Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Baptist Church


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Baptist Church

In May of 1977, the vision of beginning a new church in the Renton area blossomed in the mind of Sis. Margie Williams, a Renton resident weary of traveling to Seattle for church. She decided the local community needed an African-American Church. Sis. Williams contacted Rev. J. W. Henderson of Seattle through her mother and asked him to meet with her regarding her vision.  That meeting took place on July 4, 1977, in Sis. Williams' home.  Rev. Henderson accepted the challenge to pastor this church.  They named it "Solid Rock Baptist Church."

After the first two church services were conducted on the patio of Sis. Williams home, it was agreed that a building needed to be secured for future services. The Renton Community Center, located at 324 Smithers Street, was secured.  This building, later named "The Odd Fellows Lodge," became the first worship site for the Solid Rock Baptist Church.

Realizing there was an African-American population in the Skyway area, Rev. Henderson and Sis. Williams walked door to door, inviting all who would listen to come and worship at the new church.  She promised to pick-up all who wanted to attend but had no transportation.  On July 24, 1977, Solid Rock Baptist Church held its first service in its newly acquired location.

During the months of October and November, our congregation continued to grow. It was also at this period we lost the services of our first minister, Rev. J.W. Henderson.  Sis. Margie Williams, determined not to let her vision die, contacted Mr. John Cannon, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Metropolitan Ministries.  After numerous contacts, Sis. Williams was referred to Rev. Leon C. Jones, Area Minister for the American Baptist Association, North Puget Sound Area.  Rev. Jones met with church members to discuss the development of the church, and at that time it was requested that a minister be found.  The request was taken to the core staff of the American Baptist Churches.

In December 1977, the first services under the leadership of Rev. Leon C. Jones, Area minister, were held.  Assisting him was the Rev. Tom Fukuyama of Tacoma. Rev. Fukuyama’s leadership abilities were of great value.  He was especially instrumental in setting up inspirational prayer meetings, public relations contacts and community input.  It was during this period that the congregation felt a new awakening and a new sense of direction.

On January 29, 1978, our congregation overwhelmingly voted to change the name of the church from Solid Rock Baptist Church to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Baptist Church.

In less than a year, Rev. Jones had begun to leave his footprints on the sands of time.  Under his leadership on February 26, 1978, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Baptist Church was formally dedicated as an American Baptist Mission by the North Puget Sound Area American Baptist Churches of the Northwest.  Peoples Institutional Baptist Church of Seattle was the sponsoring congregation.  In March, our first baptismal service was conducted at Peoples Institutional Baptist Church.  In 1987, our church, originally an American Baptist Mission, became an American Baptist Church.

In November 1978, Rev. Glenn Miles began the following ministries: Youth, Music, and Christian Education.  To bring a joyous end to our first year, our first Christmas program was sponsored by the youth choir.

In 1985, 4.9 acres of land suitable for the building was purchased for $75,000.00 with financing arranged by the American Baptist Extension Corporation in Valley Forge, PA.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 18, 1988, and construction of our existing building began on May 9, 1989.

Our first cornerstone was laid on Sunday, February 25, 1990. On September 23, 1990, we held our first service in the new tabernacle located at 13611 SE 116th St. During a Renton Highlands rezoning project, the streets were renamed, and we received a new address: 4519 NE 10th Street.  On September 22, 1991, a second cornerstone was laid. During this same period, we celebrated our first Black History Program. To honor our first Deacon, Walter Smith, a scholarship fund was organized and implemented in his name.

In 1991, during the Lenten Season, a fellowship began with the Panther Lake Community Church in Kent, Washington. We had combined services each Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunrise Services. The services alternated yearly between the two churches, with breakfast and fellowship after the Easter Sunrise service. Due to the aging community at Panther Lake Community Church, we eventually had to terminate that arrangement. We enjoyed the time we spent with them and the relationships that were built during that time.

In September 1994, four women were ordained as deacons of the church.  They were Adrienne Lawrence, Roslyn Lowe, Bobbi Sims, and Alene Stephens. Rev. Samuel B. McKinney performed the ordination services.

In 1995, the ethnic school was reorganized and named Jones Ethic Academy. In that same year, the Jones Ethnic Drill Team was organized. In 1997, a significant event occurred when women were elected to head two major departments of the church: the Trustee Board and the Diaconate Board. These women were Gwen Dupree and Adrienne Lawrence, respectively.

Many significant accomplishments were achieved over the years under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Leon C. Jones.

Pastor Leon C. Jones’ celebrated ministries sanctioned by the church are Church Anniversary, Pastor Anniversary, Graduation Sunday, Back to School Sunday, Vacation Bible School, Men's Day, Women's Day, Old Fashioned Homecoming, The Bite of the States, Annual Revival, Usher's Annual Day, Law and Justice Forum; the first radio broadcast of morning services on 1420 KRIZ AM, Choir Ministry - Voices of Praise (adult choir), AGAPE (youth choir), and Little Spirits Ensemble, Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Day Celebration, Black History Celebration, Annual Church at the Park and BBQ, All Church Retreat, Youth Retreat, Martin Luther King Jr. Drill Team, Tape Ministry, Annual Easter Play, Annual Christmas Play, New Year's Eve Watch Night service It is quite likely that this list is not exhaustive. He was a major influence and was led by the Holy Spirit. We would never be able to count the number of souls saved under his leadership and ministry.

On September 25, 1999, Rev. Leon C. Jones and First Lady Rubye Jones said their final goodbyes as they retired from Martin Luther King J. Memorial Baptist Church as Pastor and First Lady.

In May 2000, Rev. Dr. Oscar C. Jones came to us as Interim Pastor and served until August 2001. Under his leadership, the following ministries were established: Margie Williams Helping Hands (Food and Clothing Bank), G.L.A.D God's Growing Leaders and Disciples, a young adult ministry, the Greeter's Ministry, and Youth Friday night Extreme/family movie night. The Interim Pastor remained with us until we called our next pastor.

On January 20, 2002, Rev. Herbert J. Carey preached his first sermon as our new Pastor. under Pastor Carey’s leadership, the following ministries were established: Reestablished Mother's Board, Midday Bible Study, Monday Night Bible Study, AWANA youth bible study, Kwanzaa Celebration, Child Abuse Prevention Training, Dance Ministry including Anointed Praise for Young Adult, Everlasting Love, Just Prayze Dance and Believe Mime Team Nursing Home Ministry, Prison Ministry, A.R.I.S.E - Feeding Ministry for Men., Rites of Passage for Youth.

Then, on June 26, 2005, the Lord blessed us to burn the mortgage for the church, which was commemorated in a burning ceremony!!

Women's Mission Society was formed on February 24, 1980, and continued to grow. The name was changed to the Women's Department, and in 2004, it became Women with a Purpose, W.W.A.P. In 2004, Deacon Sylvia Walton formed the W.W.A.P. Chorus. On September 28, 2014, the W.W.A.P. Chorus was dedicated, and the name was changed to The Sylvia Nicks Walton Chorus.

The Vinson Family Education Center Dedication Ceremony was held on January 30, 2011. The Martin Luther King Jr. Church Library’s opening ceremony was celebrated on November 11, 2011. The Center sustained damage in 2022 and was removed from the church property.

On February 8, 2015, Pastor Herbert J. Carey resigned as Pastor of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Baptist Church.

On October 1, 2015, Rev. R. Marthel Barlow began serving as the Interim Pastor along with his wife, Sister Lydia Barlow.  Rev. Barlow preached his first sermon on October 4, 2015. On March 13, 2016, the mortgage was burned on the last of the acquired properties: the houses.

On June 10, 2017, Rev. Johnny J. Youngblood was voted in as our new Pastor. He preached his first sermon on Sunday, August 6, 2017. Installation service was held on September 1, 2017.

In February 2020, the nation experienced a Public Health crisis as the novel Coronavirus created health risks for gatherings, including in-person worship services. On March 15, 2020, our services and programs were held virtually using the Zoom platform.

On July 4, 2021, churches and organizations locally and nationally opened safely and resumed in-person worship services while still masking and sanitizing. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Baptist Church reopened with a hybrid model of in-person and virtual worship services

On May 2, 2022, Rev. Johnny J. Youngblood announced his resignation as Pastor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Baptist Church. His last day serving as Pastor was May 31, 2022. 

On November 1, 2022, Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr., Memorial Baptist Church, welcomed Reverend Dr. Linda M. Smith of Renton, WA, as its Transitional Interim Pastor. With Rev. Smith's spiritual leadership, MLK can remain focused on its mission and continue to develop effective church practices.

God has truly blessed us over the years as we continue to trust Him, who can keep us from falling and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.  To God, we give the honor, the majesty, the power, and the glory forever.