Thompson officially began his work as Pastor on March 12, 1962, retiring on December 31, 1988. Under Dr. Thompson’s leadership the church membership grew, and yearly financial contributions increased from $10,000 to $107,485. Additional property was purchased and the building was totally renovated and redecorated, including the addition of a lighted steeple. This was done at a cost of $122,890, without incurring any indebtedness. During this building program, the church continued with its generous donation of 33.5% of all undersigned gifts to missions.

Further during Dr. Thompson tenure, nine young men went into Vocational Christian Service – two as Military Chaplains, one as a Minister of Music, one to work with the Home Mission Board in New England, and five as Pastors.

Under Dr. Thompson’s leadership, a mission Sunday School was started in Patuxent Mobile Estates in Lothian, Maryland. It grew rapidly and a mobile home was purchased and worship services were begun. This Mission was later relocated and constituted as New Hope Baptist Church.

Following the retirement of Dr. Thompson, Rev. Thomas Newman was installed as Pastor on January 22, 1989, and he served until July 9, 1989. He was followed by Rev. Wesley Harris, who served from December 31, 1989 until November 25, 1990 when he retired to Florida. On July 7, 1991, Rev. Edward Baker was called and served until April 12, 1992.

On March 28, 1993, Rev. Paul Bowen accepted an Interim contract for a six-month tenure. Following the expiration of his contract on September 26, 1993, the congregation voted unanimously to make the transition from an English-speaking congregation to a Language congregation.

On December 19, 1993, in a beautiful Service of Transition, the Church called Rev. Andrew Shen as Pastor and received 88 members from Berwyn Baptist Chinese Mission and elected a slate of Chinese officers. On that day, the very visible leadership of God brought two congregations together in an hour of tremendous accomplishment and joy.

In subsequent years, Rev. Alva Thompson returned to West Hyattsville as pastor. The church experienced a steady decline due to relocation and ill health of many members. Pastor Thompson’s wife, Rachel, invited Victory Baptist Fellowship to worship with West Hyattsville on October 10, 2005. From the first visit, a spiritual union was formed.

After much prayer and seeking a permanent location for Victory Baptist Fellowship, God’s intervention transitioned us from Victory Baptist Fellowship to West Hyattsville Baptist Church on November 6, 2005. With the entire membership of Victory Baptist Fellowship joining West Hyattsville, Pastor Eric L. David was elected Pastor upon the resignation of Rev. Alva Thompson on Sunday, November 6th.

Under the leadership of Rev. David, membership continued to increase and various ministries were formed for members to grow spiritually, socially and morally to effectively interact with each other, thereby promoting unity and growth. His vision was to reach out to the people in the community.

In November 2006, John W.G. Rosecrans, Dimensional Dynamics Architect, was authorized and contracted to develop a master plan for West Hyattsville Baptist Church. The master plan would allow for an orderly financial feasible development of our property so as to enhance our ministries and growth.

In 2007 Rev. David embarked on our Capital Fund Campaign with the theme, “Celebrate the Faith”. This was a challenge to members to respond spiritually and financially. Spiritually, we committed to practice one or more of the faith disciplines so that our lives may be transformed, enriched and empowered. Financially we were challenged to reach a goal of $500,000 to upgrade our facility and make it handicapped accessible.

In 2010, at the end of the campaign we had raised over $230,000.00 towards the building fund, and Rev. David invited all members to make an annual financial commitment to assist with the building needs of the church.

Rev. David was not able to realize his dreams because in December 2010, he became ill. During his illness he entrusted Rev. James A. Wright to act on his behalf while he was out. However, God’s plans were that Rev. David would not return, and God called him home on February 19, 2011. In April 2011, a special meeting was called and Rev. James A. Wright was voted as Acting Pastor of West Hyattsville Baptist Church.

On April 1, 2014, Rev. Emmett L. Dunn was elected pastor of WHBC, and on March 15, 2015, he was installed as the pastor of WHBC. On April 26, 2016, under the leadership of Pastor Dunn, WHBC celebrated the culmination of the Building Expansion Project with a Ground Breaking Ceremony. Many enhancements were made to the facility, as well as, spiritual growth for the congregation.

In December 2019, Pastor Dunn informed the congregations that he had been called to another assignment, (Lott Carey). On July 14, 2020, a Pastoral Search Committee was formed to find a new pastor for WHBC. After prayerfully seeking God’s guidance the committee recommended to the congregation that Rev. Thomas J. Rainsbury was our candidate for the next pastor of WHBC. On May 29th the congregation unanimously voted for Rev. Rainsbury to be pastor, effective August 1, 2021.