So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Nehemiah 4:6
It all began on March 6, 1951, with the following charter members, Brother J.E. Bell, Sister Eola Bell, Brother Pete Farlow, Sister Cillar Farlow, Sister Rosie Hicks, Sister Annie Spencer-Lewis, Brother Willie Johnson, Brother Cornelius Perkins, Sister Ollie Nicholson, Sister Bernice Taylor, Brother Aly McJimpson, and Sister Laura McJimpson. The meeting was held as the home of Aly and Laura McJimpson.
The first home for the church was located as 952 8th Street. The council was under the direction of Reverend R.B. Blackmore, Pastor of the Kingdom Land Baptist Church, Richmond, CA. Upon the suggestion of Sister Cillar Farlow, the church was named, “Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church.” The church received its charter on December 20, 1951 and was incorporated by Attorney Thomas L. Berkley of Berkeley, CA on February 15, 1952.
In March 1951, Reverend James H. Henderson, Jr. of Tallulah, Louisiana, was called as the first pastor. He accepted the charge and served as Pastor until May of 1956. The membership grew from 26 to 125. Reverend Henderson resigned in good faith, to accept a charge in his hometown. The property on which the church now stands, was an old house purchased in 1953, remodeled, and used for worship services.
In June, Reverend Willie Bernstine was called to be the second pastor. The membership increased from 125 to 215. Under the leadership on Reverend Bernstine, the exterior of the building was remodeled extensively. Reverend Bernstine resigned in July 1963, to accept another charge. On Friday, March 30, 2001, Reverend Bernstine received a call from the Master, and departed this life to live a glorious one in a building not made by hands.
Under the leadership of Pastors Henderson and Bernstine, the church was affiliated with the Progressive District Association, and the Tri-City Ushers Alliance, as well as the National Baptist Convention.
Reverend Arliee Hightower was called to Pastor the church in December 1963. On January 3, 1964, he became the 3rd Pastor of Pleasant Grove. In his first sermon, Reverend Hightower said, “we are going to build a new church”. Under his leadership, the Church obtained a permit to build a new edifice. The old structure was demolished, and we were ready to build. We were suddenly faced with the confrontations from the Redevelopment Agency. Pastor Hightower led us to the 7th and Henry streets to worship. The Lord showered His blessings, and the Church continued to grow. However, we were still faced with obstacles.
Under the direction on Reverend Hightower, we marched to the Board of the Oakland City Council and had open prayer service in the Rotunda of City Hall. Deacon Willie Johnson prayed a fervent effectual prayer and the walls of bureaucracy and politics fell. The new structure was started on June 30, 1966. We marched from our worship place at 7th and Henry to our new building. The edifice was dedicated in June of 1968.
The membership grew from 215 to over 800 members. Under the leadership of Pastor Hightower, the budget of the church was established and all encumbrances were met without delinquent indebtedness. We were blessed to burn the mortgage. Led by Reverend Hightower, the church remained under the National Baptist Convention, but was affiliated with the Home and Foreign Mission District Association, and the California State Convention. Pastor Hightower retired in April 1991 from pasturing, but continued to help at the church. He is no longer with us, as the Master has called him to rest on October 7, 1997.
Rev. Henry Perkins, a son of Pleasant Grove, became interim Pastor in May 1991. The church continued to grow, and the Lord continually blessed us. In 1992, Reverend Perkins was called to pastor the First Baptist Church in Pittsburg.
In February 1993, Reverend Thomas A. Harris, III, a son of Pleasant Grove, was called to be the fourth pastor of the church, and he is steadfastly concentrating on moving Pleasant Grove forward to enact a brand new vision placed before him by the Heavenly Father. He is determined for the city of Oakland to benefit from the spiritual growth of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church.