History

History of the Greater Pleasant Branch Missionary Baptist Church

1880 – 2016

Prologue

The history of a church congregation is the story of a people who, at some point in time, came together in a covenant relationship for the purpose of furthering the kingdom of God by carrying out His commission (Matthew 28:19-20).    So it is for the congregation called Pleasant Branch.  There is no record of a written history of Pleasant Branch being brought to the city of Conway, Arkansas in the early 1950s when the congregation settled there.  Accounts of the people, events, and circumstances that occurred during the congregation’s life in its original location were handed down orally and later recorded when more research was conducted particularly leading up to the congregation’s centennial celebration in 1980.   The first recollection of the history of the church being told were oral presentations by the late Mrs. Lucy Gill in the early 1960s who was a former member and the granddaughter of one of the first deacons of the church, Jerry Vaughn.  Her account and conversations with then living members who had migrated to Conway form the basis for all of the earliest accounts of our history.   Record books in which the minutes of business meetings dating back to 1956 have also provided a glimpse of historical data that informs us of the story of Pleasant Branch.  Unfortunately, at least three of these record books have been lost and their loss leaves some gaps in the historical continuity of the congregation’s story after being re-established in Conway.    The account recorded here will be divided into distinct “eras” and will identify the congregation’s evolvement structurally, organizationally, spiritually, and communally.   The Church, the Body of Christ, of which Pleasant Branch is a part, is a living organism and not an organization.  As such, Pleasant Branch’s history is indeed a living entity that will continue to grow until the return of Christ for His Bride.    

A Branch of the Vine Is Born (1880 – 1930)

Fifteen years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 (1880), Pleasant Branch Baptist Church was organized.  The physical location of this congregation was in what was known as the Providence settlement near what is now Mayflower, Arkansas in Faulkner County.   According to oral historical accounts Rev. Lawrence Cornelius was the organizer and first pastor of Pleasant Branch.  How and why the church was given its name is not known.

A Branch of the Vine Takes Root and Produces Fruit (2012 – 2016)

In 2011, Rev. Raynor appointed Rev. Artee Williams as pulpit coordinator after his failing health prevented him from preaching on a weekly basis.   Rev. Williams carried out this responsibility given him and the church accepted this appointment and asked him to continue in that role after Rev. Raynor’s death.  The deacons, trustees, and ministers of the church agreed to form a leadership team to provide a sense of solidarity and guidance for the congregation while plans were made to form a search committee for a new pastor.  After a year of work, the search committee submitted the name of Rev. Artee Williams to congregation as their choice of a pastoral candidate.  On Sunday, July 21, 2013, the congregation accepted the committee’s recommendation to elect Rev. Williams as pastor.  Rev. Williams is assisted by deacons Darryl McGee, Marvin Bedford, Franklin Holbrook, Reginald Campbell, Carl Harris, Lloyd Hervey, Christopher Hervey, and Larry Lanes.  Christopher Hervey and Larry Lanes were ordained by Rev. Williams in 2014.   The ministerial staff includes Anthony Hoskins, Kenneth Myers, Mark White, Ricky McFadden, Jerry Doss, Lonnie Harris, and Andrew Balenton.  Trustees currently serving are Derrell Turner, Howard Nunn, Victor Maxfield, James Hogan, and Bruce Sargent.  Janet Harris currently serves as church clerk.  A Pastor’s Council consisting of the elected and appointed leadership, deacons, trustees, and ministers serves as an advisory and planning group for the pastor.  Under the leadership of Rev. Williams, the church continues to grow spiritually, numerically, and administratively.  Pastor Williams’ expectation for the church is excellence.  This expectation is being realized through sound biblical preaching and teaching, the addition of relevant ministries, and the challenge to sustain, strengthen, and expand existing ones.  Pleasant Branch is being challenged to “be the difference that makes the difference by expecting the extraordinary” as her story, her history continues to be written led by the Joshua who has the charge to lead her into the future.  

A Branch of the Vine Takes Root and Produces Fruit (1990 – 2012)

A period of spiritual and numerical growth continued during the last twenty-two years of Rev. Raynor’s pastorate.   The community-focus of the congregation continued, for example ministries such as a Food Bank, a partnership with the Conway Police Department for a park on the corner of the church’s property, and making the use of its expanded facilities available to individual families and organizations.   The administrative structure of the congregation included the following ministries:  Advisory Board, Board of Christian Education, Trustee Board, Finance Board, Mission Board, Youth Ministry, Music Ministry, Women’s Ministry (Sisterhood), Men’s Ministry (Brotherhood), and Sunday School.   

Rev. Raynor licensed and/or ordained and mentored the following men who were called to the gospel ministry during his tenure as pastor:  Rev. Carl Bruce, Rev. James E. Mackey, Rev. Danny Wardlow, Rev. Kenneth Kellybrew, Rev. Lonnie Harris, Rev. Davette Whitney, Rev. Christopher DeJarnette, Rev. Mark White, Sr., Rev. Tyler Cain, Rev. Anthony Hoskins, and Rev. Rudy Patrick.  Deacons ordained were:  Julius Pierce, Lenton Taylor, Lloyd Hervey, James Mackey, Danny Wardlow, Ralph Calhoun, Darryl McGee, Arthur Tucker, Kenneth Kellybrew, Lonnie Harris, Franklin Holbrook, and Carl Harris.    Other ministers and deacons that became members of Pleasant Branch and served with Rev. Raynor were:  Rev. Dowdy, Rev. King, Rev. John Smith, Rev. Richard Walker, Rev. Ricky McFadden, Rev. Kenneth Myers, and Rev. Artee Williams; Deacons T.M. Logan, Elmer McFarlin, Andrew White, Marvin Bedford, Willis Hampton, Clarence Ross, and Reginald Campbell.   A Trustee Board was proposed and organized by Rev. Raynor in 1977.  Men who served in this role under his leadership were: Curtis Wilson, Tommy Burgess, Reuel Shepherd, Lloyd Hervey, Rufus Williams, Columbus Mattison, Alvin Givan, Howard Nunn, Danny Wardlow, Davette Whitney, and Eugene Miller.  Clerks serving as the official record keepers were:  Geneva Veasley, Lloyd Hervey, Cora Alexander, Mary Morris, Charlene Bunting, Debra Givan, and Helen Ticey.  

Rev. Jerome Raynor faithfully served the people of Pleasant Branch for a total of 57 years before his death on January 18, 2012.  He was preceded in death by his wife, Mrs. Cleo Raynor (August 1, 2009) who served as a model, encourager, and mentor to the congregation for more than fifty years alongside Rev. Raynor.   

The original congregation was made up of freedmen and former slaves who had migrated to Arkansas from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  During the centennial celebration of Faulkner County in 1973, Pleasant Branch was identified as its oldest African American congregation.   The organizing deacons were Jerry Vaughn, Paul Jones, and Tom Griffin.   There is no personal data that provides any information of these men or the names of what other families made up this earliest congregation.  It is also not known as to how many years the organizing pastor led the congregation, but between 1880 and 1910, the following men are listed as having pastored Pleasant Branch after him: Rev. Sim Ladell, Rev. Tom Chism, and Rev. Pete Watkins.   The congregation erected a physical structure during this period that is described as being a one room, rectangular building with vertical planking.   An eyewitness account stated that the building was surrounded by a fence having two gates, one of which was for wagons and teams to enter and the other for the congregation’s.  This place of worship is the only one recorded to have been erected in the original location.   The people who made up the congregation were primarily farmers and worked on the Littles’ Farm Plantation located near Mayflower, Arkansas. 

The Rev. Louis Watts was called as pastor of Pleasant Branch in 1911.  He was followed by Rev. West Turner, Rev. W.M. Drew, Rev. Lee Fowler, Rev. B. H. Haynes, and Rev. L. F. Fears.  The list of men serving as deacons during the leadership of these pastors includes John Turner, Charlie Davis, Mike Callaway, Will Wesley, Silas Morgan, Morgan Grant, John Woods, and Charley Oates.  

Pleasant Branch’s early history was affected by and affected events and phenomena that occurred in both her internal and external environment.  The Flood of 1927 is an example.  The Flood of 1927 was the most destructive and costly flood in Arkansas history and one of the worst in the history of the nation. It afflicted Arkansas with a greater amount of devastation, both human and monetary, than the other affected states in the Mississippi River Valley.  The loss of life in Arkansas was greater than any other area at this time except for the state of Mississippi.  It is reported that Pleasant Branch’s place of worship became a place of refuge for people who had been displaced by this terrible natural disaster.  

A Branch of the Vine is Uprooted (1930 – 1951)

During these early years Pleasant Branch’s life as a church was characterized by weekly worship, prayer meetings, and revivals, much like congregation’s today.  The schedule for weekly Sunday services was: 

  • Sunday School – 9:30 a.m.
  • Morning Worship – 11:00 a.m.
  • BTU – 6:00 p.m.
  • Night Service – 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Members who are at this writing still living recall that there was no formal “order of worship” and no formal choir.  They were taught to read notes from the Gospel Pearl hymnbook and were led in singing by a song leader.  Quartets were also popular during this time period.  An eyewitness, Mrs. Hesterine Burgess’ account of revivals held during that time reports, “When we had revival they had a mourners’ bench and you had to go there every night for two weeks.  The saints would gather around and pray for you until you got saved.  During revival time, the young people went to class from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.  When you got saved they would baptize you in the levee hole.”  It was after a prayer meeting in 1930 that the original and only structure erected as a house of worship for Pleasant Branch was completely destroyed by fire during the pastorate of Rev. L.F. Fears.  Mrs. Burgess, then a small child gave this account of this event, “I remember that my mother went to prayer meeting and they were out in the yard looking back in the direction of the church and saw the fire.  After the fire, we started having church on the back that was part of the Little’s farm.  The farm was named in sections.  The front section was where we lived.  The Burgess family lived in the back section and that is where we went to church until some man came down there and built the Rosewall (Rosenwald) School.  After that everybody had church there.  The Baptists had church on the first and second Sundays and the Church of God In Christ had church on the third and fourth Sundays.  We all went to church every Sunday.  We went to their services and they came to ours.”  It was believed that the fire that destroyed the congregation’s building was the work of arsonists, but no positive evidence was ever found to substantiate this suspicion. 

The Rosenwald School building, one of over five thousand which were built primarily for the education of African-American children in the South in the early 20th century became Pleasant Branch’s house of worship until the Little’s Farm disbanded.   During this 

and trustees to build a new church.  The committee was instructed to devise a sequential plan for bringing this project to fruition.  On March 8, 1985 the church was informed that the Pine Street Property had been officially handed over to the church (the property was purchased from the Conway School District).  The Building Committee was dissolved and its responsibilities were given to the Trustees and the Finance Board.

On September 12, 1986 the congregation was shown a sketch of the new building and on    September 18, 1987 another drawing of the proposed sanctuary was shown and explained by Reuel Shepherd and the Trustees were empowered to check resources for borrowing funds to build.  On October 9, 1987, the Trustees presented a report from Security Savings and Loan to borrow $200,000.00 to build the new sanctuary.  The congregation voted to borrow this amount (37 for; 7 against just for the record).

March 11, 1988, the Building Committee informed the congregation that they were still working and that plans for building are still on.  On March 10, 1989 groundbreaking for the new sanctuary was announced for the first Sunday in April and Dr. O.C. Jones was to be the principal speaker.  The theme, A New Beginning was given by the pastor, Rev. Raynor.  The Building Committee received a commendation from the church.  The congregation officially agreed to adopt the name, “Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church” when the new sanctuary is completed.  

Sunday, April 2, 1989, ground was broken on the Pine Street property to build the new sanctuary.  Ms. Rhea Williams came forward during this ceremony and became the first new member to be received on our new site.  Construction began in the summer of 1989 and the church marched from its old sanctuary located at 1425 Ingram to its new sanctuary on Sunday, November 12, 1989 celebrating its completion and the 34th pastoral anniversary of Rev. Raynor.   It is to be noted that many among the membership worked to paint and complete some interior work so that we could make the move on this date.   The new sanctuary was dedicated on Sunday, March 11, 1990.   The site of the new sanctuary also included the former Pine Street Elementary School building and a gymnasium.  These buildings were renovated and provided additional space and accommodations for both the use of the congregation and the community.  

  • May, 1975:  a final plan was agreed upon to annex a larger dining room, three classrooms and a pastor’s study in an upper level, a baptistery and an extended sanctuary at a cost of $21,750.61.    

Following the completion of these major structural changes, no major plans were made for any additions to the building.   The focus of the congregation moved to a desire to purchase land, relocate, and build a new house of worship.  

These physical changes were accompanied by a period of spiritual growth, numerical growth, a focus on community outreach and the ministry of teaching.    Prophetically, Rev. Raynor had consistently and continuously encouraged the congregation with the vision of growth and of people coming from the four cardinal directions to become a part of Pleasant Branch.  In his words, “God is going to send people from the north, the south, the east, and the west.  This place is going to be the highway of civilization one day.”  This vision was realized with the addition of young adult couples and adults who came with spiritual gifts and talents and the consistent encouraging ministry of Rev. Raynor.  The preaching of the gospel, the communal attitude of the congregation and their fervor in worship served as a magnet and drew people to the church, especially youth of the community as had been prophesied.  Ministries were expanded and others were developed.   In 1974, a group of young adult men organized a brotherhood movement that extended the impact of Pleasant Branch into the community.   An outreach ministry was begun with students enrolled at the University of Central Arkansas.  This movement attracted young adults to the church many of whom became members and some are still actively contributing to the life and work of Pleasant Branch at the time of this writing.   Pleasant Branch also became more community focused during this period and provided outreach in various ways to citizens of its immediate vicinity, both internally and externally.   

The vision of building God a house given to Rev. Raynor began to unfold when serious plans to build began on December 16, 1983, when the congregation officially accepted a recommendation from the deacons and trustees to buy property and build a new sanctuary.  Reuel Shepherd was appointed chair and Rev. James Mackey, co-chair to lead this decision.  On April 6, 1984, the church accepted a recommendation from the building committee that outlined a plan to finance the proposed purchase of property and proposed building project. Reuel Shepherd was officially elected as chair of the building committee.    After much discussion on December 7, 1984, the church accepted a recommendation from the deacons  transitional period, Rev. Fears was followed by Rev. W. M. McGhee, Rev. Martin Hayes, and Rev. Brazell Williams.   Rev. Williams, the last pastor of the congregation in its original location, was assisted by David Wilson, Lunder Turner, Theodore Gilliam, and Milton Turner as deacons.  

Plans for re-building were made and monies were raised to accomplish the task.  However, due to the sudden death of Rev. Williams in 1950 as well as the disbanding of the Little’s Farm, the congregation was unable to build a new house of worship.   Mrs. Burgess recounts, “The little money they saved to build a church on Little’s Farm was in the hands of the pastor, Rev. Brazell Williams.   After his death, his wife would not give it back to the people, but that did not stop God’s plans for Pleasant Branch.”   The dismantling of Little’s Farm also resulted in the migration of people in the area to other parts of Arkansas and the country.  A few that remained met in the home of the late Deacon C.J. and Ada Frazier. 

A Branch of the Vine is Transplanted (ca1951 – 1954)

In 1951, approximately eleven members of Pleasant Branch came together in city of Conway determined to keep their identity as a distinct congregation.  This group of members included: Deacon Climey and Mrs. Ruth Mathis, Deacon Robert Tilman, Deacon C. J. and Mrs. Ada Frazier, Mrs. Geneva Veasley, Mrs. Elvira Veasley, Mrs. Rosie Hoskins (and her children), Mrs. Susie Herron, and Mrs. Dezzie Williams.  The congregation had no physical building to worship in at this time and was welcomed to use the Little Bethel A.M.E. Church, located on Harrison Street on the second and fourth Sundays to conduct services.  Pleasant Branch had been a part of the Middlewestern District Association, but had affiliated with the Golden Rule District Association which had been organized in 1950.  And so it was that with aid of the Rev. Louis Embry, then pastor of the St. John Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas and moderator of the district that they were able to acquire a Rev. Gannaway as their pastor.   Unfortunately, upon learning that the congregation did not have a building of its own, he abandoned the congregation after a short while, leaving them without pastoral leadership.  It should be noted that those men and women who had been transplanted to Conway, Arkansas were people of faith.  Despite their many setbacks, they refused to disband their fellowship.  They continued to meet together, praying and seeking guidance and direction from the Lord. 

Branch of the Vine Takes Root and Produces Fruit (1955 – 1989)

In 1955, Pleasant Branch served as host of a meeting of the Golden Rule District Association at the Little Bethel A.M.E. Church where they were still allowed to worship on the second and fourth Sundays.   During this particular meeting, the Rev. Jerome R. Raynor, a young minister, was asked to deliver a sermon by Rev. Embry, the district’s moderator.  Neither Rev. Raynor nor the congregation had met prior to this event.  However, the following week, the membership contacted Rev. Embry to inquire about this minister expressing an interest in his being invited to become their pastor.  Providentially, they did not remember his name, but did remember the subject of his sermon, “Count Your Blessings”.  After contact was made, in February of 1955, the congregation and Rev. Raynor reached the agreement for him to serve as their pastor.  He too did not realize that the congregation was without a building of their own.  However, undaunted by this circumstance, in March of that same year, Rev. Raynor with the approval of the church and accompanied by Mrs. Elvira Veasley and Mrs. Rosetta Hoskins, contacted a local insurance agent, Mr. Charles Edwards, and was able to secure a loan from him to purchase a building for the congregation.  Their purchase was a one room, tin-topped, rectangular shaped building that was moved to and situated on property they had acquired on Ingram Street (the property was actually a part of a field that was the dead end of the street).  The congregation had been without a physical and permanent house of worship for a period of twenty-five years.  This event marked the re-establishment and a new beginning for Pleasant Branch Missionary Baptist Church in the city of Conway, Arkansas.    

At this writing, fifty-seven of the sixty-four years of Pleasant Branch’s history in Conway, Arkansas revolves around the pastoral leadership of Rev. J. R. Raynor.   The rest of the narrative that follows will provide a historical snapshot of those years under his leadership. 

When Rev. Raynor was called as pastor, Geneva Veasley was serving as Church Clerk.  Deacons of record were: Climey Mathis, Robert “Uncle Bob” Tilman, C.J. Frazier, and Albert Wooten.   Minutes from church business meetings (1957 – 1960) recorded by Mrs. Veasley reveal that Pleasant Branch functioned with an organizational structure like most Baptist Churches of that time.  Ministries and their leaders recorded in the minutes of business meetings were: Sunday School, B.T.U., Women’s Mission, Ushers, Bible Band (Study), and a formal choir.   

For a period of three years (1955 – 1958) under the leadership of Rev. Raynor, the small congregation made plans to renovate their building.  A timeline of these plans and actions is as follows:  

  • A formal vote was approved on April 11, 1958 to remodel the inside of the building.  
  • A building committee consisting of Rev. Raynor, Deacons C.J. Frazier, Albert Wooten, and Climey Mathis was officially formed on July 11, 1958.   
  • October 10, 1958:  the church agreed to take what money that was available to underpin the building and extend the foundation.
  • February 6, 1959:  the church agreed to borrow $2,500.00 to remodel the church on the inside.   Deacons at this time were:  Deacons C.J. Frazier, Robert Tillman, Climey Mathis, and Albert Wooten.
  • The interior of the building was remodeled again in 1966.  At this time the following men served as deacons:  C.J. Frazier, Robert Tillman, Climey Mathis, T.M. Logan, Julius Pierce, and Lenton Taylor.  
  • March 9, 1969:  the church voted to add a kitchen to the building at a cost of $1,500.00.  The exterior of the building was bricked in the same year.  An official cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1970.
  • December 15, 1972:  the church voted to purchase new pews and to begin making plans to add additional rooms to the building.  (1972), and annexing a larger dining room, three classrooms, a pastor’s study, a baptistery, and extending the length of the sanctuary (1975).  The church cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1970 during a special ceremony.  Prior to the work begun and completed in 1975, the first mortgage on the church’s property was burned. 
  • March 9, 1973: the church agreed to purchase pews at a cost of $2,263.80.  A plan for annexation was also adopted in this meeting.  Deacons assisting Rev. Raynor were: T.M. Logan, Climey Mathis, Lenton Taylor, Julius Pierce, Robert Tillman, and Lloyd Hervey.

transitional period, Rev. Fears was followed by Rev. W. M. McGhee, Rev. Martin Hayes, and Rev. Brazell Williams.   Rev. Williams, the last pastor of the congregation in its original location, was assisted by David Wilson, Lunder Turner, Theodore Gilliam, and Milton Turner as deacons.  

Plans for re-building were made and monies were raised to accomplish the task.  However, due to the sudden death of Rev. Williams in 1950 as well as the disbanding of the Little’s Farm, the congregation was unable to build a new house of worship.   Mrs. Burgess recounts, “The little money they saved to build a church on Little’s Farm was in the hands of the pastor, Rev. Brazell Williams.   After his death, his wife would not give it back to the people, but that did not stop God’s plans for Pleasant Branch.”   The dismantling of Little’s Farm also resulted in the migration of people in the area to other parts of Arkansas and the country.  A few that remained met in the home of the late Deacon C.J. and Ada Frazier. 

A Branch of the Vine is Transplanted (ca1951 – 1954)

In 1951, approximately eleven members of Pleasant Branch came together in city of Conway determined to keep their identity as a distinct congregation.  This group of members included: Deacon Climey and Mrs. Ruth Mathis, Deacon Robert Tilman, Deacon C. J. and Mrs. Ada Frazier, Mrs. Geneva Veasley, Mrs. Elvira Veasley, Mrs. Rosie Hoskins (and her children), Mrs. Susie Herron, and Mrs. Dezzie Williams.  The congregation had no physical building to worship in at this time and was welcomed to use the Little Bethel A.M.E. Church, located on Harrison Street on the second and fourth Sundays to conduct services.  Pleasant Branch had been a part of the Middlewestern District Association, but had affiliated with the Golden Rule District Association which had been organized in 1950.  And so it was that with aid of the Rev. Louis Embry, then pastor of the St. John Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas and moderator of the district that they were able to acquire a Rev. Gannaway as their pastor.   Unfortunately, upon learning that the congregation did not have a building of its own, he abandoned the congregation after a short while, leaving them without pastoral leadership.  It should be noted that those men and women who had been transplanted to Conway, Arkansas were people of faith.  Despite their many setbacks, they refused to disband their fellowship.  They continued to meet together, praying and seeking guidance and direction from the Lord. 

For a period of three years (1955 – 1958) under the leadership of Rev. Raynor, the small congregation made plans to renovate their building.   A timeline of these plans and actions is as follows:  

  • A formal vote was approved on April 11, 1958 to remodel the inside of the building.  
  • A building committee consisting of Rev. Raynor, Deacons C.J. Frazier, Albert Wooten, and Climey Mathis was officially formed on July 11, 1958.   
  • October 10, 1958:  the church agreed to take what money that was available to underpin the building and extend the foundation.
  • February 6, 1959:  the church agreed to borrow $2,500.00 to remodel the church on the inside.   Deacons at this time were:  Deacons C.J. Frazier, Robert Tillman, Climey Mathis, and Albert Wooten.
  • The interior of the building was remodeled again in 1966.  At this time the following men served as deacons:  C.J. Frazier, Robert Tillman, Climey Mathis, T.M. Logan, Julius Pierce, and Lenton Taylor.  
  • March 9, 1969:  the church voted to add a kitchen to the building at a cost of $1,500.00.  The exterior of the building was bricked in the same year.  An official cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1970.
  • December 15, 1972:  the church voted to purchase new pews and to begin making plans to add additional rooms to the building.  (1972), and annexing a larger dining room, three classrooms, a pastor’s study, a baptistery, and extending the length of the sanctuary (1975).  The church cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1970 during a special ceremony.  Prior to the work begun and completed in 1975, the first mortgage on the church’s property was burned. 
  • March 9, 1973: the church agreed to purchase pews at a cost of $2,263.80.  A plan for annexation was also adopted in this meeting.  Deacons assisting Rev. Raynor were: T.M. Logan, Climey Mathis, Lenton Taylor, Julius Pierce, Robert Tillman, and Lloyd Hervey.
  • May, 1975:  a final plan was agreed upon to annex a larger dining room, three classrooms and a pastor’s study in an upper level, a baptistery and an extended sanctuary at a cost of $21,750.61.    

Following the completion of these major structural changes, no major plans were made for any additions to the building.   The focus of the congregation moved to a desire to purchase land, relocate, and build a new house of worship.  

These physical changes were accompanied by a period of spiritual growth, numerical growth, a focus on community outreach and the ministry of teaching.    Prophetically, Rev. Raynor had consistently and continuously encouraged the congregation with the vision of growth and of people coming from the four cardinal directions to become a part of Pleasant Branch.  In his words, “God is going to send people from the north, the south, the east, and the west.  This place is going to be the highway of civilization one day.”  This vision was realized with the addition of young adult couples and adults who came with spiritual gifts and talents and the consistent encouraging ministry of Rev. Raynor.  The preaching of the gospel, the communal attitude of the congregation and their fervor in worship served as a magnet and drew people to the church, especially youth of the community as had been prophesied.  Ministries were expanded and others were developed.   In 1974, a group of young adult men organized a brotherhood movement that extended the impact of Pleasant Branch into the community.   An outreach ministry was begun with students enrolled at the University of Central Arkansas.  This movement attracted young adults to the church many of whom became members and some are still actively contributing to the life and work of Pleasant Branch at the time of this writing.   Pleasant Branch also became more community focused during this period and provided outreach in various ways to citizens of its immediate vicinity, both internally and externally.   

The vision of building God a house given to Rev. Raynor began to unfold when serious plans to build began on December 16, 1983, when the congregation officially accepted a recommendation from the deacons and trustees to buy property and build a new sanctuary.  Reuel Shepherd was appointed chair and Rev. James Mackey, co-chair to lead this decision.  On April 6, 1984, the church accepted a recommendation from the building committee that outlined a plan to finance the proposed purchase of property and proposed building project.  Reuel Shepherd was officially elected as chair of the building committee.    After much discussion on December 7, 1984, the church accepted a recommendation from the deacons and trustees to build a new church.  The committee was instructed to devise a sequential plan for bringing this project to fruition.  On March 8, 1985 the church was informed that the Pine Street Property had been officially handed over to the church (the property was purchased from the Conway School District).  The Building Committee was dissolved and its responsibilities were given to the Trustees and the Finance Board.

On September 12, 1986 the congregation was shown a sketch of the new building and on September 18, 1987 another drawing of the proposed sanctuary was shown and explained by Reuel Shepherd and the Trustees were empowered to check resources for borrowing funds to build.  On October 9, 1987, the Trustees presented a report from Security Savings and Loan to borrow $200,000.00 to build the new sanctuary.  The congregation voted to borrow this amount (37 for; 7 against just for the record).

March 11, 1988, the Building Committee informed the congregation that they were still working and that plans for building are still on.  On March 10, 1989 groundbreaking for the new sanctuary was announced for the first Sunday in April and Dr. O.C. Jones was to be the principal speaker.  The theme, A New Beginning was given by the pastor, Rev. Raynor.  The Building Committee received a commendation from the church.  The congregation officially agreed to adopt the name, “Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church” when the new sanctuary is completed.  

Sunday, April 2, 1989, ground was broken on the Pine Street property to build the new sanctuary.  Ms. Rhea Williams came forward during this ceremony and became the first new member to be received on our new site.  Construction began in the summer of 1989 and the church marched from its old sanctuary located at 1425 Ingram to its new sanctuary on Sunday, November 12, 1989 celebrating its completion and the 34th pastoral anniversary of Rev. Raynor.   It is to be noted that many among the membership worked to paint and complete some interior work so that we could make the move on this date.   The new sanctuary was dedicated on Sunday, March 11, 1990.   The site of the new sanctuary also included the former Pine Street Elementary School building and a gymnasium.  These buildings were renovated and provided additional space and accommodations for both the use of the congregation and the community.  

A Branch of the Vine Takes Root and Produces Fruit (2012 – 2016)

In 2011, Rev. Raynor appointed Rev. Artee Williams as pulpit coordinator after his failing health prevented him from preaching on a weekly basis.   Rev. Williams carried out this responsibility given him and the church accepted this appointment and asked him to continue in that role after Rev. Raynor’s death.  The deacons, trustees, and ministers of the church agreed to form a leadership team to provide a sense of solidarity and guidance for the congregation while plans were made to form a search committee for a new pastor.  After a year of work, the search committee submitted the name of Rev. Artee Williams to congregation as their choice of a pastoral candidate.  On Sunday, July 21, 2013, the congregation accepted the committee’s recommendation to elect Rev. Williams as pastor.  Rev. Williams is assisted by deacons Darryl McGee, Marvin Bedford, Franklin Holbrook, Reginald Campbell, Carl Harris, Lloyd Hervey, Christopher Hervey, and Larry Lanes.  Christopher Hervey and Larry Lanes were ordained by Rev. Williams in 2014.   The ministerial staff includes Anthony Hoskins, Kenneth Myers, Mark White, Ricky McFadden, Jerry Doss, Lonnie Harris, and Andrew Balenton.  Trustees currently serving are Derrell Turner, Howard Nunn, Victor Maxfield, James Hogan, and Bruce Sargent.  Janet Harris currently serves as church clerk.  A Pastor’s Council consisting of the elected and appointed leadership, deacons, trustees, and ministers serves as an advisory and planning group for the pastor.  Under the leadership of Rev. Williams, the church continues to grow spiritually, numerically, and administratively.  Pastor Williams’ expectation for the church is excellence.  This expectation is being realized through sound biblical preaching and teaching, the addition of relevant ministries, and the challenge to sustain, strengthen, and expand existing ones.  Pleasant Branch is being challenged to “be the difference that makes the difference by expecting the extraordinary” as her story, her history continues to be written led by the Joshua who has the charge to lead her into the future.