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The “New Fellowship Baptist Church

Incorporated August 1919

 

The New Fellowship Baptist Church was originally incorporated in August of 1919. It is located in the St. John community of rural Delhi, Louisiana. Its founders and builders were the ancestors of the African American “May” family.

            The May family name originated during the time of slavery in the United States of America. It was adopted by an Englishman known as Theodore Cavendish from the owners of what was once known as the May Plantation of Demopolis, Alabama. Theodore, while living on the May Plantation, denounced his English roots and gave up the Cavendish name to become Theodore May because of events leading to a relationship and marriage to a woman of color (Minerva) believed to be from the West Indies, who was also from the same plantation.

            Theodore and Minerva May, together with their sons; Alonzo, George, Sam, Jerome, Doctor, Johnny, Warren, Foster, and Thomas, eventually relocated to northeast Louisiana and homesteaded on land in the rural Delhi St. John community.

            The Mays and their families originally worshipped in the St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend P.C. Kell, Pastor, which was the only church in the community. The difference in ideology between the Mays, Pastor Kell, and other church members, caused controversy among the congregation. In the Month of May 1919 Pastor Kell expelled the May families from the St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

            

 

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Jerome May
Jerome May

 

  In August of 1919 Jerome May organized a meeting in his home with many of the expelled members to discuss plans for finding another place to worship. The decision was made and plans were developed to build a new church house. Jerome May deeded a portion of his property to be sold for the location of the new church. The founders named their new church home “New Fellowship Baptist Church.”

The New Fellowship Baptist Church was dedicated to Christ and open for service to everyone in the community on January 4, 1920.

The original cornerstone is still a part of the building and details the history of those who were active in the early establishment of the church. The first Pastor of the New Fellowship Baptist Church was Rev. W.P. Darrington.

Rev. Darrington served as Pastor until his death in 1930. Members of the first Board of Trustees were: Albert Robinson, Thomas May, and Charlie Stublefield. Members of the first Board of Deacons were: Jerome May, Doctor Lynch May, Levee Dunlap, David Jynes, Patton Anderson, and Theo May. The first church clerk was Foster May.


            Many Spiritual Leaders have guided the New Fellowship Baptist Church over the years. Following the death of Rev. Darrington the church was led by Reverends: H.B. Bland, Windchester, H.T. James, George Conway, S.A. Cooper, P.C. Pierce, N.B. McCall, Willie Johnson (1950’s), David Slack, Willie Johnson (1970’s), Michael Reed, C. Stubblefield, and currently serving for the past twenty years is Rev. D.L. Dixon.

 

 

Choir Members-Phyllis King,Delores May,Marilyn Beals and Eloise Robinson 'Descendant of Doctor and Johnnie May'
Choir Members-Phyllis King,Delores May,Marilyn Beals and Eloise Robinson "Descendant of Doctor and Johnnie May"

The New Fellowship Baptist Church is currently fully active in the works of the Christian ministry. Its’ congregation is small and consist mostly of the Johnny, Doctor, and Foster May branches of the family along with other members who are related to the Mays, but are not direct descendants of Theodore and Minerva.

            Although many of the Mays have gone separate ways and are no longer members of the church, there are those who still take the time to fellowship when revisiting the Delhi area. The May family has reunited at the church over the years for family reunions. The Kings, Robinson’s, and McCall’s, of the Doctor and Sam May branches have a heart felt tradition of returning to the church for worship services during their family reunions and have been an economic blessing to the growth of the church. The Beals family of Lomita, California, of the Johnny May branch, donated every Bible in the church in memory of their grandparents, Earnest and Janie May.

            The New Fellowship Baptist Church is ninety-one years old and is the only original of all the older buildings remaining in the St. John community. The original Bell that was located in the church steeple still remains on the property. The church was re-incorporated in December of 2010 and a new Board of Directors was installed consisting of descendants of the Doctor and Johnny May family branches.

          The St. John community cemetery, established in 1952 is the final resting place for hundreds of May family members. Mays from throughout the country have been returned to this site to be buried among their people. The first generation of the May family was buried in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church cemetery. Their graves are unmarked and unknown. The cemetery is located south of Delhi and is the oldest cemetery in the African-American community.

 

 

Extrapolation:

The history of the New Fellowship Baptist Church and the history of the May family are inseparable. They are one legacy. They are the legend of a family who were denied the full rights and privileges to worship in a Christian church. They are the legend of a family that was so close and so passionate about their religious faith and so concerned about the future of their children’s rights to worship in Christ that they struggled to build themselves a church home during a time in history when African-Americans could barely make ends meet or even afford a home of their own. 

We may never know what idealistic differences caused the May family to be expelled from their original church home. When looking back at what was once the May family empire and considering the time in this country’s history when all of this took place there are many factors that would cause anyone to speculate that power, jealousy, greed, racism, and politics may have been reasons that influenced this decision. There is much more about the New Fellowship Baptist Church/May family legacy that we will never know but this we do know, “What the world meant for bad, God meant for good.” After their original church family rejected the Mays, they persevered by answering the call of Christ to build the first church home in their community where their family and all Christians were WELCOME to worship God.

 Almost one hundred years later the
New Fellowship Baptist Church carries on the same religious beliefs in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as did their founding fathers. The spirit of the May family remains a strong presence in the New Fellowship Baptist Church and throughout the St. John community.

   
                                                   Researched and Written by Florenda Beals
                                                      
Technical Advisor, Kathy M. Beals 
                                           
Technical Assistant, Grady J. Clemonts III 
                                                    Historical Sources, James O. Beals

 

 

 

 

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