The Beulah Baptist Church was organized in 1865 upon the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation and had become the first Black Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida. The all-Black congregation, prior to 1865, worshipped in the balcony of the all-white First Baptist Church of Tampa, located on Tampa Street. After the slaves were freed, the First Baptist church provided funds for the all-Black Beulah congregation to build their first edifice on land that was donated by Mrs. Fortune Ransome.
The first edifice was located on Central Avenue which would later become a very popular and predominately African American community of thriving businesses and commerce. Elder Hadley was called as the first pastor to serve the congregation. In 1869, Rev. Hadley concluded his pastorate and Reverend Anderson succeeded him in this role. Many were added to the congregation and Beulah continued to expand. During the post-reconstruction years, the church was remodeled and its frame was moved to a new location in 1881 on Harrison Street in downtown Tampa.
In 1908, when much of Florida was still a wilderness of mangrove swamp, God blessed Beulah to become incorporated as a non-profit organization to be known as the Beulah Baptist Institutional Church.
Over the next four decades, the church was guided and shepherded by several spirit-filled Pastors who held firmly to the trustworthy message of the gospel. Under the leadership of these Titus 2 men, the church continued to grow and expand and be fruitful.
In 1937, another move was orchestrated by God and we moved to Tyler and Pierce Streets, under the pastorate of Rev. W. M. Davis. In 1954, Rev. W.M. Davis completed his earthly assignment and Rev. G.T. Martin was called to serve as interim pastor until 1956.
In 1956, Rev. Dr. A. Leon Lowry, Sr., was called to pastor Beulah and became the church’s 13th pastor, a position he held for 40 years. As one of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s theology professors and State president of the NAACP, Rev. Lowry was a force for civil rights within and beyond Tampa. During Rev. Lowry’s tenure, he was able to strengthen Beulah and simultaneously build up the community. Under his leadership, a new sanctuary was constructed in 1969 on the corner of Cypress and Delaware where we’re presently located. In 1990, the A. Leon Lowry, Sr. Family Service Center was completed and a many other auxiliary programs and improvements were implemented leaving a lasting legacy.
Upon the retirement of Rev. Lowry in 1993 and acceptance of the Search Committee’s report in 1995, Rev. James W. Favorite was installed as the 14th pastor of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church. During Rev. Favorite’s tenure, he continued the church’s pivotal role in community advancement, while establishing a “Vision toward the Year 2000” with focus on ministry, education and evangelism. Under his leadership, on February 9, 2003, Beulah and its mother Church, First Baptist Church of Tampa had come together in a reunion worship service for the first time since Beulah’s inception. Rev. Favorite also played a pivotal role in helping reduce the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS and was selected as Chairman of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of Tampa Bay.
In 2019, Rev. Favorite retired after faithfully serving 24 years, and the pastoral search committee began its task. During this time, Rev. Calvin Williams was selected as interim pastor to shepherd the church.
The search for a new pastor began but in March of 2020, was briefly suspended. For the first time in our country, we experienced a social interaction ban for medical reasons due to the highly contagious virus labeled COVID-19. Unable to gather in person, we were confined to our homes. Yet, by the grace of God we successfully operated a complete online church service using our skilled Technology Ministry initiatives. Zoom was used to conduct prayer service, Sunday School Bible study and all pertinent meetings of business for the remainder of the year. In our absence, the Sanctuary was remodeled, a new security system was installed, technology equipment was updated and added sanitation and safety equipment was installed. Elohim (God our Creator) gave us new ways to worship and give and worship and give we did.
In May of 2021, after a year and two months, the congregation came back into the Sanctuary for worship service, while still offering worship service online via Facebook and Youtube. Additionally, the pastoral search committee continued its task and follow-up with two final candidates. The committee worked throughout the selection process and God’s Will prevailed. On Sunday, March 27, 2022, Rev. Alan Harris of Virginia was installed by the Church congregation to become the 15th Senior Pastor and Lead Servant of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church.
Pastor Harris’ vision… Beulah: We Build Here is a true testament to what happens when one builds their life on God’s Word. He tells us frequently…anything with God’s name on it deserves our best. Based on Psalm 127:1, Pastor Harris believes we, Beulah should build our lives on the Word of God; he believes that we, Beulah are to be intentional about building strong families which are the foundation of a strong church and a strong society.
Pastor Harris’ vision is for Beulah to do our part in building a great community and city, not just a great church; Pastor Harris wholeheartedly believes Psalm 127:1…
Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good
Our history is rich, authentic and full of God’s instruction, guidance and direction. By God’s grace, as we live and walk by the Holy Spirit, the Beulah Baptist Institutional Church will continue to be a movement, and not a monument.
May God continue to bless you,