In 1899, God led Pastor Edmond and his members to organize the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church here in Fruitland Park, Florida. The founding officers were Bro. David James and Bro. Hockles Gavin. Sis. Estella Dinkins served as Sunday School Superintendent. The property on which New Salem stands was purchased from Bro. Martin V. Tanner. All of our founders have ended their sojourn on this earth.
Following the Rev. Edmond as pastor were the late Rev. Kindrick, T.W. Waitman, J.E. Rivers, Scott Roberts, F.E. Wiley, Roosevelt Brown, John Rembert, E.M. Moss, Floyd Johnson, W.N. McKinney, and W.L. Grimes. Pastor Emeritus Everett Rachel served for over 21 years.
Officers who were present when the initial building birthforth were the late Deacons Sam Hunley, J.S. Lang, and Thomas Hill.
God saw fit in 1963 to bless us with our current structure during the pastorate of the late Rev. Floyd Johnson, with the following officers serving: the late Deacons James Patterson, Sam Cooper, Mason Haynes, Charlie Peeples, Lawerence McCoy, Leman Mills, and J.S. Lang. Deaconesses at that time were: Sister Ethel (Mills)Rachel, and the late Sisters Ophelia Cooper, Phalfer Haynes, Violet Peeples, Silvia McCoy, and Ella Johnson. Trustees were the late Deacons Sam Cooper, Lawerence McCoy, Mason Haynes, and Bro. Abe McCoy, Jr. The finance committee included the late Brothers Abe McCoy, Jr. and Aaron Sharpe.
Other officers included the Mother of the church: the late Sis. Lillia Hunley, choir president: Sis. Bertha Perry, and church clerk: Sis. Ella Johnson.
Other officers serving in later years were: the late Deacons Willie Williams, Aaron Sharpe, Willie Woodberry, Wade Tanner, Jr., Earl Rivers, and Thomas Croker. Elder J.C. McKenzie served as assistant to the pastor until September 2002 and Rev. Dennis Handsborough served as the pastor's assistant from September 2002 until January 31, 2006.
Under Pastor Emeritus Rachel's leadership, five young men began their ministries: Min. Eric Cooper, Min. William Mays, Jr., and Min. Marvin Rachel who have left our fellowship; Rev. Cedric Sampson who is now pastoring Elizabeth Baptist Church in Belleview, Florida, Rev. Dennis Handsborough, Sr. who is still serving in New Salem Missionary Baptist Church and the late Rev. Horace Rachel. Minister Debra Sampson is Pastor Emeritus Rachel's only daughter in the ministry and is still serving on the ministerial staff. On May 30, 2004 Min. Dennis Handsborough and the late Min. Horace Rachel were ordained for greater ministry.
The Deacon Board at this time included: Deacons Robert Colden, Connell Morrison and Herbert Youmans. From January 31, 2006 until April 1, 2007, New Salem was without a shepherd. Nevertheless, the church continued with its program, through fasting and praying, keeping things together and moving forward. Rev. Dennis Handsborough, Sr., Min. Debra Sampson, and Min. Marvin Rachel all played a role in ministering the Word, and attending to the needs of our congregation in the absence of a pastor. Pastor Emeritus Everett Rachel also shared in the ministry of support and did whatever he could to lend a hand.
Rev. Melvin Haynes, Jr. ED.D. was called to the position of pastor and began his work at New Salem on Sunday, April 1, 2007. Pastor Haynes grew up as a child in New Salem and feels very privileged to now be its pastor. Our pastor has let us know that this was not in his plans, but it must be the plan of God, for he had already charted his course. God changed his direction, as he did Jonah, urging him to take the mantle from Pastor Emeritus Rachel and build on the 21 years of work that were already completed. On April 29, 2007, the formal installation service was held with Moderator William "Billy" Hawkins presiding, in the finest tradition of the Missionary Baptist denomination.
During the first year (April 1, 2007 – March 31, 2008) under Pastor Haynes' leadership several families and individuals joined the membership. Two young men, Bro. Charles Hammond and Bro. Timmy Parrish, have been set aside for Deacons. Two additional choirs, and an additional usher board were formed. Our Prayer Meeting and Bible Study were combined to one service on Wednesday nights. Because of the tireless work of Sister Frankie Handsborough our first church directory was published. Our congregation was also blessed with a gift of a Lincoln Town-car, providing more flexibility in transporting members.
Also during this year our membership was reduced by two: Sister Ophelia Cooper, a long time member and Deaconess went home to be with the Lord in September; following closely was the homegoing of Sis. Beatrice Jackson in November. A happier occasion was the uniting in holy matrimony of Sister Ora Handsborough and Bro. Steven Belcher in November 2007 with Rev. Dennis Handsborough officiating.
At our June Quarterly Conference, the congregation adopted the following statement as the church mission statement: "Share the Love and Message of Jesus Christ" (Matthew 28:19-20). The congregation also adopted a statement of purpose, goals, and the following motto: "Leave a Beautiful Impression."
In our second year (April 1, 2008 – March 31, 2009) of Pastor Haynes' leadership our church family continued to thrive. Several families and other individuals united with New Salem,among them two ministers, the Revs. Maxine Chandler and James Young. Some members were baptized while others came on their Christian experience. Brothers Byron Johnson and Wade Tanner III both reinstated their membership. Brother Robert Brown was added to the list of Deacons-in-training and Brother Wade Tanner III was considered for reinstatement as a Deacon of New Salem.
Our congregation was saddened by the loss of two members. After a long illness our beloved Deacon Herbert Youmans passed away in October 2008. Another beloved member Sister Carol Givens passed away the following February. They will truly be missed by all.
During this year four members gave birth: Sis. Jaleesa Sesler (to son Justin Parrish, Jr.); Sis. Angel Tukes (to son Alvin Fluitt, Jr.); Sis. Tomeka Kearse (to son Jamarri King Kearse); and Sis. Brandy Rowe (to daughter Andreyonna Louis). We welcome them all to the New Salem family.
The men of the church did a beautiful job brightening up and painting the inside of the Fellowship Hall and religious posters were added to complete the look. The office also received some improvements with the purchase of a new air conditioner/heating unit, a Dell computer and software with internet capability and an upgrade to the Canon copier. The office staff established office hours for service as needed. Pastor Haynes attended a Conference in February and received important information on fiscal management and plans to incorporate much of the information into New Salem's financial system. New hymnals, Bibles, and a digital piano were purchased for the sanctuary. Awnings were placed above the sanctuary doors to shield us from the weather and to improve the curb appeal.
A Book Club and Newsletter were established for the benefit of our avid readers and to spotlight the quarterly events of the church.
During the third year under Pastor Haynes, the church has experienced growth; spiritually, physically and aesthetically.
Brothers Robert Brown, Charles Hammond and Timmy Parrish, Sr. were ordained for the office of deacon in a spirit filled service on June 21, 2009. During this same service, Brother Wade Tanner, III was reinstalled to the Deacon Board and the wives of the newly ordained deacons were installed on the Deaconess Board; Sisters Soreatta Brown, Retha Hammond and Teressa Parrish. Another historical event of spiritual significance took place on June 28, 2009 as Min. Debra Sampson became the first woman to be an ordained minister at New Salem.
New Salem experienced an increase in youth membership as five youth (Latonya Jackson, Kequinshaye Mackey, Joyce Foster, Dyness Foster and Dyqireia Foster) were baptized this year. Families were blessed with births in the month of December, Robert Brown, III to Dec. Robert and Sis. Soreatta Brown and Laterrica Hammond to Bro. eric Hammond and Sis. Jerrica Thurber. Love was also in the air as two couples united in holy matrimony. Bro. Kevin McCoy and Sis. Selina McCoy were married in February and Dec. Wade Tanner and Sis. Laciana Williams united in March of 2010. Both newly wed couples reside in Lady Lake.
Our church family was devastated by the loss of Sis. Luella Wellmaker in January. She was an intricate part of the music ministry and lead singer in the "Voices of Faith." New Salem also mourned the passing of Justin Parrish, infant son of Jaleesa Sesler.
The curb appeal and beautification of New Salem was improved upon this year by refreshing the church trim and window sills with new paint. To further enhance the grounds a new landscape design was provided by Bro. Steven Castro and Dea. Wade Tanner led the charge to extend the sidewalk from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall with the help of the Men's Ministry.
During this fourth year under Pastor Haynes, the curb appeal of the grounds has taken front stage. The roof on both the sanctuary and the fellowship hall were replaced and the croos on the church steeple was modified to better enhance the church. There has also been an in-ground sprinkler system installed to take care of the watering of the yard. Decorative curbing was applied to the landscaping to give a more polished look.
The New Salem family is once again saddened by the loss of some very precious members; Sister Dosha Morrison went home to be with the Lord in September 2010, Sister Mamie Bennett in December 2010 and Sister Laurina Jenkins in February 2011. sister Dosha Morrison was a Deaconess and Sister Mamie Bennett and Laurina Jenkins were both nonagenarians.
What a year for our Men! They have organized a musical group by the name of "Covenant Brothers." The Covenant Brothers sing on the second Sundays at New Salem and also go out into the community when asked and render song service for other churches and organizations.
New Salem remains solvent while doing the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us continue to "leave a beautiful impression" while "sharing the love and message of Jesus Christ" throughout our community and the world.