The Progressive Baptist Church has been a part of the Central City Community since May 10, 1895. During those 117 years Progressive continues to stand strong in its ministry to others despite the changing face of the community.
The history of Progressive began when Rev. John Lockman Burrell returned to New Orleans to pastor after the eager prayers of a committee of ladies. Rev. Burrell first held services at the Little Zion Hall on Lafayette Street where thirty persons joined through Christian experience. On May 10, 1895 a council was called for church recognition by the First District Baptist Association. Progressive was given church status and called Progressive Mission because it owned no property. On the eve of the completion of the beautiful two story building in 1915, a storm destroyed it completely. This did not discourage the members of Progressive and in 1916 plans were made to construct another Progressive Baptist Church which was completed in 1918. Rev. Burrell continued to preach the gospel and the fellowship continued to grow. In 1948 Progressive furthered its building program by adding an annex which housed a kitchen and dining room. Rev. Burrell served Progressive Baptist Church until his death on January 27, 1951.
The Lord continued to bless Progressive and restored the fellowship with a second pastor, Rev. Dr. Murphy Wilson McCaleb on July 6, 1951. During his 35 years of ministry and leadership, Dr. McCaleb completely renovated the church and addditonal property was purchased on both sides of South Robertson Street. He continued to teach God’s word to the membership of Progressive and to other ministers at the Union Baptist Seminary. Dr. McCaleb was a preacher’s preacher as he served on the Executive Board of the First District Missionary Baptist Association. His adherence to biblical doctrine as a part of his pastorate established a strong church policy at Progressive. Dr. McCaleb’s love for teaching continued until his death on July 16, 1987.
During Progressive’s 117 years of service, they have been blessed with three men of God as their pastors. On May 6, 1988, Rev. Willie Gable, Jr. was installed. The church’s sanctuary was renovated shortly after Paster Gable began his ministry, but was completely destroyed by a fire on July 4, 1992. The “deep ties” to the community led Progressive in its quest to “return and rebuild” the present facility on December 26, 1993. An educational center to house the programs of the Dr. Murphy W. McCaleb Education Fund was built across the street in 1998. On May 18, 2008 Dr. Gable celebrated twenty years of Christian service at his 1st Annual Pastor’s Appreciation.
As Progressive Baptist Church continued to grow, each member was involved in an intense study of God’s word to find their Purpose Driven Life. Many of the ministries, such as; Sunday School, Family Night, VBS, Feeding the Hungry, Couples and Singles Ministry, Evangelism and Youth/Children’s Ministries begin to flourish in their purpose.
And once again God’s purpose was shown in each of our lives on August 28, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall upon the city of New Orleans. The lives of many of our members, family, friends, and neighbors were washed away with the tide of the storm. The doors of Progressive were closed until January 22, 2006 so new carpet and pew legs could be replaced, mold and mildew was cleaned from the walls, and clean up in the immediate area was completed. On that day Progressive returned to rejoice because of the wondrous blessings of Jesus Christ.
Progressive continues to grow in the surrounding community as physical changes evolve daily. A newly constructed Home Depot is only a few hundred feet from our doorsteps; streets, sidewalks and curbs have been replaced on Clio and South Robertson, and the Guste housing development is being reconstructed to offer new apartments, townhouses and homes. We have also been blessed through our non-profit community organization, Dr. Murphy W. McCaleb Educational Fund, Inc. to provide 43 newly constructed single units as of October 2012, called the McCaleb Residences.
The Progressive Baptist Church continutes to grow the kingdom and congregation for the glory of Christ. We are thankful for the blessings from our Lord and we know that there is still more work to do for the Kingdom, therefore, we continue to press on.