|The following was taken from Gentilly Baptist Church's 1939 Yearbook/Directory, which belonged
to my grandmother. Her best friend, Alma Donnels, was a charter member of this church and, though
my grandmother was a member of another church, I recall her telling me that she often attended Gentilly
Baptist with Mrs. Donnels in the 1930's. The photo above is, also, from the 1939 Yearbook. Nancy
|History of Gentilly Baptist Church
The Story of Gentilly Baptist Church by Mrs. J. R. Hammack
Feeling the need for spiritual communion in the fast-growing Gentilly section, a group of residents
headed by Mr. and Mrs. Lester Hardin Hagler organized regular Sunday School classes. These
classes were first started in July, 1922, with the total membership only 13. Classes were held in the
home of Mr. and Mrs Hagler at 4963 DeMontluzin Street.
From this beginning, grew the idea for a church, since there were no Baptist churches within any
reasonable distance of the community, and so Rev. Mr. Joshua C. Alexander of Bessemer, Alabama,
who was studying at the Baptist Bible Institute [later called New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary],
came out each Sunday and preached the gospel in Mr. and Mrs. Hagler's home. In September, 1922,
two weeks of revival meetings were held there, furthering the determination to build a church in Gentilly.
January 8, 1923, the original Gentilly Baptist Church was organized with nine charter members, who
were: Mr. and Mrs. Lester H. Hagler, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Turnage, Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Turnage, Mrs. Alma
Donnels, Mrs. Stella Owens and Mrs Josephine Woods. The property at 5141 Franklin Avenue was
purchased, and Mr. Hagler and Mr. Basil Burnett began the erection of a small building or shed.
On Sunday, May 6, 1923, the members of the church, that had grown to twenty-four, met at Mr. and
Mrs. Hagler's home and marched, singing, over to the little building which was to become our present
church. They sat on crude wooden benches, which were certainly not so comfortable as they might
have been, but their hearts rejoiced at the beginning o a house where they might worship God. They
sang with their hearts and prayed fervently that God might bless the church and prosper it.
On May 13th, dedication services were held, at which a letter expressing appreciation for their work in
the founding of this new house of God was signed by the members and presented to Mr. and Mrs.
From that modest beginning, through the earnest prayers and work of the people in the community,
Gentilly Baptist Church has undergone two extensive enlargements of the building, and has paid off
almost all of the church debt. The membership is now many times the original eight who first organized
There have been but five pastors at Gentilly Church since its beginning -- Rev. Mr. Ernest R. Vincett
followed Rev. Mr. Alexander, and it was he who was instrumental in the first enlargement of the
building. Next, Rev. E. M. Causey, Th.D., under whose leadership the church knew a steady growth.
The fourth pastor was Rev. Alexander Best, Th.D., through whose efforts the second addition was
made, giving us the church in its present form, and $2,800.00 of the church debt was paid off. The
present pastor, Dr. Lawrence Bracey Campbell, M.A., M.O., Th.D., came to the church from Canton,
Mississippi in 1937. He is working hard to increase the membership and activities of the church, and to
pay off the remaining debt.
The Sunday School is controlled by the church, with Bro. L. R. Keith as Superintendent. Bro. Murry R.
Bellinger is Treasurer of the church, and Bro. R. L. Johnson is Clerk. Bro. Sellie S. Evans directs the
Baptist Training Union, and Mrs. Murry R. Bellinger, the Women's Missionary Union. Bro. Raymond E.
Judd is the able choir leader.
|A recent photo of Gentilly Baptist Church
Gentilly Baptist Church was inundated with almost eight feet of water after the levee
failures in 2005, but, with the help of its members, staff and many generous volunteers,
the church has made excellent progress with both renovation and new construction.