Prescott Memorial Baptist Church

961 Getwell Road

Memphis, TN 38111

 

Phone: (901) 327-8479

Fax: (901) 324-7802

 

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A Different Kind of Baptist Church...

Prescott  Church

 

Marise Tuttle, Pastor

     experience acceptance...

Text Box: Text Box: Our History
Text Box: Sunday School:
Sundays at 9:30 am
Worship: 
Sundays at 10:45 am
Fellowship Dinner:
Wednesdays  at 6:00 pm
School for Christian Living:
1st, 3rd, 4th & Last
Wednesdays
 at 6:45 pm
Text Box: Introduction
Prescott was founded in 1916 following a series of summer tent revivals at its original site, adjacent to the West Tennessee Normal School (founded 1912), a teachers' college, now The University of Memphis.  Originally Southern Baptist, today the congregation affiliates with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A.  It is also a member of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists and supports the Alliance of Baptists.  Prescott maintains a longstanding sister church relationship with Beulah Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American congregation located in Memphis’ Orange Mound community.  Though small, Prescott has over the years spoken with a loud prophetic voice, emboldened by the radical example and reconciling spirit of Christ.  It has been labeled one of the “Historic Baptist Churches of America.” 
From its original 13 members, the church grew to a peak membership of 1700 in the 1950s as the city grew around it.  The original facility was located at Patterson and Mynders, adjacent to the University of Memphis campus.  In January 2004 the congregation moved to its present location on Getwell Road. 
The Sixties
During the 1950's demographic changes caused a gradual membership decline, as white Memphians moved to the suburbs.  However, the most dramatic changes, those which shaped the character and mission of today's congregation, began in the 1960’s.  At that time African-American students from the University began visiting Prescott's worship services.  In 1968, after a divisive debate, the congregation voted to accept a Black student’s request for membership, thus becoming the first SBC church in the Mid-South to become racially integrated.  That spring in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while supporting striking sanitation workers.  Only two white Baptist ministers joined the local ministers' march on behalf of the sanitation workers: Prescott's pastor at the time, Bob Troutman (1962-1972), and Dr. Brooks Ramsey, who later served as Prescott's interim pastor and a long-time member.  
Rev. Troutman and several laypersons in the congregation provided leadership during this period.  While hundreds of members left directly or indirectly as a result of racial issues, the 200 or so who remained felt strongly about the need to apply the Gospel's imperatives to issues facing Memphians and Americans at the time--war and peace, racism, sexism, social justice.  Succeeding pastors have continued these traditions.
The Seventies
Around 1970 the congregation voted to elect women as well as men as deacons (the first SBC church in Memphis to do so), and shortly thereafter to accept any Christian baptism for membership.  That same year Prescott led the way in ecumenical endeavors by helping form the University Cluster of Congregations, an interdenominational group of congregations that cooperate in various ministries, and through affiliations with the Metropolitan Interfaith Association, the Memphis Ministers Association, and special events involving representatives of other faiths and ethnic groups.
During the 1970’s the church began gaining strength with the addition of persons, many but not all with Baptist backgrounds, seeking a church open to diversity and committed to addressing contemporary issues from a Christian faith perspective.
The Eighties
In 1984 Prescott ordained a woman to the Gospel ministry, and in 1987 the church called Nancy Hastings Sehested as senior pastor, another first for area Southern Baptists.  The Shelby County Baptist Association "disfellowshipped" the church for its decision, one that Prescott's members voted 100% to reaffirm prior to the Association's vote.  The controversy generated widespread media attention, local, national, and international, including The Washington Post, the BBC and a Designing Women sitcom episode. All of this gave Prescott an unexpected opportunity to bear public witness for the truth that God calls men and women equally to Christian service. 
The Nineties
In 1983, unhappy with the increasingly fundamentalist direction of the SBC, the congregation voted to align dually with the ABC.  As the fundamentalist faction completed its takeover of the SBC, Prescott voted to withdraw its SBC affiliation altogether in 1994.  Denominationally, it now aligns solely with the ABC and its regional body, the American Baptist Churches of the South (ABCOTS).
Rev. Sehested continued as Prescott's pastor until August 1995, when she resigned to write and lead retreats from a base in North Carolina.
For many years Prescott has welcomed persons to its membership and leadership without regard to their sexual orientation.  The congregation decided to formally affirm its position with a Statement of Welcome in the fall of 1997.  It followed by affiliating with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists in 1999, and in 2000 with a Memphis-area group of Reconciling Congregations.
The New Century
In the summer of 2000 the Prescott congregation once again found itself in the national spotlight due to its support of women in ministry.  When the SBC formally voted to prohibit women from serving as pastors, a young Baptist woman in Memphis announced her intention to pursue her call to the ministry despite the SBC’s position.  Her testimony from Prescott’s pulpit, as well as our pastor’s comments in support of her, appeared in a national news broadcast.
In the summer of 2001, in keeping with its ecumenical tradition and affirming its commitment to the unity of all Christians, the Prescott congregation voted to call Rev. Martha Brahm, a Methodist minister, as its new pastor.  Rev. Brahm had served as Prescott’s Youth Minister in the mid-1990s, after which she became pastor of an area Methodist church.  Prescott formally installed her as pastor in September 2001.  
In 2003 the congregation voted to sell the church property to the University of Memphis in order to move to a facility more suited to the church’s needs and ministry, and one less expensive to maintain.  The present facility (located across the street from the University’s South Campus, only a few blocks from Prescott’s former location) had served a Lutheran church since its construction in the early 1960’s and had been well maintained.  The move took place in January 2004, and in 2004-2005 various renovations to the sanctuary and other parts of the building were implemented and are continuing. 
The move to a new facility has proven to be highly beneficial to the church’s work.  In the former structure much of the congregation’s time and resources were necessarily devoted to building maintenance, a situation that troubled a congregation more concerned with ministry than with physical trappings.  In our new building we have been able to redirect our attention to activities that more directly serve the Lord through service to others. 
At its present site Prescott’s new and innovative ministries include a fair trade store, known as IAM (International Artisans Market), through which Third World artisans and farmers receive a fair price for their products.  The congregation has reached out to senior citizens living in the apartment tower right behind the church’s building and has enjoyed the participation of several of its residents on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.  In addition, the congregation has been exploring the needs of its surround-ing neighborhood.  A nonpartisan voter registration project which the congregation spearheaded in the late summer of 2004 proved very successful, with more than 150 persons registered to vote.  The congregation has also adopted Sherwood Elementary, a public school in the church’s neighborhood with a largely minority student body.  Church members volunteer to tutor children at the school.
After providing gentle guidance as our congregation journeyed through a period of great change, Rev. Brahm resigned in January 2006 to pursue her dream of moving her family to Hawaii.
On September 10, 2006, Prescott voted to call as Pastor Rev. Marise Tuttle, a former associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri. On Sunday, October 29, 2006 Marise delivered her first sermon as Pastor. Official induction ceremonies took place later that afternoon.
 Prescott Pastors 1972 - Present
John Trantham (1972-1975); Kenneth Dean (1976-1981); Vance Johnson (1982-1986); Nancy Hastings Sehested (1987-1995); Sue Enoch (1998-2001); Martha Brahm (2001-2006); three-time interim pastor Brooks Ramsey (1975-76, 1981-82, 1986-87); interim co-pastors Eyleen Farmer and Ben Bledsoe (1995-1997); interim pastor Dr. Paul Brown (1997-1998, 2001); interim pastor Linda Serino (2006); Marise Tuttle (2006-present) .