In the year of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, the ministry of Cedar Grove Baptist Church was birthed, by the concerns of eight neighbors of the Terra Cotta community. The following individuals met at the residence of Perry and Josie Attaway, with the express purpose of forming a Baptist Church. The eight neighbors were Perry and Josie Attaway, David Graham, Brown Butler, John Thompson, Payton Raeford, Eugene Davis, and Queenie Bell.
Once the church was established, services were held at the A.M.E. Zion Church, which is now Swift Street Methodist Church. Services were held on the first and third Sundays of each month. The movement of the eight pioneers was taking place.
The first pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist Church was Rev. Penn from 1923-1924. Rev. Crump served as the second pastor, for seven months, in 1924. Afterwards, Cedar Grove was sent a faithful and dedicated shepherd, who watched over his flock for 32 years, in the name of Rev. Sandy G. Gilmer.
Pastor Gilmer not only pastored Cedar Grove Baptist Church, he also pastored White Oak Grove, Locust Grove and Elm Grove. Through his leadership and service, the first church was built on a tract of land that was presented to Cedar Grove Baptist Church by the Borens of Pomona Terra Cotta Pipe Company. The hopes, dreams, prayers, and wishes of the eight concerned neighbors became a reality in 1927 when Cedar Grove celebrated a church of their own, consisting of a membership of seventy. Those eight prayed and fasted as breakthroughs were continuously manifested.
To assist with the finances of the church, money had to be raised. Many programs and rallies were planned and carried out by Deacon Eugene Davis, one of the eight who also served as the program chairman. Some of the fund raising events were:
- - a service, with Rev. J.T. Hairston as guest speaker
- - a banquet held at the now defunct Terra Cotta School, with Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown as guest speaker
- - a quartet singing, featuring Dr. Jones, former President of Bennett College, as the guest speaker
- - a play, “Cotton Needs A Pickin So-oo Bad,” presented by the Palmer Memorial Institute Players in the Terra Cotta School auditorium
After the construction of the new church, the entire Cedar Grove Baptist Church family marched from the old church down Red Road, which is now Wendover Avenue, to Buffalo Creek for the first baptizing. Can’t you just see them rejoicing and giving God the praise?
As time moved on, so did Cedar Grove. After the death of Rev. Sandy Gilmer in 1956 and 32 years of service, it was time to build another building, due to the growing membership.
Rev. Joseph W. Hedrick followed Rev. Sandy Gilmer, to lead the flock from the little white church on the hill to what’s now Sanctuary #1, which was built in 1966. Rev. Hedrick was the son-in-law of Pastor Sandy Gilmer and the father of Sis. Valeria Hedrick Wallace. Pastor Hedrick pastored Cedar Grove Baptist Church, White Oak Grove and Clifton Grove. He was a faithful, caring, and dedicated shepherd who served as Pastor of Cedar Grove until his homegoing in 1968. Pastor Hedrick, along with a group of dedicated deacons, trustees, and members of Cedar Grove were responsible for the overseeing the construction of Sanctuary #1. Our own J.W. Hedrick Gospel Choir was named in Pastor Hedrick’s honor.
According to the scriptures, God always has a “Ram in the Bush.” That Ram came in the name of Rev. Johnnie Settle. Pastor Settle was a shepherd over this hungry flock for 19 years. Pastor Settle’s energy spilled over the congregation like fire. Several enhancements to the church were added. His love and compassion for the youth and young adults will always remain a part of Cedar Grove’s history. The Johnnie Settle Ensemble was named in his honor. They were and still are, as he so uniquely called them, “Johnnie’s Kids.” However, our family’s circle was broken once again. Cedar Grove was without a shepherd, but the concerns of the original eight were still within the minds of the Cedar Grove in search for a shepherd. During the search, one of Cedar Grove’s own associate ministers, Minister Sheldon Johnson, came forth and worked with the officials in making sure this hungry flock was fed.
There were numerous ministers interviewed; but on October 1, 1988, our prayers were answered in the name of Dr. James A. Johnson. Dr. Johnson came in with fresh new ideas and visions from God. He incorporated the church motto, “Jesus Is Lord, Expect A Miracle.” A movement began, with the guidance, preaching and teaching of Dr. Johnson, and the membership of Cedar Grove grew which prompted two Sunday worship services.
Under the leadership of Dr. Johnson, the following ministries were incorporated, Men’s Ministry, Single’s Ministry, Ambassadors for Christ - AFC, Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Academy For Learning, Book Store Ministry, Media Ministry, Harvest House Food Bank Ministry, Discipleship - New Members Ministry, Evangelism Ministry, Youth Services, and the School of Ministry, just to name a few. Dr. Johnson’s teaching has reached and made an impact on the lives of hundreds over the airways. In June, 20 2004, Dr. Johnson received an honorary Doctorate Degree, from Saint Thomas Christian College, Jacksonville, Florida.
We thank God for the awesome leadership He provided for us over the past 28 years under Pastor Johnson. Even so, we are equally grateful that our pastor demonstrated the principle that you cannot have success without a successor. Therefore, having been led by God to appoint his successor, Pastor Johnson retired from his position as Senior Pastor on Sunday, April 17, 2016, and passed the mantle to the one God sent to take his place. That person is Overseer J. Troy Blackwell.
Throughout the history of our church, God has demonstrated His great love for us by sending us great leaders -- men after His own heart to shepherd His people. On July 31, 2016, God demonstrated this once again when he allowed Cedar Grove Tabernacle of Praise to install its seventh pastor, Pastor J. Troy Blackwell.
Since receiving the mantle from Dr. Johnson, the church is experiencing an increase in attendance and membership under Pastor Blackwell. Most of all, his anointing to teach and preach the Word of God has not only raised us to a new level of knowledge and understanding, his personality and gift to cultivate and nurture relationships has created an atmosphere of love and excitement concerning the things God has in store for the Cedar Grove church family and for the community.
Pastor Blackwell has a heart for people, and has stated that “his charge from The Lord, for the remainder of his days is to teach God’s people how to understand who they are in Christ.” His vision is to “change the lost into the loving; God, themselves and others through worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and evangelism.”
Because he believes that ministry simply means to serve, his motto is “every member is a minister.” Since God is the God of increase, we believe that even though God has been extremely good to us in the past, “our latter days shall be greater than our former days” as we embark on our journey under new leadership. To God be the glory for the things He has done and that He is going to do!