Story and photo by Jacqueline Darby
Members, friends, and other supporters joined in honor of the 111th and 39th Annual Pastoral Anniversaries of the historic First Institutional Baptist Church, and its Senior Pastor, Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., Senior Pastor. According to church history, FIBC began in 1905 under the leadership of Missionary John B. Bell and along with a few faithful members, as Second Baptist Church. In 1927, the named changed to the First Colored Baptist Church and in 1951; the name became finally First Institutional Baptist Church.
Senior Pastor, Dr. Warren Stewart, Sr, followed in the footsteps of the many pastors of FIBC and continued the legacy. Dr. Stewart, who answered the call at the age of 25, to preach at First Institutional Baptist Church, at the time, in 1977, he became the youngest pastor and now he has the longest pastoral tenure in the history of the church. For 39 years Pastor Stewart has served as pastor of not only of his congregation, but also courageously leading and speaking out against civil rights inequality in our community, including playing a fundamental role in leading the committee to legalize the Martin Luther King Jr birthday as a state Holiday. Among his numerous achievements, Dr. Stewart served the church nationally after being appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Home Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in November 1994 serving until January 2010.
Dr. Stewart is the author of several books, most recently, Victory Together For Martin Luther King, JR; The Story of Dr. Warren Luther King, Jr, The Story of Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr. Governor Evan Meacham and the Historic Battle for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday in Arizona 2015. In 1993, his achievements, earned accolades from the Phoenix Gazette 1993 Hall of Fame as being “one of ten people whose achievements has the most notable effect on Arizona, and the Arizona Daily Star, counted him as a “Living Legend, “ he also received tribute as a Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement Award. Most recently, in April 2015, Morehouse College inducted Dr. Stewart into its Ministers and Laity, Board of Preachers and further honoring him an oil painting that hangs in the Martin Luther King, Jr International Chapel, and he is also is the recipient of the 2015 President’s Volunteer Award. Pastor Stewart has himself licensed and ordained 139 sons and daughters into the Gospel Ministry.
First Institutional experienced a massive expansion in order to minister to needs of the person, Dr. Stewart led the congregation in completing three phases of the Vision 2000 Master Plan that built an educational, administrative, and outreach building. In addition, the church acquired additional property and renovated the worship center. FIBC also in 2015 celebrated the mortgage burning of the Hope Center in 2015. The church established FIBCO Family Services Inc. Samaritan House for Homeless Families, Ujima House for Unwed Teenage Mothers, and sponsors the Broadway House low-income housing complex and several residential homes for the seriously mentally ill, all of which provide social services to thousands monthly.
Not content to rest on its accomplishments First Institutional Baptist Church, Senior Pastor Warren Stewart along with Mrs. Reverend Karen Stewart worked to fulfill its 2016 Church Theme: FIBC-Setting You Free: Believing and Living –Going and Growing –Sharing and Caring. During 2016, FIBC has served through on-going programs and special events including the weekly Community Outreach Dinner, Thanksgiving Outreach Dinner, The Pastor’s Christmas Party, honoring its ‘Treasures” with a Senior Appreciation Luncheon. The Men’s Ministry working also gathered for a weekend of fellowship during Men’s Weekend. The Women’s Ministry led by Reverend Karen Stewart, gathered for a blessing and fellowship during its “Hats, Heels, and Hugs,” Brown Bag Lunch, and Women’s Weekend in Casa Grande. The Youth Department also held several events including Silence Kills “Youth Lock-In, Youth Camp in Prescott, Back to School Backpack Drive. Each year FIBC honors its graduates with scholarship for their achievements.
The Annual Ministry Fair and celebration has grown each year as a special event for current and new members to obtain information on how ones talents best be used to serve within the church.
The Anniversary Celebration events also included a community outreach, “Our Service in the City Project.” The members of FIBC spent a day serving the families and community of The Board of Visitor Ryan House a non-profit based in Phoenix that provides as welcoming, homelike, environment. They serve families and children 16-yrs and younger who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Volunteers, like those served from FIBC are an integral part of the work The Ryan House does every day.
As Pastor Stewart writes, “the biblical meaning of 39 deals with transition and transformation; indeed we have experienced the Lord Leading us through such a season over the past twelve months. . . . It is a manifestation of our 2016 Church Theme: FIBC – Setting You Free: Believing and Living – Going and Growing- Sharing and Caring.
The Finale Celebration Sunday Service opened with a overcapacity congregation of members, friends, supporters and guests from area churches. The program began with the Rev. Joseph Green, Presiding, and the Rev. Dr. Luther Holland, Jr. 11:00 Worship Leader. After Intercessory Prayer and a beautiful praise and worship, Sister Renette Shaw offered the Alter Prayer, followed by the scripture reading.
The Reverend Karen Stewart warmly introduced the Featured Speaker of the day, “Pastor Kenneth C. Curry, Jr. , of Friendship Baptist Church. The FIBC Music Ministry and Trinity Dance Ministry blessed the program with a touching beautiful Christian Dance interpretation. Pastor Curry, Jr
Pastor Curry, Jr. brought the congregation up in praise with a powerful word. His message taken from scriptures found in Psalm 34: 4-5, Pastor Curry preached that although we may find many things during this time as very overwhelming, we must resolve to always worship God and live holy with praise.” Also quoting David, in spite of trials also praised the Lord with adulation and praise, as in the scripture, I will bless the Lord at all times. “He proclaimed if God has been good to you, break your silence, let somebody know with praise.
He closed his sermon with a personal tribute to Dr. Warren Stewart, Sr and Mrs. Reverend Karen Stewart, counting Dr. Stewart as a personal mentor and spiritual leader, who also performed his installation in 2013. Dr. Stewart humbly accepted his accolades and expressed his appreciation for his remarks. Dr. Stewart also praised the members of the Anniversary Committee for their hard work and the guests in attendance. The program closed with a benediction. Everyone gathered in the Fellowship Hall for a reception.
First Institutional Baptist Church, 1141 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034, 602- 258-1998 www.fibcaz.org