The town of New Bern was growing in the 1890’s and a small group of believers with “hearts for missions” from First Baptist Church saw the need for a church to minister to the increasing population of the area. Mr. Daniel Smaw from First Baptist probably began the organizational meeting with prayer and led the small group in forming a mission that would glorify God by meeting the needs of the people.
After months of planning and prayer, Second Baptist Church would have its first service on May 5, 1895. Only fourteen people are listed as attending that first service in the back of a downtown store, but it was not long before attendance grew and members saw the need for a new church building. Property was bought and when it was built, the name was changed to Tabernacle Baptist Church. The church was dedicated in 1897 and has been on the corner of Broad and George Streets as a beacon of light to New Bern ever since.
The first building burned in 1931, a total loss, making it necessary to build again. After three years a three story educational building facing George Street was built. It was also used as the sanctuary while plans were made for a new one. World War II began and it became difficult to get materials, but members of the church never deterred from their vision. God provided and the sanctuary was completed in 1943. It faced Broad Street and continued to grow as the “lighthouse” on the corner. The church added a three story educational building in 1958. It was named the Hodges Memorial Building after Rev. J.L. Hodges who served Tabernacle for 31 years.
The church has been blessed with many dedicated ministers during the years and each one has helped the church continue to serve as a mission to the city, surrounding area, and all parts of the world as it continues to have a “heart for missions.”
As the church has grown in membership, so has the need for more space. Property was bought for parking, houses for youth meetings, office space—whatever the need might be. In 1993 plans were made for a new sanctuary and more educational space. On the 100th anniversary of Tabernacle Baptist Church the members of the church marched into a beautiful new sanctuary that continues to be God’s beacon of light. The building included more classrooms and soon Tabernacle began a weekday preschool program that has become an outreach to our community. More recently, the Family Life Center was completed, providing additional space for recreation, education, and fellowship.
Throughout its history, the church has never lost its mission to serve and be the light on the corner, doing good works for the glory of God. Tabernacle Baptist Church will continue to lead people to Christ being faithful to His Word to let our “light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16