Church History

Led by the Holy Spirit of God to establish a new Baptist Church on Staten Island, the Reverend Purcell Brown and Deacon Hilton Holcombe secured a mortgage and acquired a vacant Jewish Synagogue at 119 Wright Street in Stapleton.  In October of 1978, seven faith filled believers, Reverend Purcell Brown, Mrs. Gertrude Brown, Deacon Hilton Holcombe, Mr. Paul Rogers, Mrs. Estelle Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings entered the building on Wright Street for worship constituting the beginning of First Central Baptist church.  Within months, Erma Taylor, family members, relatives and friends from Liberia, West Africa joined the fellowship and immediately began working for the Lord.

In April of 1979, the first officers of the church were established:  The Reverend Purcell Brown, Pastor; Mrs. Estelle Brown, First Lady; Deacon Hilton Holcombe, Chair of the Board of Deacons; Brother Al Dennis, Chair of Trustees; Brother James Holcombe, Treasurer; Sister Gloria Vinson, Secretary; Sister Gertrude Brown, Clerk.  One month later, Brothers Al Dennis and Paul Rogers were ordained as Deacons of the Church.

Sister Erma Taylor now affectionately called, “Mother Taylor,” organized the First Central Baptist Church Sunday School and “Africa Day” in 1980.  In the same year, Mother Taylor trained the youth of the church to serve as Ushers and Sister Aria Gray became the organization’s first president, Brother Monroe Weeks, a young musician from Liberia, West Africa, supported the efforts of Sister Cubie Collins who organized the church’s first choir comprised of both children and adults.

With the relentless labor and daily prayers of the faithful few, First Central Baptist Church’s foundation was laid.  However, in 1981, the Reverend Purcell Brown announced to the congregation that he could no longer serve the church as Pastor and resigned from his position.  But, thanks be, to God the pulpit did not stay vacant very long.  Within a few months a call was extended and accepted by the Reverend Richard Phillips who began nurturing the congregation.  Under his leadership, the Lord placed in the heart of Sister G. Dennis, also of Liberia, West Africa, to organize a Missionary Board and Youth Missionary Board.

In 1984, having served as Pastor of the young congregation for three years, the Reverend Richard Phillips health began to fail.  He decided to resign as Pastor of the church.  With the pulpit vacant for the second time in the short history of the church, the faithful few were at a crossroad.  The building was still in need of repairs, kerosene heaters were being used to stem the cold in the winter.  The Pastor’s quarters, located in the basement of the church, were being rented to offset the mortgage payments and members were secretly paying the utility bills.  Closing the doors of the church began to weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of the membership.

Deep inside the faithful few knew that it was time to seek the Lord.  A period of fasting and prayer was called.  Members “touched and agreed” asking the Lord to send a pastor with a vision.  God answered by fire and power, the church was brought to a unanimous decision to extend a call to Reverend Calvin Rice.  In December of 1984, the call was issued.  In January of 1985, Reverend Calvin Rice was installed as the third Pastor of the church and Mrs. Willie Mae Rice, First Lady.

Within months, the Spirit of the living God began to draw men and women, boys and girls from all walks of life into the kingdom.  The vacant pews of the church were being filled Sunday by Sunday and 1986 was a banner year for the young church.

  • Pastor Rice introduced tithing to the church as a means of supporting the ministry.

  • Pastor Rice and skilled laborers, within the congregation, began repairing the building.

  • Midweek prayer and bible study, organized by Sister Mary Holcombe and Sister Betty Vinson that had been rotating from house to house of members, was relocated to the basement of the church.

  • Pastor Rice invited Minister Janice Harris to join the First Central Baptist Church Family as Assistant Pastor.  Minister Harris accepted the invitation.

  • Minister Harris assumed responsibility of the Youth Missionaries and developed a holistic approach to ministering to young people.  The Youth Missionaries name is later changed to God’s Youth and Young Adult Organization (GYO) offered by Sister Olivia Quick.

  • Sister Mary Mitchell organizes the Nurses Unit and Pastor’s Aide.

  • Reverend Judy Brown designs New Members Handbook Training Curriculum and GYO Enrichment Program.

No one could deny that God was indeed “moving by His Spirit” and doing a new thing in Stapleton.  God was adding to the church such as should be saved.  In 1987, having baptized new converts in a swimming pool in the basement of the church or in fellowship with another church’s, a Baptismal was installed in the basement of the church.  The next several years brought additional growth and blessings.

  • On February 10, 1991 a service was held to celebrate the burning of the mortgage on the church.  Months later, renovations are completed on an abandon 25,000 sq. ft. building, located at 59 Wright Street and the Central Family Life Center is created.

  • In 1995, Brother Phillip Glen becomes Minister of Music and the First Central Baptist Church Choir receives a sweet anointing by the Spirit.  With the help of Brother Glenn and others, the process of establishing a Credit Union is begun. 

  • In 1996, the third renovation to the sanctuary occurred adding 250 additional seats and a 55 seat choir loft.  An 8:00 AM morning worship service was added.  FCBC Housing Corporation was established and a house on Wright Street was renovated.  The vacant lot across the street from the church was purchased and a parking lot was created and landscaped.

  • In 1997, Genesis Bible School opens as an extension school of Virginia Union Seminary.

  • In 1999, the parking lot is paved, lights added and a new sign erected highlighting the First Central Baptist Church as a “Center for Christian Worship: as God takes the church to a new height and a four-fold ministry of Preaching and Teaching, Evangelism, Missions and Social Services. 

  • In 2000, the church purchased a new international 33 passenger bus.  Equipped with video and reclining seats.

  • In 2000, the Powerful Prayer and Praise Service was officially established.  This awesome service was held on every 4th Wednesday of each month.

  • In 2001, Reverend Rice was appointed to be the Faith Based Initiative Community Based Alliance by Congressman Vito Foselle.

  • In 2001, our Music Ministry was blessed by the addition of Brother Wilbur Sebbern.

October 2001, an alliance of Christian Leaders throughout the New York City area, which included Reverend Rice organized a special Candlelight Memorial Service that memorialized the victims of the World Trade Center attack.  This service took place on October 11, 2001 and was held at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, Reverend A.R. Bernard, Pastor.  The service was simulcast by satellite at selected sites throughout the five boroughs, First Central Baptist Church was one of two selected sites on Staten Island.  Additionally, the service was aired across the nation by satellite television and simulcast on a radio stations.

  • 2002 – Received a quarter million dollar grant from Richmond County savings bank for the renovation of the Central Family Life Center for the establishment of a Day Care Center to be opened in the spring of 2004.

  • 2002 - Installation of Junior Deacons for the first time in the history of the church.

On November 16h, 2003 First Central Baptist Church celebrated its 25th Silver Anniversary with the theme “Building upon a true foundation, “Jesus”.  The Scripture was “…upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 15:18

As we reflected on how we began versus where we are now, so appropriate for a quarter of a century celebration, we could truly say “Look Where God Has Brought Us”!  Planning for this very special occasion began early in the year.  It was a church wide effort, with almost everyone on one committee or another, all on one accord.  We revived ourselves with three Sundays of evening revival services leading up to Anniversary Sunday.  On that day we feasted and celebrated at the Central Family Life Center, while worshipping and giving thanks and praises to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for all that he had done, is doing and will do.

  • 2003 - Minister Lawrence DeSilva was officially designated as Assistant to the Pastor.

  • 2003 - First Central reestablished Children’s Church service that is held concurrently with the 11 AM Service.

The summer of 2004 was a sad time for First Central Baptist Church.  During our semi-annual meeting, our beloved Pastor of twenty years Reverend Dr. Calvin Rice, announced that he had been called by God to shepherd another flock. This decision stirred up various concerns and emotions, but thanks be to God, he brought us through.  In preparation for Pastor Rice’s departure, a pulpit search committee was formed consisting of Sister Minnie North, Chairperson, Deacon Andre Borders, Sister Alene McBean, Brother Daryl D. Moore, Sister Annette Palmer, Sister Lisa Setzer, Deacon Allen Smith, Deacon Betty Vinson, Mother Lizzie Alexander and Deacon Richard Williams.

Before Pastor Rice resigned, Minister Lawrence DeSilva was ordained and elevated to Reverend Lawrence DeSilva, and Deacon Angela Jones was ordained a Deacon.  Additional, three members of our church family accepted the call to preach and completed their initial sermons, Brother Daryl Moore, Sister Marcia St. Juste, and Sister Helen Holt-Vasquez.

Pastor Rice announced that his last day would be December 31, 2004 and that he would be officiating at the Watch-night services, his last official service as Pastor of First Central.  Everyone wanted this to be a special night, and special it was.  In addition to being blessed by his powerful sermon, the congregation was blessed with a video message from Pastor Rice, his first book of sermons and a CD of his favorite songs, one of which was echoed by the choir and congregation… “Let it Rain”.

While the Pulpit Search Committee diligently prayed, fasted and searched for a new Pastor, our church was without a pastor but not without faithful leaders for 3 months and 6 days.  During this period, Praise be to God, our brother in Christ, and former Assistant to Pastor Rice, Reverend Lawrence S. DeSilva faithfully served our church family with the support of our Ministers, Deacons, Trustees, all Ministries and the entire congregation.

On Monday, March 7, 2005, a special church meeting was held to vote on our first candidate for Pastor, Reverend Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr., pastor of Tried Stone Baptist Church in the Bronx.  The congregation had already heard this man of God preach on several occasions prior to this date and had no doubts that God had sent him to be our new pastor.  With a quorum of members in attendance, Reverend Carolina was voted in as the new pastor of First Central Baptist Church, unanimously on that evening.  

It didn’t take long for everyone to notice that Pastor Carolina was a mover and shaker all about God’s business and kingdom building.   He made it very clear through his words as well as his actions.  Before the dust had settled, Pastor Carolina presented to the Pulpit Search Committee, Deacons and Trustees his written short and long term goals for First Central, many of which we have seen come to fruition such as the Ministry Circle training and an annual newsletter.  He implemented the ministry analysis sheets to help all ministries document and track their goals and objectives, and to become good stewards of Gods blessings.

Reverend Demetrius S. Carolina was installed as the fourth Pastor of First Central Baptist Church on September 18th, 2005. The theme for his installation was “Growing - In the Knowledge of Christ, Moving - according to the spirit of God, Committed – to the building of God’s Kingdom here on Earth”.  A new church theme and emblem have also been adopted; “Growing, Moving and Committed to Kingdom Building”.

In 2007, being a socially conscious pastor, Reverend Carolina organized the update and launch of the church’s website: During his time at First Central he has implemented events like Kingdom Building Sunday, in 2012, where the congregation presents a first fruits offering at the beginning of a new year and Everybody’s Birthday Celebration. He has a passion for the community and was instrumental in bringing the Eagle Academy to Staten Island. The Eagle Academy is a school dedicated to developing young men committed to the pursuit of academic excellence with strong character, and responsible leadership.

In September 2013, Reverend Carolina initiated a 15 day corporate fast and prayer to help the church prepare for a new season of better health and healing, spiritual growth, empowerment and abundance. The fast lasted from Thursday September 26, 2013 until Thursday October 10, 2013.

The church also celebrated its 35th Anniversary on November 9th, 2013 and held a banquet at the Crystal Room on 67 Olympia Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10305. The Speaker for this event was Reverend Alfonso Wyatt.

Dec 2013 Deacon Alfonso Britt died while serving as the Chair of the Deacon Board. The home-going service was held on Saturday December 14th, 2013.

Being community minded the Central Family Life Center held it’s first Small & Emerging Business Expo and Silent Auction on Saturday April 20th 2013. The event drew a large crowd and was a great fundraiser for the center as well as a blessing to the small business owners of the church.