THE HISTORY OF MOUNT LEBANON BAPTIST CHURCH
The city of Peekskill is located in Northern Westchester, Along the Hudson River. The founding father’s name was Jan Peek and his settlement along the river (“kill” in Dutch) became known as “Peek’s Kill”. Documents have shown the population of Peekskill in the 1800 to be 250. By 1900, Peekskill had climbed to 10,358 and by 1930 it was sitting at a population of 17,125.
There were two black churches in the area: the Mount Olivet Baptist Church and the Park Street AME Zion Church.
The erection of the VA Hospital, the largest of its kind in the United States at that time, attracted people from all areas. The establishment went up during the late 1940’s, and by 1950 the hospital had opened. By 1980, the population had grown by only 1,000, but the ratio of blacks had significantly changed. The population of blacks had gone from a handful of people to approximately 25% by 1985. The bulk of this crowd coming during the early 1950’s when the VA began hiring.
THE BIRTH OF A MISSION
Because of this rapid growth in the black population, there arose a need for another black church. The leaders of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church saw this need and responded by setting aside Rev. Richard Puryear, a young man that was a native of Peekskill, to start a mission. A few people from the Mother Church, Mt. Olivet, took leave of that church, and along with Richard Puryear, began the Mt. Lebanon mission.
The mission began with regular prayer meetings on March 8, 1952. The prayer meetings were held in the home of Mrs. Lavina Hankins on Lower South Street in Peekskill.
Due to the positive response to the meetings, Rev. Puryear called a meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cooper on April 9, 1952. The purpose of that meeting was to organize a mission. Those members who were present, and later became part of that mission were: Mrs. Lavina Hankins, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper, Mrs. Mami Troy, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Pearl Puryear, Mr. & Mrs. William West, and Mr. & Mrs. Robert Duke and Rev. Richard Puryear.
Those witnessing the meeting were Mr. & Mrs. Silas Inman, and Mr. & Mrs. Harvey Price. Mr. Price confessed Christ in the meeting and became the first candidate for Baptism. Rev. Puryear moderated the meeting after prayer service and the following actions were taken:
The decision to become a mission
The adoption of the name Mt. Lebanon
The adoption of the by-laws
The election of three Trustees 1. Mr. Robert Drake – 3 years 2. Mr. William West – 2 years 3. Mr. Robert Cooper – 1 year
The appointment of a committee to secure a place of worship.
On April 27, 1952, the first regular Sunday morning service was held at the Riley Hall building with church school convening at 9:30 a.m. and worship service at 11:00 a.m. There were seven pupils in the church school and twenty – one present at the worship service. The newly organized mission held regular services at the Riley Hall until their permanent place of worship was renovated at a cost of $800.00
THE PURYEAR ADMINISTRATION
During the ten years Rev. Puryear was the Pastor of the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, several significant events took place. Some of the more significant ones were: the first baptism; the change in status from mission to church; the purchase of the property; and the occupying of the new building.
BAPTISM IN THE HUDSON
On July 13, 1952, Mt Lebanon held its first baptism, which took place at Roa Hook in the Hudson River. Four Candidates were baptized; Mr. Harvey Price; Mr. Sargent Sharpe; Master Sargent Sharpe and Miss Jo Ann Futrell. This event proved to be a gala occasion a several people turned out to witness this historical event.
FROM MISSION TO CHURCH
After making suitable advancements from the time of organizing to December of 1952, the mission called in a council of churches to examine their records and spiritual advancements in order to be set apart as a bona fide Baptist Church. The council was called together on December 18, 1952 and consisted primarily of ministers from the Central Hudson Baptist Association. Those present to make up the council were: Rev, R. M. Mitchell, Rev. Douglas, Rev. J.W. Coefield, Rev. E J. Mathews, Rev. B.M.Mitchell, Rev. T. Jenkin, Deacon Cecil Downings, Mrs. Silas Inman, and Deacon Dabney Williams.
Upon examination of the records and the progress of the mission, the council reported favorable the the mission become a regular Missionary Baptist Church. The act permitted Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church of Peekskill, New York to be established.
A TIME TO PURCHASE AND A TIME TO REBUILD
In 1954, Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church purchased a plot of land at 648 Harrison Ave. This purchase was made after careful consideration of many options in an effort to aguire a permanent place of worship.
On august 25, 1954, plans were announced to build a new church. The plans were prepared by the office of J. Wilbur Irish for the erection of the new edifice.
On Sunday, September 12, 1954, a Groundbreaking Ceremony was held at 648 Harrison Ave. Speakers and guest of several faiths joined Mt. Lebanon that afternoon for the groundbreaking ceremony as it announced that a $65,000 edifice would be erected. Rev. L. W. Hughes, pastor of the Union Baptist Church of White Plains, NY, Mayor John E. Hayes, Rev. Robert Blacksher (President of the Peekskill Ministers Association), and several other dignitaries were principle speakers at this ceremony. According to the Peekskill Evening Star, nearly 150 attended.
After breaking ground, Mt. Lebanon worked for several years in effort to get the work completed. Construction began in the fall of 1954; but Mt. Lebanon suffered a great loss in 1955 when two of the walls collapsed due to hydrostatic pressure. This tragedy greatly hampered the work for almost two years, but with the help of God and the generosity of the people, the foundation was completed. On Sunday, November 24, 1957, Mt. Lebanon members marched from their old worship site at 808 Main Street to their new facility. The new edifice was not entirely what the congregation had hoped for, but it was theirs, and it provided them with a foundation they could work with. The extent of the building, at that time was just a foundation, or basement with a tar roof.
Rev. Puryear remained at Mt. Lebanon until March of 1963. At that time, he was called to pastor a church in Hackensack, New Jersey. After feeling he had done all that God had assigned his hands to do at the church he left, and the church was vacant for the first time.
THE YARBER ADMINISTRATION
Six months after the departure of Rev. Puryear, Mt. Lebanon called a dynamic young preacher by the name of Louis N. Yarber. Rev. Yarber came from Elmsford, where his father was a pastor of the First Baptist Church. His arrival brought a new level of excitement to the Mt. Lebanon congregation. The membership of Mt. Lebanon began to grow rapidly and things began to happen in many areas. Rev. Yarber served as pastor from October 1963 to June 1965.
THE DRAKE ADMINISTRATION
In September 1965, Mrs. Lizzie Dexter informed Rev. Drake of Mamaroneck that Mt. Lebanon was without a pastor. Rev. Drake had preached at Mt. Lebanon several times and the people liked him and his family veryu much. In October 1965, Rev. Drake was called to pastor Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church. He was a man with a vision and dreams of seeing Mount Lebanon completed. In October 1967, through his dreams, determination, devotion, prayers and love from his members, work began on the main auditorium and its furnishings were dedicated to God. The guest speaker Rev. William A. Jones of Bethany Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York.
Under the leadership of Rev. Drake many programs were implemented and new things were purchased. One significant factor contributing to the progress of the church was the Debutante Ball that also functions as a fundraiser in the church today. This activity also contributed greatly to the mortgage. In addition to being financially rewarding, the cotillion also served as a vehicle of inspiration for the youth.
These and many other accomplishments were due to his presence. Rev. Drake however keeping his eyes on the plan God had for him chose not to sit down after a great effort to get the building completed.
Under the pastoral care of Rev. Drake, Mt. Lebanon became a respectable church and one that people began to look at with praise and adoration. At the celebration of it’s 22nd anniversary, the records showed that Mt. Lebanon had accomplished the following:
Purchased a grand piano, installed air conditioning and heating system, conducted three debutante cotillions, placed a steeple on the church building, completed he education wing and opened the Mt. Lebanon Day Care Center.
These and many other accomplishments were due to his presence. Rev. Drake however, keeping his eyes on the plan that God had for him, chose not to sit down after great effort to get the building completed. Mt. Lebanon was built on FAITH.
THE DAVID ADMINISTRATION
In December of 1975, Rev. Mervyn L. David, of Mount Vernon, NY was called to pastor and became the fourth pastor at Mt. Lebanon. He accepted the call and preached his first sermon as pastor January 4, 1976. Under his inspired leadership, Kt. Lebanon has been a recognized force in the community. Members of all ages within the community come forth to unite with the church under Christian experience or as a Candidate for Baptism.
Several members of the congregation pursued the required studies necessary to become ordained: Rev. Floyd D. Warren, Rev. James T. Roberson, Rev. W. T. walker, Rev. Katherine Brooks-Vaughan and Rev, James Burke, Rev. Adrienne Robinson, and Rev Delores Collins, Minster Bobby Smith, Minister James Council, Minister Mark Collins and Minster Robert Greenhill were given their license to preach.
Several deacons and deaconess have been ordained, and new programs have been introduced at the church. The baptismal pool was purchased and installed; a new kitchen and dining hall was remodeled – it has since been dedicated to and name the Rev. R. H. Puryear Fellowship; Homecoming Celebration; Alcoholics anonymous self help Program; purchase of Parsonage; a mini bus was acquired; a new grand piano; and the purchase of adjacent properties at 668,640 and 644 Harrison Ave.
PROGRAMS INSTITUTED UNDER REV. DAVID’S LEADERSHIP
Courtesy Committee, Caring and Sharing Ministry, Mass Choir, Young Adult Choir, Male Choir, Scholarship Fund, Junior Usher Board, Bible Study Class, Willing Workers, Senior Ushers, New Membership Ministry, Nurse’s unit, Titus Tutorial Program and MLD Gospel Ensemble.
The burning of the church mortgage took place on Sunday October 31, 1991, what a wonderful celebration! One of the most unusual events took place in 1996; a marriage was performed during our Wednesday evening Prayer and Praise.
Being community minded church, in September of 1999, the Mt. Lebanon Food Pantry was established, there is also a Feed the Homeless Program. Mt. Lebanon is an active member of the Westchester Council of Churches for Social Action. Rev. David was named Chaplain of the City of Peekskill Police Department and in 2000, he was appointed Community liaison.
Mount Lebanon has added a few more items to the agenda and to its list of assets: A Teacher Training Class has been established, the long awaited Youth Fellowship came to pass and a new church van has been added to the fleet.
THE REV. HORACE SANDERS ADMINISTRATION AND PROGRAMS INSTITUTED UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP
On March 12, 2006, the Reverend Horace Sanders, Jr. of Jefferson Valley, New York came to Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church to preach his initial sermon. He accepted the call and preached his first sermon as pastor on June 4, 2006. Pastor Sanders instituted several ministries that provided the disciples of this wonderful congregation several opportunities to serve to the Glory of God. Pastor Sanders was instrumental in the renovation of the Puryear Fellowship Hall and the William West Room. He also facilitated the installation of new pews, a new sound system and new lighting in the sanctuary; the outer structure was Brick-faced, new sidewalks were constructed and additional parking spaces were developed on and around the church.
THE GARY L. COLTER ADMINISTRATION AND PROGRAMS INSTITUTED UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP
On August 2013, the Rev. Gary L. Colter of Dutchess County came to Mount Lebanon Baptist Church to preach as a candidate for the selection process for a new pastor. Rev. Colter accepted the call and preached his first sermon as Pastor on Nov 3, 2013.
Rev. Colter in a short time instituted FBI night for the Youth, Youth Retreats, Men Retreats, Women Retreats, Back To School Giveaways, 6:00am Prayer on Monday’s and 7:00pm evening prayer on Thursday’s, Reorganized the Trustees Ministry, ordained two new Deacons and put a Chair of Deacons in place, consecrated one Deaconess, trained five Deacons, and seven Deaconess, and trained five new Ministers. Renovated all the churches properties, leading a drive to install a new parking lot, and under the power of the Holy Spirit he is teaching the church that we are a Loving, Tithing, Teaching Church.
Under Pastor Colter’s leadership, the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church is growing and thriving. Pastor Colter has provided intensive Bible studies, launched a yearly Bible reading challenge developed Sunday school, Children’s Church, New Member Orientation curriculums, and evangelism training. New ministries have formed including Praise Dance Ministry, Mime Ministry, Singles Ministry, Marriage Ministry, Welcome Ministry, and much more.
Pastor Colter’s mission is to preach until the walls that separate us shatter; to teach how to rebuild the scattered pieces of lives so that we might be complete so that we might build the Kingdom of God. The Lord has blessed Pastor Gary L. Colter with a pastoral gift and his life’s experiences have strengthened him to perform his role to the glory of God. Pastor Colter is a man of honor that is devoted to God’s Word, his family, and Mount Lebanon’s church family.
Mount Lebanon is blessed to have him at the helm!
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Early Rise Worship: 8:00 AM
Morning Worship: 11:00 AM
Sunday School: 9:15 -10:15 AM
Church Prayer Line:
Monday Mornings: 6 AM (Dial 641-715-3272 Access Code 647227#)
Prayer and Praise: Wednesday: 6:00 - 7:00 PM
Wednesdays: 7:00 - 8:00PM
Thursdays: 12:00 - 1:00PM
1st Friday: 6:00–7:00AM
Teen Bible Study
2nd & 3rd Friday
Food Pantry Distributions:
Friday: 10:00AM - 12:00 PM
Mount Lebanon Baptist Church
648 Harrison Avenue
Peekskill, NY 10566
Phone: (914) 737-6354
Fax: (914) 788-0695