New Jerusalem Church Celebrating 100 years!

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New Jerusalem Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary October 20-22, 2023. The kick off to the year long celebration started Friday, October 20th with the church’s blue carpet gala at the Jackson Convention Complex, followed by Saturday’s prayer walk, community clean up, and clothing give away. The weekend culminated Sunday with four celebratory services featuring guest pastor, Gary Hawkins of Voices of Faith Ministries from Lithonia, Georgia.

The seed of current day New Jerusalem Church was planted in 1923 when Reverend Joe Davis and twelve faithful members held their first service on Manship Street under a brush harbor. Today, New Jerusalem Church has three locations throughout Jackson with thousands of members; and it continues to be a beacon of light and hope for all of God’s people.

Following Rev. Davis, New Jerusalem would be pastored by eight different pastors, including A.D. Davis, J.H. Taylor, and F.W. Coleman. 

In October 1925, Rev. A.D. Davis became pastor and moved the church from Manship to Elm Street, later renamed Whitfield Street.

Rev. J. H. Taylor was the church’s third and shortest-tenured pastor – serving for only 90 days. 

 In 1928, Rev. F. W. Coleman was appointed pastor. Under his leadership, the foundation for the first building was laid and seven deacons were ordained. Rev. Coleman served as pastor for 12 years.

Rev. S. S. Brown, the church’s fifth pastor, carried New Jerusalem to new heights. Under his leadership, the first building was demolished and in 1947 a new church was built. 

In April 1951, Rev. W. T. Smith became the church’s seventh pastor. From 1951 to 1979, dynamic progress was made under Rev. Smith’s leadership. Under Smith’s leadership, the first and second mortgages were burned, but New Jerusalem was not just engaged in building projects and soul saving, it was a beacon of light during the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a meeting place for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. History records that on the night of his assassination, Medgar Evers, civil rights activist and field secretary of the NAACP, was attending a meeting at New Jerusalem. 

Rev. Smith’s name was also among those documented by the notorious Mississippi Sovereignty Commission – an agency designed specifically to spy on and undermine the leaders and participants in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.

After 28 years of service to the kingdom and the community, Rev. Smith submitted his resignation – a decision that was based on his declining health.

Rev. Hubie J. Nelson was then installed and delivered his first sermon as New Jerusalem’s pastor on June 8, 1980. It was Pastor Nelson that adopted the church’s motto – A Church Where Love Is Practiced.

On December 8, 1984, the church voted Rev. William Alvin Lofton as the 8th pastor. Rev. Lofton’s top priority was Christian Education. Dr. Lofton and his wife, Hymethia Washington Lofton, founded the mobile Christian Education School. They traveled throughout Mississippi and surrounding states teaching God’s Word.

Rev. Lofton was the pastor of New Jerusalem for 11 years. On December 12, 1995 he resigned to accept a pastorship position in Racine, Wisconsin. 

May 1996, Dwayne K. Pickett, Sr. became the church’s 9th pastor. 

The youngest pastor in the history of the church, Pastor Pickett possessed a passion for ministry and a love for people. Pickett ushered in a new day and a greater vision for New Jerusalem. Under his leadership, the church flourished. 

Pastor Pickett can often be heard saying that “everything rises and falls with leadership.” Because leadership is so important, he devotes time and attention to the selection, training, and discipleship of church leaders and members. 

Within the first ten years of Pastor Pickett’s leadership, New Jerusalem Church grew by leaps and bounds. It became one church in two locations, had a growing congregation of more than 2,000 members, and started an afterschool program that now boasts two accredited pre-schools and a fully accredited academy that serves K5- 8th grade. 

On December 10, 2006, the church would be rocked to its core when Pastor Pickett was involved in a near fatal car accident, breaking bones in his legs, hips, and face. By God’s grace, within a few short weeks, Pastor Pickett returned to the pulpit and continued shepherding his flock. 

With renewed focus, Pastor Pickett and the NJC Family continued to manifest the vision of expanding New Jerusalem’s reach. In 2007, New Jerusalem purchased a third campus location on 5708 Old Canton Road; and in 2016, the church was gifted its Alta Woods location in South Jackson.

In the midst of such amazing growth and expansion, Pastor Pickett was determined that New Jerusalem would be one church. New Jerusalem’s Tribal System is based on the 12 tribes of Israel. All members are assigned to a tribe and tribe leader. The tribes ensure that no-one ever walks alone and everyone feels loved.

Christian Education continues to be the cornerstone of New Jerusalem Church. For the past 27 years, Dr. Tracy Pickett has supported Pastor Pickett and served God as the Director of the Christian Education Ministry. Dr. Pickett coined the phrase “Learn, Do, Spread the Word.” Together, Pastor and Dr. Pickett encourage and train men and women of New Jerusalem to learn the Word of God and to use their God-given gifts and talents to help build God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

New Jerusalem’s resolve to continue to share God’s Word while also being actively involved in improving social, educational, economic, and health outcomes for God’s people is unwavering. During the aftermath of Katrina, New Jerusalem opened its doors to those displaced. The church provided thousands of bottles of water during the Jackson water crisis. It has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to benevolent causes and stood on the frontlines of fights against social injustices. In 2020, when the Covid-19 global pandemic affected nearly every sector, including the church, New Jerusalem continued to be a beacon of light and hope not just for its members but the entire community.

From 1923 to 2023, New Jerusalem Church has remained faithful to God and His people…and God has remained faithful to New Jerusalem. From humble beginnings to present day, New Jerusalem’s journey is not only about the past but also about the path ahead. 

New Jerusalem Church… 

a church that is loving God… 

loving others… 

as we love ourselves

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New Jerusalem Church Celebrating 100 years!

By Jackson Advocate News Service
November 12, 2023