Early in 1922, a small group banded together and began having services as a mission. They first met in the home of the late Booker T. Williams, 308 East Federal Street, Burlington, New Jersey. As the group increased, they began having services in the Clarkson Street Hall. The success of the mission inspired the group to try to organize as a church. With this in mind, the following members of the group went to Mount Holly, joined Second Baptist Church and received their letters of transfer:
Reverend Wesley L. Gregory, Brothers Lindsay Gregory, John Burroughs, Fred Lang, Tilson Williams, William Mack Burroughs, Vanderbilt Burroughs and Henry Neilson. The action on the part of these men set the stage for Second Baptist, Mount Holly to become known as the “Mother Church” of Tabernacle. The name “Tabernacle” was suggested by Sister Sallie E. Walton and was promptly adopted by the members. The Permanent Council of the Bethany Baptist Association of South Jersey later recognized the mission as “Tabernacle Baptist Church.”
The Tabernacle Baptist Church of Burlington, New Jersey, a Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1923 under the “Mother Church” of Second Baptist Mount Holly, New Jersey, under the leadership of the Late Reverend Wesley L. Gregory.
The Church became affliated with with the National Baptist Convention in 1932. On June 10, 1923, which was the second Sunday, the newly established church held its first official service with communion in the Grange Hall on Stacy Street. The first official boards of the new church were established as well as the Senior Choir, Church School, Missionary Circle and Ushers.
The Deacon Board consisted of members who joined Tabernacle as recognized deacons. Deacon Feddis Walton, Sr. was appointed as Chairman and the other members were Deacons Julius Sheilley, Lee Allen and Tilson Williams. The first deacons to be ordained for service in the new church were Deacons Otis Butts, Sr., James Jones, Thomas Burroughs, Sr., Fred Lang and Deacon West.
The Trustee Board was formed with Brother Thomas Burroughs, Sr., as Chairman, Brother Philip Price, Vice Chairman and Brothers Booker T. Williams, Roosevelt Brown and Feddis Walton, Jr., as members.
The Senior Choir was first organized in November 1923 at the home of the late Mr. Booker T. Williams, the first choir director. Mr. Inous Walton served as President and Sister Ruth Bolden Goodwin was the first pianist for the church.
Sister Bessie R. Burroughs, one of the original members, remained active until her passing in January 1994.
Tabernacle Baptist Church School was organized under Mr. Inous Walton and Vanderbilt Williams. Deacon Tilson Williams was appointed the first Superintendent, while Inous Walton and Irene Walton Means were teachers.
The first Missionary Circle was organized under Sister Sallie Walton, with Sister Annie Gregory (the first Pastor’s wife) as the President. Sisters Lillie Butts, Annie West and Minnie Lee Allen were among its first members. Brothers Tilson Williams, Vanderbilt Burroughs, Henry Schonyers, Ananias Jones and John Burroughs served as the first Usher Board in the Grange Hall.
The “Mother of the Church” has always held a prominent place in Tabernacle. Sister Norma Borden with Sister Sallie E. Walton acting as her assistant first held this position. Sister Borden relocated to Alabama and Sister Walton served in the “Mother: position until her death in 1927. Mother Maggie Harris occupied this position until she passed away in 1959. In the same year, the church appointed Sister Mattie Bailey to serve in the capacity of “Mother of the Church” with Sisters Mary D. Harris and Essie Mae Jenkins assisting her. Upon Sisters Bailey’s death in 1970, Sister Viola Burroughs , who served until her passing in 1988, filled the position. Sister Bessie Walton Burroughs followed in her mother’s footsteps and was appointed as “Mother of the Church” in January 1989. She served graciously and faithfully until her passing in January 1994. Sister Essie Mae Jenkins, who is the daughter of the founder, Reverend Wesley Gregory, was elected by the membership for the position of “Mother of the Church” in October 1994 to begin serving in January 1995. She served faithfully in this position until her passing in 1998. The position remained vacant until 2001, when Sister Edith Warren, was elected by the membership. She was installed in January 2002 and continued to served faithfully until her death in February 2010. On April 24, 2012 Sister Ethel Jones, former first lady of the church, was elected to the position of “Mother of the Church.” She served faithfully in this position until her passing on March 16, 2016.
Period of Struggle
- 1938 Tabernacle Baptist Church Destroyed by Fire
- 1957 Flooded by Storm
Growth and Expansion
- 1961 Expansion
- 1967 Ground Breaking
- 1968 New Sanctuary
- 1984 Expansion
- 1985 Educational Facility – Jones Center
- 2008 Multipurpose Facility Expansion
- 2012 Solar Energy Project
September 25, 2012 the Congregation elected Rev. Cory L. Jones to serve as the 8th Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church. His wife Torri Durham Jones, joined him. In his official role as Pastor Elect, he preached his first sermon on December 9th 2012. On April 14, 2013, he was installed as the 8th Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church.
As the church increased spiritually, financially and numerically, a larger place of worship was needed. The members decided to build, choosing a site on East Second Street, which at the time was on the outskirts of town. In 1924, the building project was started. In less than a year, the members triumphantly marched from Grange Hall on Stacy Street into the almost completed structure on East Second Street, the same site we occupy today.
Disaster visited this fledgling church in 1938 when Tabernacle was virtually destroyed by fire. The task of rebuilding was undertaken while services were held temporarily in the basement of the Allen School on Wall Street. In the ensuing years, the wheels of progress changed the design of the City of Burlington. The improvements and redevelopment plans by the “city” left the church situated in the “heart of the City.”
In June 1957, the church and other areas on East Second Street were flooded. They were unable to utilize the church. Funerals and other services had to be held at another location.
Under the able leadership of the late Reverend Wesley L. Gregory, the first pastor, who served faithfully for thirteen years, (1923-1936), Tabernacle Baptist Church soon became one of the leading sanctuaries in the City of Burlington for people from all walks of life. It is for Reverend Gregory that the fellowship hall has been named. After Reverend Gregory was called to a church in Jamaica, New York, the church was served by Reverend J. J. Young and Reverend W. H. Holman, who served one year each. The Reverend J. H. Stafford and Reverend V. L. Millines, both served five years, respectively. Then a licentiate of Tabernacle, Reverend Pompey H. Houston, was selected from the membership to be ordained and served as pastor of this flock for thirteen years.
In 1961, Reverend Richard W. Jones (image to the left) was called to be the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church. He came with his wife, Ethel B. Jones, to settle in Burlington from Cape May, New Jersey. They were blessed with two daughters, Leslie and Jennifer.
On June 18, 2010, Tabernacle Baptist Church humbly submitted to God’s permissive will when Pastor Richard W. Jones was peacefully called from labour to reward. Tabernacle Baptist Church was truly blessed for 48 years 6 months with a Pastor who was committed to the study of the Word of God and who had a deep spiritual conviction, inspiration and vision. We will strive with the legacy Pastor Jones left with us and continue to build up our spiritual growth as we move forward into a new season.
In January 2011, the Tabernacle Baptist Church tasked the Pastoral Search Committee with the responsibility of identifying a pastor for our church. The process, which was spirit-led and methodically-executed, required consummate efforts from each member of the committee; this was a labor of love for the church that we love, and we dedicated ourselves wholly to this task.
On April 14, 2013, We Celebrated “New Beginnings” Jeremiah 1:5 as Tabernacle Baptist Church installed its eighth Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Cory L. Jones. We glorify God for sending him to Tabernacle Baptist Church. We look forward to his vision for the church, his leadership for the flock of God and the loving spirit that he continues to demonstrate. As we move forward into the next period of growth for Tabernacle, it is with the realization that God has sent us a shepherd to watch over us and lead us from Good to Great!
Over the years, membership continued to grow which necessitated expansion. In 1961, under Reverend Jones, an intensive expansion fund program was undertaken. On Sunday, August 26, 1967, ground was broken for a new church edifice. On Sunday, June 2, 1968, the membership entered a new sanctuary , which was located next to the old one. In 1965, through the efforts of Reverend Jones, the Church was incorporated.
As the church continued to grow, a new building project was needed. Because the expansion was so vast, it was completed in phases. In 1984, the old sanctuary was demolished to make room for the new educational wing. In 1985, the educational wing was completed and plans were underway to begin Phase II that included a larger sanctuary. The educational wing, which was enlarged and modified, was named the
Jones Educational Wing in honor of the Late Reverend Richard Jones.
In November, 1994, we marched into a New 1500 seat capacity Sanctuary.
Tabernacle Church has been blessed with inspirational singing groups. The groups and date of formation are as follows: Senior Choir (1923) Gospel Chorus (1940); Young Adult Choir (1942); Children’s Choir (1969); Male Chorus (1973); Women’s Chorus (1977) and the Fellowship Choir (1987).
The Baptist Training Union (BTU) started in Tabernacle as Baptist Young People’s Union (BYPU). The Union was organized in 1954 to give young people a more in-depth study of God’s Word. In 1965, the Union was renamed Baptist Training Union (BTU).
The Board of Christian Education was established in 1989 with Sister Barbara Pearson as its first director. The Board is divided into several Ministering Committees. The Church Library has grown with assistance of diligent, hard working members.
Many service organizations of Tabernacle Baptist Church have been supportive both spiritually and financially. The include the following: The Adult Club (1946); Pastor’s Aide (1954); Junior Ushers (1960); Men of Tabernacle (1963); Progressive Guild (1968); Nurses’s Unit (1971); and QUEST – Christian Outreach (1977).
The Sheepfold Ministry and Soup kitchen evolved from QUEST. The Sheepfold Ministry was reassigned to the Board of Deacons in 1996. The Soup Kitchen began on April 6, 1998 and is open each Monday from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m.
On June 7, 2008 Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church officially dedicated their new state of the art 25,000 square foot multi-purpose building. UNITY Hall connected to the church on Second and James Streets. Included in this edifice are a full sized gymnasium; a performance stage, with dressing rooms; an aerobics room with showers and lockers and a cafeteria with full kitchen/banquet facility with seating for 300+. The new facility can host a number of activities and we would like to use what God has blessed us with to service the people in the community.
We are confident that we echo the sentiments of our forefathers when we sing, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord; Trusting in His Holy Word, He has never failed us yet.”