This chronological history was compiled on the best recollections of Sister Lillie Sanders and Sister Ruby Grant who were members of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest Missionary Baptist Church in West Perrine, Florida.
The first place of worship for the members was a “Bush Harbor” church somewhere on Eureka Drive. It was called “Bush Harbor” because it was an open area enclosed by loose bushes, vines and branches bent over to form the top giving it a canopy appearance. After worshipping under the “Bush Harbor,” the members’ dream became a reality. It is estimated that it may have taken five years to build the first sanctuary, placing the original date of birth of Mt. Moriah around 1919.
The first sanctuary was constructed at 18290 Southwest 102nd Avenue, Perrine, Florida. It was very small with a maximum capacity of twenty-five local members as well as “seasonal” members. The “seasonal” members attended worship services when they migrated to Peters Quarters during harvest season. After a spirit-filled worship service, some of the members started a Sunday tradition of dining at J.L. Johnson’s Café where a stew beef dinner was only twenty-five cents. Eventually, some of the members decided to branch out and create neighboring churches which included Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church and Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church.
Reverend Charlie M. Williams, a resident of South Miami, Florida, was the first officiating Pastor of Mt. Moriah until he passed in the mid to late nineteen twenties. After Reverend Williams passing, Reverend Frank Harding became the second officiating Pastor of Mt. Moriah. In 1924, Sister Ceola Bruton became the first Mother of the Church until she went home to glory in 1977.
In 1926, the first sanctuary was destroyed by a great storm and a new “Bush Harbor” makeshift structure was built where wonderful praise and marvelous sermons continued to uplift and inspire the congregation.
In 1928, another sanctuary was constructed. After its completion, Reverend Frank Harding retired as Pastor of Mt. Moriah and Reverend Oscar W. Wells became the third officiating Pastor of Mt. Moriah. Reverend Wells guided the Mt. Moriah congregation for a spirit-filled ten years. Under his leadership, the first Mt. Moriah choir was organized. Mr. E.G. Lucky led this ministry with the assistance of Brother Upshaw. The first Usher Board was also organized with Deacon George Coleman as the first elected President. Reverend Wells also had a very dedicated and supportive Deacon Board that helped to multiply the growth of the Church. Some notable Deacons of that time were Deacon Grover (Bish) Jackson, Deacon Kairen Russell, Deacon Lee Jordan, Deacon Dobbins, Deacon George Coleman, Deacon Henry Hall, Deacon Henry Williams, Deacon Fletcher Bruton, Sr. and Deacon E.L. Williams, who was the first Chairman of the Deacon Board.
In 1938, Reverend Willie Carl Edcar, Jr. became the fourth Pastor of Mt. Moriah. Under his leadership, Mt. Moriah experienced even further growth. New Deacons were ordained and new ministries were formed such as the Women’s Chorus, the Youth Choir, Youth Ushers, the Red Circle, the B.T.U. (Baptist Training Union), and the Trustee Ministry.
In 1940, Deacon Fletcher Bruton, Sr. was elected Chairman of the Deacon Board and served until his health failed and he passed away in 1974. Deacon Joseph Williams succeeded him as Chairman until his health failed in 1990. After which, Deacon John C. Bruton became the Chairman of the Deacon Board. In the years that followed, Mt. Moriah never ceased growing. In fact, the congregation grew to the point where renovations were needed to accommodate the growing membership. Eventually, the congregation outgrew the sanctuary on 18290 Southwest 102nd Avenue and constructed a new sanctuary.
In 1977, through prayers of thanksgiving and songs of praises, the congregation moved into the new and current sanctuary located at 16900 Southwest 100th Avenue, Perrine, Florida. However, on August 24, 1992, history repeated itself.
Another great storm hit, “Hurricane Andrew.” It had a devastating impact on the community and destroyed the church building but not the spirit of the members of Mt. Moriah. The Deacons voted to begin the rebuilding process with the fellowship hall first, so during this two-year rebuilding phase, services were held outside under a tent. Finally, in 1994, with much prayer and supplication, the congregation was able to worship in the fellowship hall in the rear of the church. Services recommenced in the sanctuary two years later. In the meantime, Reverend Edcar became the Pastor Emeritus due to his health issues which he succumbed to in 1998. In addition to the stressful rebuilding process of the physical structure, the church was without a Pastor, so Reverend Adam Evans, who was the Interim Pastor, Minister Thomas Ballard, Deacon John C. Bruton and the other members of the Deacon Board guided the congregation and kept the church membership together until a new Pastor was chosen.
In 1993, a Pulpit Search Committee was formed and although many pursued the honor of being the Pastor of Mt. Moriah, the congregation chose Reverend Keith L. Marshall to be their fifth Pastor in November, 1993. Reverend Marshall served the Mt. Moriah family for nine years. Under his leadership, new Deacons were ordained and new ministries were instituted which included the first Mt. Moriah Praise Team, Hospitality Ministry, Youth Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Dance Ministry, Singles Ministry, Outreach Ministry and Evangelistic Ministry.
On January 23, 2003, Reverend Marshall resigned as Pastor of Mt. Moriah and once again, Minister Thomas Ballard, who served as the Interim Pastor during this time, now an Elder, John C. Bruton, and the Deacons of Mt. Moriah kept the congregation together until another Pastor was called.
Once again, a Pulpit Search Committee was formed for a Pastor, and in July 2003, after much prayer and consideration, the Committee was pleased to announce that the search was over. By an overwhelming majority vote, the active members of Mt. Moriah expressed their desire for Reverend Joseph Dwayne Turner as their new Pastor. On Sunday, November 9, 2003, Dr. Joseph D. Turner was installed as the sixth Pastor of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Under his spiritual leadership, membership increased tremendously, and subsequently, additional Deacons were ordained.as well as long standing Deacons succumbing to God’s call as it was with the Chairman of the Deacon Board, Deacon John C. Burton who passed away in 2014. After which, Deacon Melvin Dennis was elected Chairman succeeded by Deacon Reginald Lester as Chairman in 2015.
In addition to the changes to the Deacon Ministry and the growth in membership, Dr. Turner implemented the 7:45 worship services and instituted new ministries which included the Prison Ministry, the Men’s Ministry, Health and Wellness Ministry, Friends in Training Together Ministry (F.I.T.T.), Mime Ministry, Married Couples Ministry, Bereavement Ministry, Armor Bearer Ministry, Peacekeeper Ministry, Media Ministry, Good Samaritan Ministry, Volunteer Ministry, Senior Advocate Ministry, and the College Bound Ministry. Dr. Turner also implemented several community outreach activities such as the Thanksgiving Community Feed, the Back-to-School Evangelistic Block Party, the Family Fun Festival (Carnival), the Pacesetters Summer Camp and the Summer Food Service Program.
These events have changed the congregational focus from individual worship to community engagement and improvement in an effort to impact the world for Christ and fulfill the mission of transforming unbelievers to committed disciples of Christ.