In the year of 1939, God spoke to Dr. R. B. House to build a church in the home of Sister Duhon. Greater Saint Mary was organized with the help of two ministers, Dr. N. P. Jones and Dr. W.C. Clark.
On March 8th, the Pastor and nine members leased land and built a small 12x14 building at 102 Adams Street. In the beginning the church was blessed with one Deacon and one Deaconess, Bro. and Sis. Eddy Watts. Services continued at this location for one year with the membership growing to seventeen.
In 1940 the church moved to Simmons Street on a lot purchased by Dr. R. B. House. At that time the church consisted of three Deacons Mother Duhon, Sis Eddy Watts and Sis Sam Blue. Our first secretary was Sis Artie Blue. We also experienced our first baptism.
In 1945, the John Nash family unites with Greater St. Mary. In 1946 other deacons were added, John Nash, C. Goins, Sam Jenkins and Tom Ford. This brought the number of deacons to seven. Later the Retel Nash family placed their membership with Greater St. Mary.
In 1947, the church moved from Simmons Street to a location on a lot purchased from Lumberman Supply Company. The church remained there for eleven months. During that time, the Pastor and members purchased two more lots from the Pauley Agency where the church was built at 1917 Harless Street. However, a fire destroyed the church in 1959 and services were held for three months in the Pastor’s home at 2009 Medora Street; after which times services were held for the next year and three months in a tent. The church was rebuilt at the 1917 Harless Street location in 1960 with Sis Fannie Breaux serving as Building Fund Chairperson. In 1969, two air conditioners (rear) were purchased. In 1979, two units were purchased (front).
In 1971, two new classrooms, a larger choir stand and new restrooms were added. In 1972, a Hammond Organ was purchased. In 1973, new stained windows, two front glass doors were purchased and installed. In 1974, new church steeple and an outdoor bulletin board was added. In 1975, public announcement system, Pastor’s office, secretary and usher rooms were purchased. In 1976, new lights in the church were installed, 1977 new carpet was purchased, 1978 a new church bus was purchased, 1979 new pews, pulpit set and Lord’s Supper Table was purchased. In 1980, four new classrooms were built. In 1981, a new piano was purchased and units for classrooms were added. In 1982 new parking lots were added. In 1983, a set of drums and another bus was purchased. Dr. R. B. House passed away on Sunday, December 4, 1983, ending 44 years of leadership at Greater St. Mary.
On February 3, 1984, Reverend Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr. became the Pastor of Greater St. Mary, while still a student at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas. He commuted back and forth from Dallas, TX to Lake Charles, LA, until July 1986, when he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree.
In the footsteps of a great leader was a new and spiritual man of God. He had been led, taught and trained by Dr. R. B. House. Traveling near and far under the direction of our Lord and Savior, Pastor Tolbert kept building on a solid foundation. Walking closely with God, the church flourished under his leadership.
Sidewalks and concrete slabs for the Pastor’s Parking were added in March of 1984. On October 28, 1984 the Dr. R. B. House Memorial Library was dedicated by Pastor Tolbert and Dr. C. N. Frank, President of the Southwest Missionary Baptist Association at the 1917 Harless Street location.
November 1984, four lots facing Goos Boulevard were purchased for the price of $26,375. In the year of 1985, Bus Ministry, Sick & Shut-In Ministry, Nursing Home Visitation, Christian Education Department and Scholarship Programs were instated. In 1985 a copy machine was purchased and the church’s first full-time secretary, Sis Dorothy Moore began working on a daily basis. In June of 1985 another lot was purchased for $5,000. In 1987-88 new carpet was installed and repair work was done to the Sanctuary. Lots were cleared of the sixty-three pine trees and leveled for a parking lot. The first church van was purchased for $2,200. Renovations to the Fellowship Hall and two additional bathrooms were added at a cost of $38,000.
October 16, 1990 we purchased a house on the west side of the Church for the price of $44,000. It has been turned into the Administrative Education Annex. On March 24, 1991 Rev. Freddie Thomas was appointed as the first full time Director of Evangelism/Discipleship Ministry by Pastor Tolbert and began working on March 25, 1991.
On October 16, 1990 we purchased 23 acres of land in the Lebleu Settlement off of Ira Breaux Road at the price of $57,500 to be developed into the Prospect 2000 Retreat and Retirement Center. In August 1997 the “On Patrol for Jesus” Ministry was instituted. This is an Evangelism movement held from 9:00pm to 12:00 midnight every Saturday night.
In 1998 the Church purchased a building for a Day Care and Learning Center located at 603 Blake Street for $75,000. Three houses were donated to the church; they are “Bartie House”, donated January 1998 by Barbara Johnson and Julia Barker. “Elton & Maude Lemonia House” donated May 1998 by Deacon Harold & Deaconess Jocelyn Duhon. “C. N. Frank House” donated May 1998 by Pastor Samuel & Sis Matilda Tolbert.
On April 10, 2000 4.5-acre tract of land with four buildings totaling over 40,000 square feet was purchased at a cost of $425,000. This new addition was named Greater St. Mary Complex. On July 6, 2000 we received the donation of a twelve-unit apartment complex by the name of Amber Gardens. This new donation has been renamed “Pearl Pines Apartments”. Also in 2000 we received the donation of a house at 613 Jackson Street, which became known as “The Homeowners Project 2000”.
As of March 2001 we have fourteen main ministries. Every ministry of the church is under one of these fourteen ministries. The ministries are:
Evangelism New Members
Christian Education Women Mission
Seasoned Saints Youth
Prospect 2000 Recreation
GSM Community Development Small Groups
On January 7, 2001 during the 11:00am worship service Pastor Tolbert gave a message entitled “The Next Level Vision” based on Habakkuk 2:1-3. This scripture tells God’s People to write the vision, read vision, run with the vision and wait for the vision. “The Next Level Vision” is in writing and available for each family at our church.
The Vision is now becoming reality. In early 2002 we launched the “Move in with us” campaign. We moved into our Gym which is Phase I on Saturday, March 30, 2002 at 11:00 am. Dr. B.J. Maxon President of Louisiana Home & Foreign Mission Baptist State Convention, preached the dedication sermon and Dr. Herman Arvie, President of Southwest Missionary Baptist Association participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Greater St. Mary participated with 1532 other churches in the 40 Days of Purpose fall campaign on Saturday, October 12, 2002 to Sunday, November 24, 2002. This campaign has moved our church into the Purpose Driven church strategy; A Purpose Driven Church is committed to following “all” five tasks that Christ ordained for his church to accomplish.
Immediately following the campaign Pastor Tolbert led the Church in defining the five purposes:
The Great Commandment Matthew 22:37-40
1) Worship: “Love the Lord with all your heart”
2) Ministry: “Love your neighbor as yourself”
3) Evangelism: “Go and make disciples”
The Great Commission Matthew 28:19-20
4) Fellowship: “Baptizing Them”
5) Discipleship: “Teaching them to obey”
The following strategies were used to communicate the purposes to the congregation:
The Life Development Process (Curriculum 101-401) was used to apply the five purposes.
In September 2003 in Chicago, IL, Pastor Tolbert was elected General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc.
On Sunday, August 22, 2004 members graduated and received certificates of completion.
On August 18, 2005 Pastor Tolbert became the President of the Louisiana Home and Foreign Mission Baptist State Convention.
In January 2006 Pastor Tolbert presented GSM’s Goals/Vision for the year aliening them with the five purposes of the church.
In January 2006 being obedient to God’s instruction, Pastor led the church into a “Debit Retirement Campaign” using the Small Groups structure and appointed Bro. Roy and Sis. Audrey Guillory to coordinate the activity. On December 29, 2006 we paid off the remaining $365,000 and on December 31, 2006 a Mortgage Burning Ceremony was held during Watch Night Service.
8 Acres Tract of land for future community development initiative; purchased November 2008 for $63,000 grant from the Fountain Project.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015 we moved our main church operation to 1801 2nd Avenue. We are now doing the Lord’s work at:
1801 2nd Avenue, Cathedral Location South Campus - Where we operate, worship and have discipleship ministries.
1401 Moeling Street, The Hope Complex North Campus - where we operate our outreach ministries for the community.
5525 Hwy 3059 in the Lebleu Settlement - Where we operate our GSM (East) worship and discipleship ministries