Just weeks after celebrating its 157-year milestone, First Missionary Baptist Church is marking another anniversary.
2023 marks 10 years since Dr. Orlando McReynolds and first lady Dale McReynolds answered the call to serve at the church located at the corner of Seventh and Vienna streets. A celebration will take place Sunday, May 21.
Evangelist Melanie E. Nunn will speak at the 11 a.m. service, followed by pastor Dr. Calvin Cole Sr. at 2 p.m. Dinner will be served in the Family Life Center around 1 p.m. All are welcome to attend. The church is located at 413 W. Seventh St., Metropolis.
Cole is the pastor at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Paducah, where Nunn serves on the staff as an evangelist.
McReynolds said Mt. Moriah holds a special place in his and his wife’s hearts. It’s where they exchanged their wedding vows 34 years ago.
“The morning speaker, evangelist Melanie Nunn, is one of the most gifted preachers in the area. Rev. Calvin Cole, the afternoon speaker, has been a personal friend of mine for many years,” he said.
Prior to hiring McReynolds, First Missionary had been without a pastor for 16 months. Calvin Owens, who has served as a deacon at First Missionary for 50 years, recalls the search committee coming together and deciding “we wanted an ordained Baptist minister with doctrines in line with our church doctrine. We wanted a preacher and a teacher. We also wanted someone who would be willing to live in Metropolis, close to the church and accessible to the members and community,” he said.
While there were several interviewees, “none quite fit the bill,” Owens said. “None of the distant candidates appealed, except one caught our attention. … It was a match made in heaven.”
Following an interview and preaching to the congregation, Rev. Dr. Orlando McReynolds was voted as the 23rd pastor of First Missionary on Oct. 8, 2013. He and his wife Dale moved from Harlem, New York, to Metropolis and he preached his first sermon as pastor on Nov. 3, 2013.
“It was the ideal situation,” McReynolds said. “And, I saw potential here as far as the congregation. It was a perfect match, a win-win situation. I didn’t have to think about it twice.”
For McReynolds, coming to First Missionary was a homecoming of sorts.
Born in New York, he spent many summers in Paducah with his father, who was originally from there. McReynolds decided stay in Paducah, which is also where Dale is from, for his senior year of high school and graduated from Tilghman. He went into broadcasting, mostly in radio news after getting his first break as a disc jockey at WKYQ and then at WPAD, where he started its first soul music program. He went to a station in Louisville before returning to New York. He was there for a total of 38 years.
He married Dale in 1989, accepted the call to become a preacher/pastor in 1991 and was ordained in 1994, following the footsteps of his grandfather, father and son. When he retired after 19 years from a church in Brooklyn, they decided to move back to the Paducah area so Dale could be closer to her family.
But McReynolds wasn’t quite ready to fully retire. He put in some resumes and learned First Missionary had an opening.
When he came to Metropolis to introduce himself, “it was almost like ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Twin Peaks’ or something. Not only did the church building look the same (as where he pastored in New York), but the church sanctuary was almost the same. The parsonage is right next door here; in Brooklyn, it was right across the street. The freight train runs right over here; in Brooklyn, the subway ran right behind the church. It was almost like a confirmation.”
He recalls church member Lorenzo Goodman making the comment, “’You sure look comfortable up there.’ I said, ‘It looks just like where I was last Sunday.’ ”
Just as the search committee desired, McReynolds and his wife are accessible to church members and the community.
“He is a dynamic speaker and an excellent teacher of the Bible. We feel very fortunate to have a minister of his caliber. Not to mention, his wife compliments him with her singing ability and outgoing personality,” Owens said. “Dr. McReynolds is also very involved in the community.”
A year after coming to Metropolis, McReynolds launched Operation Andrew at First Missionary. The feeding program served over 1,000 lunches each summer of 2014 and 2015. The church’s Family Life Center was also the site for senior citizen computer literacy and art classes before COVID-19.
McReynolds is the current president of the Massac County Democrats and served as past president of the Massac Ministerial Association. He and the church were featured in the Cannes Film Festival documentary, “Oscar Micheaux: The Super Hero of Black Filmmaking.” He is spearheading the placement of a historical landmark commemorating Metropolis natives Micheaux, cosmologist pioneer Annie Turnbo-Malone and John Turnbo, the first African-American Metropolis alderman.
Dale McReynolds is also involved in the community. The award-winning artist has launched Dale’s Art Den, an art studio/gallery on Market Street.
Over the years, McReynolds and First Missionary members have weathered life’s ups and downs together. They have continued to hold annual events, such as the Martin Luther King Day program. They have cried on each other’s shoulders during times of loss. They kept the church doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
McReynolds recalls when the 2020 restrictions began, it was in the middle of Holy Week. “I made the announcement that I, my wife and Deacon Owens were going to be here, and in the Bible where two or three are gathered together in His name, He’ll be here also,” and he left the decision to come or stay home to the members.
First Missionary never closed its doors during COVID.
“I didn’t realize the government had limited it to 12 people, but, don’t you know, every week, we had 12 people, like 12 disciples,” he said. “On Pentecost Sunday (2020), I sent a letter asking everyone to come back, and basically, most of them did. And we’ve been rocking ever since then. What hurt us, though, is a matter of recovering the parents and young people we had.”
Like many churches because of COVID, “we learned how to make lemonade out of lemons” by going to YouTube and Facebook Live with its services picking up 200 people a week, including many of whom live out of the area.
“COVID in itself didn’t hurt us. It was an obstacle that gave us another opportunity,” McReynolds said.
With a vision of “serving Christ and the community,” First Missionary continues to look for those opportunities to serve. Those areas, so far, include a community outreach program asking for donations to help women of domestic violence; a Secret Pal Program allowing church members to encourage others; providing the COVID vaccine through Operation Sure Shot; and hosting a Juneteenth block party.
“I often call this the best congregation south of heaven,” McReynolds said. “Unlike some congregations I’ve had experience with, there’s not turmoil here. It’s a congregation that loves each other — and you can’t love the Lord unless you love each other. We’re blessed here.”
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