In the year of our Lord 1892, Thessalonia Baptist Church originated with seven members from Flavannah County, Virginia. They relocated to New York and elected to start a Mission in the Fordham section of the Bronx, and called the Mission, Thessalonia Baptist Church, with a membership of ten. Rev. T. Wyatt served as pastor until 1894.
Among the original members were, Bro. Ashland W. White, who severed as Chairman of the Deacon Board, Sunday School Superintendent, Trustee and church clerk. Sis. Jean White was the first mother of the church. Bro. Neil Hughes joined the church in 1893 and became Chairman of the Deacon Board.
From 1892 to 1918, nine persons were call to the Pastorate of Thessalonia Baptist Church:
Rev. T. Wyatt served from 1892-1894
Rev. J. Rivers served from 1894-1898
Rev. F. Byrd served from 1898-1901
Rev. J. Trilby served from 1901-1904
Rev. B. Bonaparte served from 1905-1911
Rev. E. M. King served from 01/1912- 10/1912
Rev. W. Byrd served from 1913-1915
Rev. J. W. Luck served from 1915-1916
Rev. L. Tabb served from 1917-1918
FINDING OUR PLACE
During those years Thessalonia Baptist Church moved to several locations in the Bronx, as God would have it in 1919 the church moved to 921 Eagle Ave. Rev. L J. Johns pastured the church from 1919-1939. In 1934 he led the congregation into a new building located at 314 East 158th street. Within five years they were without a pastor or a place to worship, but with the aid of Epworth M. E. church where Rev. George Taylor was the pastor, Thessalonia held services there beginning May 14, 1939. Thessalonia remained steadfast and prayerful waiting on the Lord. On June 21, 1939, the congregation rented their former location at 921 Eagle Ave.. Minister James A. Polite assisted as supply pastor with the help of Rev. B. Bonaparte, Sr.
During the church business meeting on October 4, 1939 a motion was carried that Minister Polite be ordained and become Pastor of the Thessalonia Baptist Church. On October 17, 1942 he led the congregation to the present building.
Sis. Jeannie White became the first mother of the church under the pastorate of Rev. James A. Polite, following in succession were Sis. Lucy Hughes, Sis. Ardelia Bullock and Sis. C. B. Saunders, they severed faithfully until they departed this life.
During this period of time the following persons have served as Chairman of the Deacon Board, Ashland White, Neal Hughes, Adolph Lynch, Lovio Anderson, Nesbett McElwee, Marion Spells and Arthur Lemay.
Pastor Polite organized an active Christian Board of Education from which, Bible classes have been formed. Rev. Polite severed Thessalonia faithfully for 41 years until his death in September of 1980. In recognition of his dedicated service to church and community, Stebbins Avenue was renamed Rev. James A. Polite Avenue in his honor. (Becoming the first street in New York City to have the title Reverend included in its name)
A NEW DIRECTION
Thessalonia was without a Pastor from September 1980 until May 1982 when Thessalonia celebrated the calling of Rev. Dr. Shellie Sampson, Jr. to the pastorate of this great church. Under his leadership Thessalonia has been taken to a higher-level spirituality and physically.
A multi-million dollar Community Cultural Center has been built. The Thessalonia Academy, Thessalonia Institute of Education/Religion and the TIR Bookstore are some of the in house programs. There are outreach programs also, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Annual Children Street Fair and Food Pantry
Thessalonia has a radio ministry broadcast over radio WWDJ-970AM at 9:30 PM on Tuesday evenings and television broadcast on Bronxnet Cable TV.
With the grace of God Thessalonia Baptist Church will continue to be the beacon on the hill that lead lost souls to Christ.