Siloam Baptist Church
“God’s House of Hope, Healing and Wholeness”
Thursdays, “Maids Day Off,” was the beginning of gatherings from which grew the Siloam Baptist Church. Two Deacons from Second Baptist Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania would travel to Mrs. Perry’s Restaurant at 321 DeKalb Street. There they would conduct services with a few people from Norristown.
This group became larger and moved to the 500 block of DeKalb Street occupying the second floor of a Chinese laundry. Reverend Baxter was the first pastor followed by Reverend Coleman. Their next location was on the second floor of the Odd Fellows Hall on Airy Street. Ministers during this time included Reverend Perry and Rev. Howard. It was under Rev. Howard that a charter was issued which declared:
“The name of the corporation is Siloam Baptist Church. The purpose for the aforesaid corporation is the Worship of Almighty God, according to the faith, discipline, and usage of the Baptist Church of the United States of America.”
So, with a Charter, the people, temporary meeting places, but still no church home.
- For the sum of one thousand dollars, the officers bought four lots known as the Lewis Tract Farm on Willow Street in 1908.
- Reverend Howard built the basement walls of the church, which was all that Siloam could afford in 1908.
- Under Rev. J. R. Willis, the interior of the basement was completed, and worship services were held for the first time on Willow Street.
- The edifice was expanded under the administration of Reverend Reuben J. Johnston. He begged Peter Hoy, Norristown’s Fire Chief, for stones from a quarry which he owned. Stained glass windows were also installed during his years of service.
- The baptismal pool was installed under the term of Reverend J. B. Pratt. Also he and the membership successfully completed the installation of the pews. Things that are taken for granted today had to be added one at a time and represented struggle, faith, and planning.
Siloam called Reverend Edward Caffee to be their next leader. He was an evangelist from Alabama. His vision was that of Siloam as a “social center for the colored people of Norristown.” He believed that “when the spiritual and moral needs of a people are properly served, that people can render better service on their jobs. During his tenure, Siloam became the first black church to host the “World Day of Prayer” and was well on its way toward becoming a social force in the community.
Then came the Depression. Reverend Caffee was called elsewhere. However, Siloam was fortunate enough to call Reverend Samuel Martin. He steered the church through financially troubled years. The mortgage had to be paid; repairs to the structure were needed. One hundred new members were added to the church roll.
When Reverend Martin left, Reverend William A. Nowlin took over the helm of the church. He came to Siloam from Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Marie, and their two children, William and Christine. He was a powerful evangelist and community leader. Many new members were added to the church; junior and youth choirs were formed, and new auxiliaries were added. Mrs. Nowlin was president of the Missionary Circle for fourteen years. The first church bulletins were compiled and printed under her direction. And – joy of joys – a pipe organ was dedicated on August 31, 1941
On October 27, 1946, tragedy struck. A fire destroyed the interior of the church. Reverend Nowlin, without adequate insurance, led in the restoration and remodeling of the church. As part of the project, the basement was completed, and the pulpit was refurnished and carpeted.
Building on the work of those before him, he helped to give Siloam the status it enjoys in the community today. During his tenure, he served as a president of the Philadelphia Ministerial Alliance, the Greater Norristown Council of Churches, and the Norristown Ministerial Alliance. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Norristown Chapter of NAACP and the George Washington Carver Community Center.
In 1963, Reverend William R. Harris took over the duties of Pastor. He also came to Siloam from Pittsburgh, PA, He served on the Executive Committee of the NAACP and the Mental Health Clinic. He also served as a Norristown Area School Board Director for ten years.
Under Pastor Harris, the church restrooms and kitchen were renovated, the exterior and interior of the church were painted, new lighting in the sanctuary was added, making it a thing of beauty. The Wicks organ that the congregation now enjoys, was another achievement. It consists of 9 ranks and 645 pipes and was designed specifically for this church.
Siloam was fortunate enough to obtain Reverend David Minus as an Interim Pastor. He was an evangelist and powerful gospel singer. Under him, the membership grew and spirits were renewed
Today, Reverend John H. West, III is the pastor and is a minister possessed with strong leadership skills. Beyond that, he is an evangelist and pastor. On October 3, 1993, he was installed as Siloam’s twelfth pastor. He came from Lincoln University where he served as Chaplain and Professor for 14 years. He is married to Patricia Lynn Murray and is the proud father of their daughter, Candace.
During his tenure, the church significantly increased membership; Powerful sermons – visionary eyes set on tomorrow; organized the business and running of the church using modern technology, established new ministries with a greater outreach into our community; and purchased three properties for future expansion. He also led in the development of a Mission Statement, which serves as a vision for the 21st Century:
“THE SILOAM BAPTIST CHURCH IS A WORSHIPING, SERVING FAMILY OF FAITH SHARING GOD’S HOPE, HEALING, AND WHOLENESS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST WITH ONE ANOTHER, OUR COMMUNITY, AND THE WORLD.”
Under Pastor West, Siloam launched into a building program for the expansion of ministry into the community. With the help of two Capital Campaigns: “BY FAITH BUILDING GOD’S KINGDOM” Psalm 127:1. and BY FAITH WE BUILD TOGETHER Nehemiah 2:18, along with a loan from the American Baptist Extension Corporation, Siloam has completed a 1000 square foot extension that houses the Church Offices, three classrooms, lavatories and an elevator. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
So from a small room on DeKalb Street, with two lay leaders, and a dozen or so members, to the present location and edifice, Siloam has grown “BY FAITH”. Now, with a fresh vision and expanded space for the new millennium, the Siloam Baptist Church looks forward to a bright but challenging future.
Researched and written by Sister Alice Davenport