You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6 (emphasis added)
What is the legacy of faithfulness? What is the inheritance of perseverance in the service of Jesus?
First Baptist Church, Puce, is at the heart of an incredible legacy of God’s faithfulness to those who love him. Founded in 1846, FBC Puce was founded by black freedom-seekers from the United States who travelled to Canada on the Underground Railroad. But the story doesn’t end there.
In 1868, in Dresden, Ontario, Jennie Johnson was born. At sixteen, she went to a revival meeting at Union Baptist Church near her home town where she gave her life to Christ. It was at the time of her baptism in the Sydenham river that she felt the call of God to ministry. After studying at Wilberforce University, she returned to the Dresden area and served at Prince Albert Baptist Church, at the time a member of the Michigan Association of Freewill Baptists. In 1909, she was subsequently ordained into the ministry, in Michigan—the first of her kind. Rev. Johnson continued to actively pastor until she ‘retired’ at the age of 85. (She died in 1967 at the age of 99.) A trailblazer and overcomer, Rev. Jennie Johnson lived a life of devotion to Jesus and her community.
But the story doesn’t end there either.
Dr. Bryan Walls, a decendent of FBC Puce’s founders shares the next chapter of our story:
Like the beginning of FBC Puce, the next part of the story also has its beginnings south of the border. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, after working hard all day, boarded a bus, paid her fare, and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved as the “coloured” section. As the bus travelled its route all the white-only seats filled up. The conductor noticed that two or three white passengers were standing and demanded that four black people give up their seats. Three black men setting next to Mrs. Parks gave up their seats, but she refused to move to the rear of the bus. After being arrested she said:
“I thought of the tragedy of Emmett Till and that I just could not move back, I was only 42 years old not physically tired, I was tired of giving in to humiliation of this kind. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”
Mrs. Rosa Parks a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and others of the Montgomery bus boycott to advance God’s Kingdom here on earth, through peaceful nonviolent protests.
But what does this have to do with FBC Puce? Dr. Walls has the answer:
Mrs. Parks often enjoyed worshipping at First Baptist Church Puce. She would bring bus loads of students to the Church and then travel a mile down the Puce Road to “The John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum.” She wanted future generations to be reminded that we stand on the shoulders of great Christian men and women who have come before and that we must as Jesus taught us, keep love in our hearts for one another.
Dr. Walls’s daughter, Brittany, recognizes her brush with greatness:
Not many have the opportunity to brush shoulders with—and even sit on the lap—of historical icons like Mrs. Rosa Parks. I was full of the innocence of youth; I viewed Mrs. Parks primarily as a kind, loving, and caring elder and family friend. Then, as I grew older, God blessed me with the wisdom to know more deeply and spiritually who Mrs. Parks was to the world and why it took courage to do what she did. She was thinking of me and millions of other youth of the rainbow of humankind to follow: that service to others is the true path to greatness.
The faith of those first founders of First Baptist Church, Puce, has endured through generations, planting other churches in the Amherstburg Association and cultivating a rich community of faith and culture in Ontario. The church’s current pastor, Rev. Della Bost shares her reflections:
As I reflect on the ministry God has given me as the first Canadian Black Woman Pastor at First Baptist Church, Puce, I stand amazed at the fact that God would call me by name, prepare me and use me to further his Gospel in our community of historical churches.
I have learned over the years that leadership is all about being honest, obedient and faithful. In a world of uneasiness, pain, suffering and turmoil, leaders are called upon to be strong, upright and steadfast.
The future hope is that everyone responds to the Call of God. The Call, that draws all family members to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God uses us His people to be a living witness and a testimony for those who do not know him in the parting of their sins. There should be No one left behind.
And the story still doesn’t end there. This legacy has a rich past, and an even richer future. We are blessed and thankful to have the churches of the Amherstburg Association as part of our family at CBOQ.
Dr. Bryan Walls C.M. O. Ont. D.D. S., is a Dentist and Deacon of the First Baptist Church Puce Ontario, Recipient of the Order of Canada , and Order of Ontario, Founder of “The John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum,” www.undergroundrailroadmuseum.org author of the ”The Road That Led to Somewhere” Past President of “ The Ontario Historical Society.”
Brittany Walls Miles, Ms.Ed (Masters in Elementary Education), Niagara University Niagara Falls New York, B.A., Honours Drama and Education and Community, Member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honors Society for Education, Kappa Gamma Pi National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society, Recipient of the Niagara University Education Scholarship. Co- Curator of the John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum.
Rev. Della Bost is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Puce.