On December 16, 1945, two hundred fifty persons marched from the Triedstone Baptist Church to the Phyllis Wheatley Association, where the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church was established. On the evening of December 26, 1945, a call was extended to Dr. John Rollin Plummer to become the pastor of this newly established body of Christians. The church prospered, both spiritually and financially, under the leadership of Dr. Plummer, working in concert with the first leaders of this congregation and a dedicated membership, the staggering sum of $47,000 was raised. On April 30, 1946, the Jewish Synagogue, located at 1161 East 105th Street, was purchased. November 9, 1947, the Greater Abyssinia members marched from the Phyllis Wheatley Association, on Cedar Avenue, to their new home. Peace and harmony prevailed and miraculous strides were achieved under the pastorate of Dr. John Rollin Plummer.
The Dynamic Leadership of Dr. J. R. Plummer came to a tragic halt, when on October 22, 1951, Dr. Plummer met with a fatal automobile accident. His deeds attested to the motto by which he lived “No Victory Without Labor”. Our Heavenly Father continued to lead and guide us and Greater Abyssinia moved forward and prospered. Mrs. Thelma Plummer, wife of the late Dr. Plummer, served at the helm during an interim period and Greater Abyssinia’s steps were undaunted and the church marched on.
On November 20, 1952, the call went out to the Reverend Henry J. Payden of Toledo, Ohio. Under his leadership: A $14,000 mortgage was liquidated; a seven-room house was purchased; the lower auditorium of the church was remodeled and dedicated as the J. R. Plummer Memorial Hall, new pews and an organ and carillon were purchased for the church sanctuary and five store fronts were bought. In March 1961, the pastorate of the Rev. Henry J. Payden was terminated.
On July 11, 1961, the church issued a call to the Reverend Emmitt Theophilus Caviness, Pastor of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, East St. Louis, Illinois. Rev. Caviness came right in and began to work. Under his dynamic leadership, $63,844.99 in mortgages, plus $5,000 in unpaid bills were eradicated, almost immediately. Glass windows, beautiful aluminum-framed glass doors, new roof on the church and garage, mimeograph machine, copier and duplicating machines, new pianos for the rehearsal room, and a Grand Piano, for the main sanctuary, were purchased under his administration.
The entire church has been completely air-conditioned at a cost of $24,500, and a huge exhaust fan was purchased; a palatial parsonage was bought on Chestnut Hills Drive; the church has been completely redecorated, painted and beautified several times. A 9-passenger station wagon was purchased. Another city block was bought, upon which stood a building, enabling members to park 100 cars inside. In 1994, the City demolished the building, and a new parking lot has been constructed on Tacoma Avenue, upon which a small house was built to facilitate parking lot attendants. As Greater Abyssinia continued to be blessed, through consecrated giving by the membership, the lot on East 105th Street was completely paved in 1995 and then totally updated in 1999 with additional parking spaces.
Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church hosted the Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., in 1971, and again in 1979. An All-Purpose Education and Administration Complex was built, at a cost of more than a quarter of a million dollars, and was paid for in cash. Organizations and members doubled and tripled their financial efforts in order to make this a reality. In 1980, an Alan Organ, valued at $30,000, was purchased. In 1981, two new boilers, totaling approximating $12,000, were purchased for the church proper and the parsonage.
History was made again by Greater Abyssinia. On June 6, 1979, the church voted unanimously to make as its distinguished Co-Pastor, Rev. Theophilus James Caviness, a product of Bishop College with a B.A. Degree, and a graduate of Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Bexley Hall, Crozier Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree.
September 28, 1984, Greater Abyssinia was awarded the sum of Two Million, Nine Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars to erect a Seventy-Unit Senior Citizens’ Housing Complex at the corner of East 105th and Superior Avenue. The same was named the “Greater Abyssinia - Caviness Tower.” Seniors of our church family, along with members of the community, are enjoying this facility. The Black Economic Union, co-sponsored these units, and Hallmark Management manages these facilities.
Sunday, January 22, 1989, Phase II of our building program was dedicated. Incorporated within this facility is the “E. T. & James Pitts Caviness Hall,” (re-named in 1995). A modern kitchen with more than $30,000 worth of kitchen equipment; the Kisner Chapel; a “Preparation-for-Worship Room” where the Choirs, Ushers, Deacons and all other organizations of the church can gather and meet; rest rooms are on the 1st and 2nd floor levels with special accommodations for our disabled and handicapped. A planning room, office space, and a spacious lobby adjoins our main sanctuary with a walk-up and drive-thru ramp. There is an overhead canopy that protects passengers from the elements while exiting from their automobiles. The entire facility of Phase II of our Building Program was built at a cost of almost one million dollars. More than a third of this amount was raised before starting to build the addition. The balance was completely eradicated through monthly mortgage payments.
The “Tree Of Life,” located in the Lobby of our new facility, contains the names of organizations, members and friends who gave above and beyond their tithes, offerings and assessments for Phase II of our building program. Pews, stained glass windows, comfortable choir chairs, doors, wayside pulpit and numerous other items were purchased in their names in order to embellish this complex. Many members gave “In Memory of Their Loved Ones.” The “Tree Of Life” stands as a continuous memorial, whereby all who remain after their loved ones have passed on, may see that with “God, all things are possible.” A “Book of Life” is located beneath the “Tree,” depicting a brief family history of all whose names embellish the “Tree Of Life.”
On September 2, 1990, the “Fountain of Life,” located near our ramp, was completed and dedicated. This Fountain is encompassed by a beautiful “garden of prayer.” Here, the membership can pause, pray and give thanks to Almighty God for all of His many blessings. The men of Greater Abyssinia presented a plan in 1995, whereby names were immortalized in brick, on a wall that surrounds the “Fountain of Life.” Also, in 1995, the house located at 10518-20 was purchased in cash and demolished in order for Greater Abyssinia to acquire additional parking space for our growing congregation. In September, after returning from the National Baptist Convention, Greater Abyssinia raised the staggering sum of $10,000 and this amount was sent to Selma University in Selma, Alabama, to help one of our Black Colleges in their struggle for existence and financial need. Central State University Choir was presented in Concert in October, 1995. More than $1,700 was raised, to assist them in their struggle, to help keep our Black Colleges alive and functioning for our children.
In a dramatic demonstration of love of Greater Abyssinia and his commitment to its future, Rev. E. Theophilus Caviness established a half-million dollar gift creating the Greater Abyssinia Endowment Fund, in the name of “Rev. E. T. and James Pitts Caviness.” The gift, an unprecedented action, was designed to keep the church solvent and to cover financial emergencies above and beyond the Annual Church Budget. The GABC Endowment Fund is the “crowning jewel” in Pastor Caviness’ 52 years of God inspired Leadership, here at our church. To date, with Pastor Caviness having given an additional three hundred thousand to our Endowment Fund and another fifty thousand dollars to the fund in the year 2000.. As we culminate the 70th year of celebration, another chapter has been written in the history of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church. With God on our side, we shall continue to work, to serve, to pray, to give and to build ~“To God Be The Glory for the Things He Has Done!”~
As a church family, we have faith enough to believe that as God brought us victoriously through this half-century, we can say with dedication and devotion, that “Greater Abyssinia is a church working for Christ, “His” church, and the kingdom of God.” As we read in Ephesians 5:25b-27; “...Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”.
In 1997 a new Hammond Organ was purchased at a cost of $18,864. Greater Abyssinia was also blessed during 1997 to have purchased the property at 1156-1160 East 105th Street for $18,000. Future plans are being formulated to build a “Multi-Purpose” complex and educational facility.
In 1999 Greater Abyssinia liquidated its three hundred and sixty-nine thousand dollar mortgage indebtedness that had been secured to finish paying off the remainder of the nearly one million dollar addition at the corner of 105th Street and Grantwood Avenue. Because of our endowment security, we were able to borrow from ourselves and repay ourselves the interest accumulation. Immediately following our mortgage burning ceremony, held on Sunday, August 29, 1999, we spent approximately fifty-thousand dollars in shoring the total roof portions of our church and black topping our exiting parking lots and purchasing a house at 10604 Tacoma, demolishing the same and establishing an additional parking lot, for nearly fifty more cars.
A beautiful new Wayside Pulpit was purchased, displaying the name of our church, pastor, co-pastor, and the order of service, which was a cost of $7,000. Parking lot, fences and other construction repairs were erected to improve the surrounding property at a cost of $18,000.
Rev. Caviness has been imploring members of Greater Abyssinia to save and invest in the future. At his urging, the church established two investment clubs and a “Rainy Day” Fund for financial emergencies. “Jesus spoke more about money than anything else, “Rev. Caviness underscored.”
In 2000 the church purchased three properties on Tacoma Ave., and a garage was demolished. Greater Abyssinia deposited $125,000 to the Cleveland Foundation Endowment Fund.
In 2002 Greater Abyssinia’s accomplishments included a new telephone system ($7000), a new air conditioning system ($11,000), and new security cameras. Three properties on Tacoma Ave. were purchased and remodeled at approximately $25,000.
The entire front of the church has been remodeled, as well as, new front steps, new columns and new ramps amounting to $35,000. Also, new carpeting for the library and new tile for various hallways, at a cost of $10,000.
As we moved into the years of 2003 thru 2005, continued enhancements were made to our Church. The Burial Fund was established, along with the sewer and drains, paved parking lot, excavated parking lot, rehabilitation project for the “Food Bank.” The audio system, computers, monitors, copier, organ and piano were upgraded; plastering and painting in an amount totaling $23,000.
The need to keep up with the maintenance of the Church, we were constantly upgrading all systems in our beautiful edifice. The years of 2007 thru 2010 were no different, even though we gave $10,000.00 to Selma University in Selma, Alabama and purchased an “Enlightenment System,” spending well over $75,000 during that span of time.
Greater Abyssinia is forever in the process of making our church a seven-day a week operational concern, as we are committed to the taking care of the total needs and desires of our membership.
All in all, with reference to the goodness and guidance of God, Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church has never been more blessed and achieved as much progress as it has over the past years. Truly the anointing of God has been given to our church and our fellowship, whereof, we are mighty-mighty glad. In the latter part of November 2013, Pastor Caviness, our Spiritual Leader, testified before the Historical Committee, our edifice is now in the process of being listed as a Historical Site.
In 2015, the church continued to progress in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Once again, the gracious members of this great church rallied together to raise $110,000 to replace the roof on each of our buildings. This has been a grand effort from the eldest to the youngest contributing and fundraising with only $29,942.24 left to accomplish our goal. God is great and worthy to be praised!
This year, we will continue to “Maintain, Enhance, Promote and Exemplify the Church that Jesus Christ Established for the Salvation of All Mankind”. We will continue to praying intently and eagerly for the continued leadership and guidance of God in Christ Jesus with the inspiration, support and under girding of the precious Holy Spirit. Our hope is always incorporated in the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans, wherein, he said in chapter eight, the thirty-first verse “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us who can be against us?”