God With Us

The History of Emanuel Baptist Church

In The Year Of 1954, The Late Rev. Lewis H. Simmons  Had A Vision To Build A Church.  It Had Already Been Pre-Destined, Ordained, Confirmed, And Arranged By God That Rev. Simmons Would Travel To The Country Of Hamilton, Bermuda To Run A Soul-Saving Revival, And It Would There He Would Be Commissioned By God To Go Back Home, And Build A Church, And Call It “Emanuel” Because “I Will Be With You”.

And So – With Only A Few Followers – Of God, Not Of Man – The Church Was Established As A Chartered And Incorporated Organization On October 7, 1954. This Very Same Spot Of Ground Was Purchased And The Ground-Breaking Ceremony Was Held On Thanksgiving Day Of That Year. The Pastor Of Our Founder, The Late Rev. Dr. Paul G. Daniels, Delivered The Sermon, And His Subject Was Most Befitting – “Upon This Rock, I Will Build My Church.”

The Vision Was To Be More Than Just A Worshiping Edifice. It Was To Be…

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A Haven For Those In Need

An Institution Of Learning

A Home For The Lost

A Healing Station For The Sick

A Saving Post For The Sinner

A Revival Depot For The Weak, And,

A U-Turn Point For The Backslider.

Through His Ministry, The Church’s Fellowship Hall, known then as “The Institute”, served the community as a Kindergarten (taught by Mother Sarah Simmons), and Rev. Simmons taught classes in Music, Typewriting and Printing, Woodworking, Electronics, and Adult Reading. Dr. Simmons also coordinated Voter Registration Preparation for blacks through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), under the directorship of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

…And Here We Are, Built On The Rock Of Our Salvation, Still Standing On Christ, The Solid Rock.

In The Fifty-Seven Years Of Our Existence, We Have Been Blessed With The Leadership Of Only Five Men.  Our Founder, Rev. Lewis H. Simmons, Served From 1954 Until His Death In March Of 1971.  Rev. R. B. Gillins Served As Pastor From Late 1971 Until His Health Began To Limit Him In The Early 1980’s.  Rev. Heyward Cordes, Jr. Served As Rev. Gillins’ Assistant, And On Into The Pastorate From That Time Until 1990. Rev. Robert A. Vandross Served As Pastor From 1991 Until February 2001.  Rev. Eugene Murray Was Installed As Pastor In June Of 2001 And Served Until August 2007. Our Present Pastor, Rev. John T. Miller Came To Us, Ready To Work And Carry On God’s Plan.

Our Founder

Our Founder, The Rev. Dr. Lewis Howard Simmons, Was The Youngest Child Of The Late Mr. And Mrs. William And Rebecca Richardson Simmons, Born March 4, 1909 In Charleston, SC. He Was Multi-Gifted And Musically Inclined Early On, And Would Make Musical Instruments Out Of Just About Anything. He Loved To Sing And Carry A Rhythm All Of The Time. He Learned To Play The Piano By Moving His Fingers Along The Kitchen Table With The Utensils Serving As His Drumsticks.

His Family Was Affiliated With The Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church In Downtown Charleston, And This Church Was One Of The Staunch Supporters Of The Jenkins Orphanage. Through The Founder Of The Orphanage Who Was Also The Pastor Of The Church, Rev. Simmons Was Introduced To The Infamous Jenkins Orphanage Band, Where He Was Able To Put Some Meaning To The Music That Was Already In His Head. He Learned To Play The Piano, The Drums, The Guitar, The Saxophone And Trumpet, And Also To Score The Compositions That Were In His Heart.

While On Tour With The Jenkins Orphanage Band In The City And State Of New York, He Was Able To Sit In On Many Sessions With The Count Basie Orchestra Where He Remained For A While, Even After The “JO” Band Returned To Charleston. Also While In New York, He Answered His Call To Preach The Gospel, And Later Returned To His Native Charleston To Pursue What God Had Called Him To Do. Many Of The Area’s Ministers, Including Those Of His Home Church, Thought He Was Too Young To Be Licensed, And Refused His Request For That Chance.

However, Rev. Dr. Willis Brown, Pastor Of Gethsemane Baptist Church, Saw Something Lewis That Convinced Him To Give Lewis The Opportunity To Do God’s Bidding. He Was Given His “Trial” Sermon, His Licensed, And Allowed To Serve Under Rev. Brown. He Proved Himself To The Community, And Was Finally Accepted, And Ordained In The Gospel Ministry. In later years he did further studies in Theology, and received an Honorary Doctorate from the Grambling Theological Seminary.

He Met And Married Sarah Viola Gregory, And To Their Union, Two Children Were Born, Of Which One, A Daughter – Ernestine - Survived. He And His Wife Organized And Operated The Christian Youth Educational Alliance (CYEA) Vocational Institute, First Located On Beach Avenue, Union Heights, Charleston, SC. There They Had A Kindergarten/Day Care Center, And Taught Other Subjects Such As Printing, Music, Woodworking, And Adult Reading.

He Was Called To Pastor What Is Now Known As The First Missionary Baptist Church In Summerville, And Later The Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Dunmeyer Hill Road, In Ladson.