The Shiloh Baptist Church of Orlando that we know today, had very humble beginnings. Our church was founded in late 1899, when six devoted Christians joined Reverend Alan Arnett (our first pastor) at the home of Mrs. Rachel Gay. Following God’s orders to “seek and save the lost” and to be “fishers of men”, Reverend Arnett immediately launched a revival that netted the first candidates for baptism. As the membership continued to grow, the first deacons and deaconesses were appointed, and the church became a member of the South Florida Missionary Association.
OUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE YEARS
Rev. Arnett and the church officials purchased a lot on the northwest corner of Gush Row and Depuline Streets (now known as Jackson and Bryan Streets) which became the site of the first Shiloh Baptist Church sanctuary. The church membership grew to three hundred, and auxiliaries expanded to include an ushers’ board, a choir, and the missionary society. The rapidly growing congregation’s need for a larger church led them, in 1922, to lay the foundation for a new church building at 604 West Jackson Street. Rev. Arnett recommended Rev. Thomas C. Collier of Fort Myers as his successor.
Rev. Collier accepted the call as our second pastor in July 1922, and immediately went to work completing the building project. The faith and hard work were rewarded when the congregation marched from the old church building to the new one on Easter Sunday morning, 1923. Under Reverend Collier’s dynamic leadership, the Shiloh congregation built and furnished a parsonage and an annex to the church. The congregation’s continued to grow, and Christian development brought additional ministries: usher’s board, choirs, brotherhood, and youth activities. Through reliance on God and because of His goodness, the church became totally debt- free in 1955.
Shiloh’s third pastor, Rev. Curtis Jackson, was a son of Shiloh who had been licensed to preach by Rev. Collier in 1946. Rev. Jackson was installed, as pastor of Shiloh in August 1961. Rev. Jackson’s three- year tenure was a very energetic and enthusiastic one. Rev. Jackson instituted numerous initiatives that solidified the infrastructure of this congregation. He went on to conduct training programs for deacons, trustees, and Sunday School teachers. We began holding general Bible classes, organized the Youth Department and installed additional trustees and deaconesses. Numerous improvements were made to our buildings.
Our fourth pastor was a visionary who served Shiloh and the community for nearly twenty-five years. Rev. Jethro W. Toomer became pastor of Shiloh in April 1966. Rev. Toomer is best remembered for his kindness, compassion diplomacy, and for his commitment to the youth of the church and the surrounding community. Led and guided by Rev. Toomer, Shiloh grew in knowledge of God’s word, as well as in numbers. Our explosive growth necessitated the acquisition of additional building and properties.
Hence, our current sanctuary was dedicated in November 1980. During the next decade, Shiloh continued to enrich and encourage its congregation and community through sharing God’s Word and His goodness. At the end of that decade, Rev. Toomer retired. God allowed Rev. Toomer to see his dreams come full circle as we celebrated the burning of the mortgage in November 1990.
In August 1991, Shiloh’s fifth pastor, Rev. Randolph Bracy, began his year of service at Shiloh. His legacy is the establishment of several progressive ministries including the J.W. Toomer Scholarship Ministry, the Single’s Ministry, the Married Couples Ministry and the Wednesday midday service.
Shiloh’s sixth pastor, Rev. Larry W. Ware was installed in July 1994. Under his leadership, the Deacon’s Ministry and the administrative staff were expanded to meet the needs of our growing congregation. The sanctuary was remodeled. The T.C. Collier Education Center was dedicated. Shiloh hosted the Florida State Baptist Convention in 1999. With an emphasis on fellowship and community, Shiloh’s Young Women’s Association and Youth Department engaged in a series of activities and events with the Great Oaks Village Shelter for abused and abandoned children.
July 2001, Pastor White was installed as Shiloh’s seventh pastor on October 21, 2001. Through the monthly sojourn into the community by the Shiloh Witness Force for Christ (SWFC), First Start (weekly breakfast for the homeless and hungry), our congregation offered spiritual food for the soul and physical food for the body. Through the efforts of SWFC, many individuals opened their hearts to Christ and more than 11,000 hot breakfasts were served through First Start. Shiloh enhanced its internal communication systems by utilizing monitors, projectors, computer systems, and networks.