The History of Mt. Olive Baptist Church
On Thanksgiving Day in the year 1901, J.H. Saunders and the Rev. Henry Holden, had the desire to start a Baptist church in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. They consulted Rev. Alexander Elias, Pastor of Nazareth Baptist Church in Washington, Pennsylvania who advised them that they would need ten members to start such an organization. Following a house to house canvas, ten members came together and the church was formed. The Saunders' home, number 54, Philadelphia Place in Canonsburg, was the first site chosen for the worship services.
After three months, the membership grew to over 50 people requiring the church to move to Diamond Hall, a much larger facility, where worship services were held for the next year. After meeting in Diamond Hall for a year, the body of believers began to meet in the Southside School. From there , they moved to Morris Hall on West Pike Street, then to Buffalo Hill and Curry Hill.
After Meeting in multiple places, the body of believers decided they needed a permanent church building. J.H. Saunders, Wilford Hython, and David Smith, Sr. were the first members of the purchasing committee. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, these men led the body in the purchase of two 30 foot lots located at 126 Vine Street. The cost for the lots was $500. The cost to erect the church building on the lots would be an additional $1,800. This was a significant amount of money at that time, money that neither the members, nor the treasury had. However, despite all of the obstacles, the Lord provided, the money was obtained, and the building was erected. In 1908, the cornerstone was laid and the church was dedicated.
Once in their new church building, the congregation chose the name Mt. Olive after the Mount of Olives in the Bible. Rev. O.S. Simms of Rodman Street Baptist Church, preached the dedication service. Rev. Henry Holden was ordained and served as the first Pastor of the church. His first sermon preached in the new church was entitled "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Rev. Holden served as Pastor for a total of nine years - from 1902-1911.
The First Deacons were David Smith, Mose Hython, George Wells, and Burl Saunders. The first Trustees were James Saunders and George Wells. James Saunders also served as the Church Clerk and the Superintendent of the Sunday School. Mary Powell was the church organist and Mrs. Saunders was the first president of the Missionary Society.
The second Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church was Rev. Fletcher Williams. He served from 1911 until 1913.
The Third Pastor of Mt. Olive was Rev. R.L. Terrance, who served from 1913 until 1922. Under his administration, R.H. Woods was appointed to the Deacon board with many individuals serving as church organists.
The fourth Pastor of Mt. Olive was Rev. S.A. Jordan who served from 1922 until 1925.
The fifth Pastor of Mt. Olive was Rev. N.J. West, who served from 1925 until 1932. During his administration, Mt. Olive was modernized. A furnace was put in place, the outside lavatory was moved to the inside, and new seats were purchased.
In 1933, the church's six Pastor, Rev. W.A. Mason, was installed. He served as the Pastor for 33 years, retiring in May 1967. Mt. Olive prospered tremendously under his leadership. The church building grew to include a Pastor's study, a choir stand, a Baptismal pool and two Sunday School rooms. On March 11, 1946, the church received its charter. Fifteen Deacons, five Deaconess, and four Trustees served under the leadership of Rev. Mason. In addition, the offices of Financial Secretary, Treasurer, and Church Clerk came into being. T.E. Smith was the first of five men licensed to preach under Pastor Mason.
The seventh Pastor of Mt. Olive was Rev. Donald Turner. He had served as the Assistant Pastor to Rev. Mason for a number of years before becoming the Pastor. Rev. Turner served from 1967 - 1971. On Thanksgiving Day in 1970, under the leadership of Rev. Turner, the congregation participated in a dream come true when they moved from Vine Street to the church's current location on Greenside Avenue. On that great morning, the members met on Vine Street, the choir members donned their robes, and the entire congregation marched from Vine Street to Greenside Avenue, all the while singing the praises of God. It was an amazing event; one that those who participated in will never forget. Unfortunately, the day after Mt. Olive moved into their new home, her former pastor, Rev. W.A. Mason passed away. Mt Olive mourned the loss of such a great leader.
In 1972, Rev. Willis M. Hickerson was installed as the eighth Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Under his leadership, the church grew. The Ever-Ready and Senior Choirs combined to form the Celestial Choir. Two other choir were formed - The Olivettes and the Hickerson Singers. Rev. Hickerson started the first "Mt. Olive Sings for You" gospel concert. Several committees were formed under his administration and First Aid room was added. Rev. Hickerson left Mt. Olive in 1978 after being called to pastor a church in York, Pennsylvania.
Rev. Kenneth Munnerlyn became the ninth Pastor of Mt. Olive and served from 1979 until 1982. During his time of serving, many souls were won to Christ.
In 1984, Rev. Hickerson returned to serve as the tenth Pastor of Mt. Olive. He served until his retirement in January 2000. The church grew tremendously under his second term of leadership. Under his administration, nine individuals were licensed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This included Rev. Lisha Edmonds, the first woman to be licensed by Mt. Olive. In addition, nine men were ordained to serve as Deacons and ten women were set aside to serve as Deaconess. Several ministries were formed that we might better serve the community. Scholarship funds were also established to encourage our youth to continue their education.
Rev. Lance Whitlock became the eleventh Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in the year 2000 and he served until 2012. Under his leadership, the sanctuary, kitchen, and fellowship hall of the church were remodeled and the church continued to grow. Rev. Whitlock wrote the mission statement for the church, he started the radio broadcast, and several ministries. Under the direction of Pastor Whitlock, seven men were ordained to serve as Deacons and ten women were set aside to serve as Deaconess. Sixteen men and women were licensed to preach under his administration. Several of those who were licensed to preach went on to be ordained.
On October 19, 2014, Mt. Olive installed her first female Pastor, in the person of Rev. Anita Lovell. She continues to serve in that role and the church continues to grow.