By Barry Dalton
A police escort commemorated the first service of the Second Missionary Baptist Church on Dec. 20, 2009, when it formally transferred from its former location on Taylor Street to its present location on Hwy. 54 in Vandalia.
The Taylor Street church had been built in 1896 when at the time there was no place for black citizens to worship in the Baptist faith. As our nation evolved, the church eventually became a place of worship for anyone regardless of race or background.
“We try to make people feel comfortable and show love,” said Pastor Dustin Holt. “Here, you’re free to express your passion and love for God. We try to express love, you know, and just make newcomers feel welcome.”
The church has had 29 pastors in its long history: Adkins, Sears, Mack, Mckamey, Downing, Daniels, O.F. Nelson, E.H. Adams, Washington, Vinson, Holmes, Peay, Davis, Collins, Roman, Doss, Smith, Ward, Madison, A.A. Adams, Richardson, Cole, B.Nelson, C.Johnson Davis, Wesley Jones, William Butler, Jr., Jeffrey L. Mims, Sr., Jeff Mims, Jr., and Holt.
A Vandalian who grew up in the church on Taylor Street, Pastor Holt says it was sad when the old church burned down on Feb. 25, 2021, but he was just relieved the residents of the converted home escaped safely.
“It’s just a building, we are the church,” he said. “Yes, there are memories in the building, but those memories are instilled within us. It’s unfortunate that it happened.”
The transition to the new church at 150 W. Hwy. 54 in 2009 was overseen by the late Pastor Jeffrey L. Mims, Sr., who was not only a great preacher but an accomplished musician who recorded several spiritual albums and traveled with his family to do shows.
Mims was his mentor. A member of the Van-Far Class of 1997, Holt was ordained as a minister on July 28, 2019, but has been preaching since 2010.
“Pastor Holt is the best,” said Joe Edwards, who has been a deacon in the church for six years, as he stopped in the church office to put some items away before leaving with his family. “He cares about everybody.”
Holt recalls that he did not always have the best attitude toward church for part of his life.
“The crazy thing about it is that I had kind of ventured away from the church before Pastor Mims came,” Holt admitted. “I had a lot of ‘church hurt.’ I knew better–I was raised in that church–but I sat in the front row and had my arms crossed with like, you know, ‘What are you going to say to me that changes the way I feel about Christians at this present moment?’ After listening to Pastor Mims, from that day on,” he says with a chuckle. “I was back in the church.”
But he credits a minister at a men’s chorus concert he was participating in St. Louis with bringing him into the ministry.
“The pastor down there, he didn’t know me from the man on the moon, and he prophesied on my life,” Holt explained. “There was things that he knew that I don’t know how he knew. After that I kind of fought it for a while, and then I surrendered to that calling, and beginning in 2010, I got licensed to minister.”
Second Missionary Baptist church, he says, is an independent Baptist church not formally affiliated with any denomination, organization, convention or association. In addition to housing a childcare center for parents who work during the week, it also owns a building on Main Street near the tax office with state-of-the-art workout equipment.
He says the style of the church is “Bapticostal: a little bit of Baptist and a little bit of Pentecostal. Because we like to praise God. Some people–that scares them–but the Bible says that if we don’t praise God, the rocks will cry out.”
Holt says the church has always been a family-oriented church and everyone is welcome. His uncle, Sam Lee, is also a minister there, his father is a deacon, and his mother is the secretary. Holt has two sons in college, and one about to start.
As far as the “church hurt” he had for a while, he hopes that others who have left their churches or wandered away like he did, will give church another chance.
“It says there in the Bible that the devil comes to rob, kill and destroy,” Holt said. “And when he’s talking about killing, he’s not talking about murder, he’s talking about killing your joy, killing your peace, killing your passion, killing your train of thought. Whatever he can do to tear you from the love of God, that’s what he’s going to do.”
Finally, Holt says he truly appreciates the church’s important history in Vandalia but his focus is on the present and reaching out to everyone who wants to praise God.
“I want to give praise to God while I still have breath in my body,” Holt said. “I hate using black and white, because we’re all people–we’re all Americans. “But in 1895, a few people decided they needed a black church. They got together and they decided, hey, we are a church. And now here we are, 125 years later, still under that name. We still have the history of everything we’ve been through, from then all the way up to now. But we’re a new church, too. I just think it’s remarkable that we can keep this fire burning.”