First Baptist to celebrate new pastor’s installation

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019


The Lord called the Rev. Marcus Jennings to become the new pastor at First Baptist Church, albeit in a round-about way.

Though he’s soon to be installed — tomorrow, in fact — Jennings is not a complete stranger to Western Tidewater. Several years ago whilst doing his graduate work at Regent University in Virginia Beach, he had been invited to worship at Gethsemane Baptist by the Rev. Dwight Riddick Sr. That man’s son, it turns out, is the Rev. Dr. Sherrod Riddick, who had been leading First Baptist at the time.

Earlier this year, the younger Riddick was called to lead a congregation elsewhere. On the matter of who should be the new shepherd, guess who came to his mind?

“The Lord led him [Riddick] to ask me,” said Jennings. “I was definitely interested. I met with the church leadership and also preached.”

He added with laughter, “They consented and I agreed.”

His wife, Leona, also welcomed the new post.

“I was in favor of it,” she said. “We lived in the area during his time at Regent. I remember saying “I’m going to Virginia.”

Jennings, it should be noted, is the fourth generation in his family to answer a call.

“My father never tried to push me into the ministry. He recognized a calling, but never made do it.”

But afterward, when Jennings chose that path on his own, his father said about the decision, “I knew that.”

The new pastor’s hope is for the church to become a leader in the community.

“I want this to really be a place where people come to be renewed in hope,” said Jennings.

He added his observation that the people in Franklin are “really good, hardworking people, much like in Detroit. They’re resilient people. When hit hard, you need hope, to know God is with you and for you.”

For her part here, Leona said, “I’m just getting started. I’ll be spearheading the women’s ministry and will support wherever needed or suggested. I’m great with young people, especially girls and women. They seem to gravitate to me,” said Leona. She added as an example the time back in Michigan when she helped a high schooler prepare and attend her prom.

For the time being, Leona does not foresee becoming a pastor in her own right. Instead, she’ll focus on making a new home for her own family — which includes children Lailah, 12, Hailey, 5, and Joshua, 4 — and the new church family.

The installation service will be on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. The guest speaker will be Bishop Joseph W. Walker III of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee. The celebration continues on Saturday, Aug. 10, from noon to 3 p.m., when there will be a community cookout, free food, fun and meet and greet at the playground on College Drive. Guests at the 11 a.m. worship will be Bishop James A. Jennings Jr. and Greater Shield of Faith Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan. Then at 4 p.m., the guests will be Apostolic Faith Church of God, Oak Street and the Rev. Dr. Dwight Riddick Sr. and Gethsemane Baptist Church of Newport News.

Walker is someone who Jennings is especially looking forward to seeing again. During his undergraduate years, the bishop was one of his instructors who made a profound impression.

“He revolutionized my ministry.”

“I am favored and fortunate he’s coming to the installation,” Jennings added. “I’m very excited!”

First Baptist is located at 318 Hall St. For more information, call 562-7158 or visit the Facebook page.