Elder Chester F. Brown III was installed Sunday as the 17th pastor of Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church, a congregation anchored in the Gateway area of uptown Charlotte.
Brown follows the Rev. Sidney Phillips, who led the church for more than six years before leaving in July 2014 to start a Baptist congregation near the Double Oaks community.
Brown, a native of Quincy, Fla., previously spent 14 years as senior pastor of Shady Grove #1 Primitive Baptist Church in Tallahassee, where he grew the congregation and its ministries from two worship services each month to two each Sunday.
At Brown’s Charlotte installation, several elected officials, including state Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr., were on hand to share well wishes. Some noted the church’s continued survival in one of uptown’s most prominent commercial areas.
Mecklenburg Commissioner Vilma Leake, noting the city’s recent spike in violent crime and its struggles to address the needs of high-poverty schools, challenged Brown to involve himself in local concerns. “We’re killing too many of ourselves,” she said, referencing the city’s rise in homicides this year.
Founded in 1891 by First Ward residents, Greater Mount Moriah was first located in a small, frame building on the northeast corner of North Alexander and Eleventh Streets. That building was later renovated and then razed in 1963, along with much of historic First Ward, as part of the city’s urban renewal plan. The church moved to its current location, 747 W. Trade Street, the following year.
In a 2013 interview with Qcitymetro.com, Phillips, the church’s previous pastor, said there is widespread curiosity about the Primitive Baptist denomination.
“Whereas most Baptist churches have two ordinances that they observe — sacraments such as the Holy Communion and baptism — Primitive Baptists have a third ordinance, the ordinance of foot washing, or the washing of the saints’ feet,” he said. “We do that after every communion… Aside from that, we worship the same, we sing the same hymns.”
In his installation message, Elder Bernard Yates, pastor of Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and president of the National Primitive Baptist Convention USA, said leading a churching is a “humbling responsibility.”
“Mount Moriah has always had great leaders,” he said. “…We want this match to be successful.”
In his charge to Brown, the Rev. Delwynn G. Williams, pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., challenged Brown to “lead the people, love the people and then leave the people” for rest, rejuvenation and family time.
In his charge to the congregation, Elder Jeffrey T. Rainey, pastor of Christian Union Primitive Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., challenged the members to accept Brown’s leadership and respect his calling and vocation.
“The vision comes from the head,” Rainey said. “God did not send Chester F. Brown III here to follow you. He sent him here to lead you. Any natural or normal body has one head. Anytime God wants to show the church anything, he will show it to the head.”
Brown is married to Yolanda S. Brown, and the two have three sons – Tyler, Kohl and Chester IV.