FLORENCE, S.C. – Trinity Baptist Church has a rich history in the community. And in Florence, in general, the church was a "beacon of light" through Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam era, according to current pastor Calvin E. Robinson Jr.
The church turned 150 years old in 2018, but because of a major renovation, the congregation is celebrating it this year.
Robinson said the leadership at the church, including the pastors and lay leaders, was and remains a pivotal part of the community.
“Dr. Diggs, my predecessor, was a civil rights leader in his own right,” Robinson said. “When riots were going on in other places, he was a man who said that ‘cooler heads prevailed’ here in this city. So we will continue to speak on things that are important to all members of the Florence community, the greater Florence community.”
Feb. 2015 was when Robinson was called to be the pastor at Trinity Baptist Church. He teaches a mid-week Bible study class, and as a result of his preaching and teaching, members have been added.
Under Robinson’s leadership, the gospel choir was reorganized and the Voices of Praise was organized. Renovation to the Miller Fellowship Hall was completed in 2017, and on Dec. 2, 2018, the congregation marched into its newly renovated sanctuary.
“I will just say that the church has continued to grow in many aspects,” Robinson said. “She has continued to grow, of course, in spirit, numerically and financially. She has again grown along with this community. She has always served as a voice for the community, not just the voice, but one of the voices of this community.”
Trinity Baptist Church plays a significant role with the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, collaborates with other churches to feed people who are hungry and participates in a number of activities that help people who are homeless.
In 1969, the church established a federal credit union that assists the membership with finance. According to Robinson, Trinity Baptist Church was the first black church in South Carolina to have a federal credit union. It is still in operation.
Robinson said the church is an advocate for people who are in need.
“We have a particular concern with our youth in this city,” Robinson said. “We also contribute to several universities: Benedict College, Morris College, South Carolina State. We also send funds to Morehouse School of Religion. We believe that education is vital to the growth of people in this community.”
Marilyn McClain, who is the president of the Missionary Society, said she has attended the church since she was in her “mamma’s belly.” She will be 80 years old in August.
“The main focus always has been with Trinity is to grow leaders,” McClain said. “And I can say, out of Trinity, we have some great people. We have doctors, we have teachers, we have lawyers, we have people in just about every field that came from Trinity Baptist Church. And as far as from when I was a child growing up in this church, throughout the years, that focus has remained.”
McClain said throughout the years, the church believed in giving members a foundation to build on.
“And if you have a strong foundation, you know your structure is going to be firm,” McClain said. “So by teaching us back in my day, throughout the years of being firm, being respectful – education was the main focus.”
It is the love and welcoming environment, music, programs and involvement with different organizations that mean a lot to people who go to Trinity Baptist Church, McClain said.
Moving forward, Robinson said the church wants to increase its level of local evangelism and its mission work both locally and abroad.
“We also want to play a part in the development of our community economically, politically and socially,” Robinson said.
In other words, he said the church wants to be a “holistic ministry.”
The anniversary celebration starts Saturday with the banquet at the Florence Center, formerly the Florence Civic Center.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and the banquet will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling the church office. The guest speaker will be Dr. Tyrone Jones IV, and Dr. Bill Cummings will provide entertainment.
A worship service will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday at Trinity Baptist Church, 124 W. Darlington St., Florence. The guest speaker will be Dr. Paul McDaniel.