When you become 100 years old, the first question most people ask is, “What is the secret to your longevity?”
It’s no secret, if you ask anyone from the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church family. In fact, they will gladly tell you, “Through God’s grace and blessings!”
This Sunday, June 13, marks the Centennial Anniversary for Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Unequivocally, Mt. Olive has been a west side pillar whose profound prominence has been present not just in the city of Indianapolis or the state of Indiana, but across the country.
A blessed history
On June 10, 1910, in the home of Thomas and Janie Dunn on West Street, 44 believers in Christ began what is known today as Mt. Olive, under the pastorate of Rev. J.C. Patton. The church continued to grow and shortly moved to the St. Clair Hall on Indiana Avenue. In the mid-1920s, a newly erected church was built at 727 Blake St.
There were several pastors during the early years of Mt. Olive. God’s providential hand sent a man on November 12, 1931, who the members gave a six-month “trial” period, but the Lord turned that into 45 years.
Rev. Dr. Henry Thurston Toliver took Mt. Olive to new heights with his dynamic leadership and powerful preaching. It was during that pivotal period in the church’s history that it gained national prominence. Toliver served as the Baptist district and state moderator, as well as a national officer.
Under Toliver’s leadership, the Blake Street mortgage was liquidated. When IUPUI later approached the church about purchasing their building and land, a deal was reached and the church purchased lots at Milburn and West 16th Street.
In August 1969, Mt. Olive marched from their Blake Street location to the new edifice at 1003 West 16th St. singing, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.” Mt. Olive celebrated the second mortgage burning under Toliver.
When his health declined, Toliver was honored with the title of “Pastor Emeritus” until his death in 1981 at age 80.
After such a tremendous loss to the Mt. Olive family, once again, God’s grace and blessings were poured on them when he sent a young fiery preacher from Birmingham, Ala. to become the church’s seventh pastor in September 1978.
Rev. Wayne T. Harris Sr. came and quickly made himself known, not only within the “Church Community” but also throughout the city of Indianapolis.
His commitment to a holistic ministry was evident. This Bible preacher and teacher placed emphasis on benevolence and outreach, and was an outspoken community activist for the justice for “the least of these.”
With Harris’ leadership, what was previously a bar and grill became the Mt. Olive Crisis Care Center. This center was opened 24-hours a day, seven days a week providing food, clothing, and shelter for the homeless.
Harris also opened the Indianapolis extension of Simmons Bible College and the Mt. Olive Institute for Biblical Learning, and both institutions were accredited. He established the Heart-to-Heart Counseling ministry run by professional counselors of the church. Other ministries were also added under his leadership. Through his vision Mt. Olive built its current location.
Harris also had been a mayoral candidate, receiving the support of many within the city.
Unexpectedly, God’s swift hand of sovereignty called Harris from labor to reward on Aug. 9, 2000 after 22 years of service as pastor. He was 46 years old.
Devastated and in disbelief, Mt. Olive was faced with the arduous task of seeking a pastor to continue with the visions that were visibly making a difference in Indianapolis.
After a year of mourning, Mt. Olive began seeking God’s direction in search of the next pastor. In April 2002, Rev. Donald Ray Hudson became pastor.
Hudson, another visionary, along with the Mt. Olive congregation, organized the first “Super Saturday.” The primary purpose of this citywide event held at IUPUI’s stadium was to save souls. It brought several churches to worship and fellowship together from across the city.
Hudson also initiated several new ministries at Mt. Olive. As a pastor who believes in using modern technology, Hudson installed cameras, monitors, and giant screens so that everyone would be able to see and experience the praise and worship service.
During the height of his pastorate at Mt. Olive, Hudson resigned in January 2007. Familiar with unexpected transition, Mt. Olive was again in search of a pastor. God heard the many prayers and sent from Mississippi an East Chicago, Ind. native to become the ninth pastor on Sept. 7, 2008.
A promising future
Rev. Carl Z. Liggins Sr. immediately began fellowshipping with other congregations throughout the city and state. Mt. Olive held its first Dunamis Conference, reminiscent of the Spring Institutes of yesteryear. This conference brought pastors from the city and state to preach and teach, as well as lay persons to facilitate workshops.
Liggins recently served as a candidate for the Pike Township School Board during this past election.
He has also been instrumental in Mt. Olive hosting the Holy Week services sponsored by the Indianapolis Ministerial Alliance. Liggins has begun work on a bookstore within the church that will be staffed by members of the Mt. Olive family and open to the public. This is just the beginning of what God has in store for Mt. Olive under his leadership.
Undoubtedly, Mt. Olive has much to praise God for because it is his grace and blessings that have brought this Westside pillar to a 100-year milestone! To God be the glory for this centennial anniversary!