Mt. Gilead: a church for the community

By David L. Fitts, Jr.

NCCU Staff Writer

the Durham VOICE

Within North East Central Durham (NECD) lies a little church that calls itself “The Church on the Corner for the Care and Cure of Souls.” Mount Gilead Baptist Church has been a safe haven for those who seek a place of worship since 1908.

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Mount Gilead Church, at 404 Dowd St. (Photo by David L. Fitts, Jr)

Now sitting on the corner of 404 Dowd Street, the church serves as a home for its 400 members in NECD and Durham.

“Mount Gilead is a good religious outlet for people who cannot leave the community,” said Tomika Small who has been a member since 1982. Since the church is located in the middle of a large community, it has opened its doors to those in need for a long time.

“Mount Gilead is a very caring church,” said Dorothy Chavis who has been a member since 1950. “It looks after the needs of the needy in the community.”

One way Mount Gilead helped the community was by purchasing five homes to help low income families in need of housing. This was done with money from the city of Durham through Mount Gilead Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by the church in 1990.

Mount Gilead Inc. was established to provide food, shelter, houses, computer workshops and more. But those goals have proven difficult to accomplish. “It has not manifested to what it was supposed to do,” said Small. According to Small the foundation focuses more on things that can be done quickly such as giving Easter baskets to Urban Ministries.

William “Bill” Cross, Jr., “started out,” when Durham was segregated. “This was known as the wrong side of the street,” said Cross. During his childhood, he found a home at Mount Gilead.

Cross became a member in 1962. “This church gave me strict morals to live by,” he said. He likes that members do not care about a person’s socio-economic status. It is here for the people.


Tomika Small poses after Sunday service

Along with focusing on making sure it provides a place where people can come to worship, the church also focuses its attention towards making sure the people in the community are well. Each year, Mt. Gilead hold programs to help boost the morale in the community as well as provide a way to help people have some things to do.

“Every year, we have a youth block party which is an outreach program to children,” said Small. The program is a way for the church to reach out to the children in the community and let them know they have somewhere to go if they need anything.

“It lets them know who is in the church because some children are picked up by other churches that are not in walking distance like Mount Gilead,” said Small. Mount Gilead wants the children to know they can have fun in church.

“It has a lot of other programs throughout the year,” said Vanda Davis, chair of the music committee. Some programs include Vacation Bible School, Christmas celebrations and scholarship programs. “During our programs, the surrounding community is invited to be a part of everything going on.”

With its 100-year history and strong membership, Mount Gilead Baptist Church will surely continue to be a solid presence in Northeast Central Durham.