Below is a press release from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:
On June 2, 2021, Rev. C.J. Rhodes presented “Mt. Helm Baptist Church and the Future of Black Religion” as part of the History Is Lunch series.
The oldest Black church in Jackson, Mississippi, Mt. Helm dates to 1835 when enslaved people worshiped in the basement of First Baptist Church. It became a separate body in 1867, the year the 13th Amendment was ratified.
When whites reclaimed political power and ended Reconstruction-era civil rights protections, Black Mississippians suffered under Jim Crow laws.
“Left without political power, Black Christians turned to their pastors and churches for guidance and survival,” said Rhodes, pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church. “That time was also transformative within the Black church, and Mt Helm became ground zero for debates about the future of Black religion. The movement begun by Pastor Charles Price Jones focused on holiness and the Holy Spirit, challenged nominal Baptist practices, and was the genesis of Afro-Pentecostalism.”
The Baptist State Convention, the Church of Christ Holiness (USA), and the Church of God in Christ all trace part of their denominational histories to Mt. Helm Baptist Church. A number of prominent Baptist churches emerged from the Mt Helm congregation, and Jackson State University was for a time housed at the church.
In 2010 Rev. C.J. Rhodes became the 23rd—and youngest ever—pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church. He holds a BA in philosophy from the University of Mississippi, a Master of Divinity from Duke University Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Leadership for Transformational Ministry from Wesley Biblical Seminary. Rhodes serves as director of religious life at Alcorn State University and is the founder and president of Clergy for Prison Reform. He is the author of three books, most recently Deeper Still: Ministry Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson.