Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baptist Temple during the Great Depression

photo by Dorthea Lang
The era of the Great Depression (1930-41) was a time of tremendous ministry growth for Baptist Temple under the leadership of Pastor Jessie Yelvington. San Antonio's population was growing and so was the church. Sunday school enrollment was over one thousand in 1929 and a new education building was needed. The three story building (today known as building 2) cost $55,000. Sunday school attendance on day the building was dedicated (October 5, 1930) set a record at 1221.

As the number of homeless grew, a tent city emerged on an empty field at the east end of Drexel Avenue; the current location of the Rosemont Apartments. It was one of the many “Hoovervilles” where the homeless gathered during that era. From 1929 to 1932 Baptist Temple provided food and clothing to this transient community. Records from those years show members with “tent city” as their home address.

Baptist Temple's Vine Street Mission (402 Vine St.) was, also, a front-line ministry during the Great Depression. Alfred Brown led a team of workers who maintained a soup kitchen and offered worship on Sundays. Canned food and staples were also distributed. The building was sold in 1948 to fund the start of Highland Hills Baptist Church.

Yelvington left Baptist Temple in March 1938 to accept a position as evangelist for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. At thirteen years and seven months, he had the longest tenure to date of any pastor at Baptist Temple. During his tenure membership had grown to 2079, Sunday school enrollment was 1750 and Sunday school average attendance was 882; all record numbers. The 120 baptisms recorded that year were one shy of the record set in 1933.

Among the people joining Baptist Temple during this time was Country Music Hall of Fame member, Ernest Tubb, who was part of the Baptist Temple family from 1934 to 39, while we worked as a singer at KONO-AM radio. 

Love your neighbor as yourself
Matthew 22:39

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