With a rich history dating back to 1892, Cathedral International (the historic Second Baptist Church) has much to celebrate after examining its modest beginnings and the manner in which the Lord used the ministry to advance His kingdom.
The church owes its inception to a nucleus of 35 African-Americans who, in 1892, were members of the predominately white congregation of First Baptist Church–then located on Fayette Street, Perth Amboy, NJ. As history would have it, the founders were forced to establish a separate church. This group of worshippers expanded with the city’s growth, and in 1901, established a mission at 315 Front Street.
In 1904, the church was officially incorporated as an independent assembly when the growing membership purchased a building on a small Gordon Street lot. Cleaned, repaired, refurbished and painted, this building was dedicated as the Second Baptist Church with its congregation having sprung from First Baptist Church, Perth Amboy’s original Baptist fellowship.
In 1957, the church purchased land, a church and a rectory on Broad Street. This was a significant achievement for the growing congregation.
Over the 100-year history of Cathedral International, 13 pastors have navigated the course of this progressive institution. In October 1983, the current pastor, the Bishop Donald Hilliard Jr., was called to serve as Senior Pastor.
Under his dynamic leadership, the church experienced unprecedented growth and soon became too large for its Broad Street location. While a more spacious residence was being sought (in 1990 to 1992), members worshipped in the auditorium of the McGinnis School. In April 1992, Cathedral International moved into its present location, the beautifully renovated, 1,500-seat Majestic Theater on Madison Avenue. Once a location for vaudeville entertainers and, in later years, an adult movie house, the ragged relics of the Majestic Theater is now a spectacular house of worship known as The Cathedral.
Growth was not limited to the City of Perth Amboy. In 1995, the first worship service was held at Cathedral Assembly by the Shore, Asbury Park, NJ. Shortly thereafter, Cathedral Assembly in the Fields, Plainfield, NJ commenced worship services at the Plainfield High School. Cathedral International is now One Church in Three Locations.
Bishop Hilliard’s visionary leadership has grown the membership from 125 in 1983 to well over 5,000 members today. Now, as “One Church in Three Locations,” this vibrant ministry has grown to serving the specific needs of three locations of worship in urban areas of New Jersey: Cathedral International in Perth Amboy, Cathedral Assembly by the Shore in Asbury Park, and Cathedral Assembly in Fields in Plainfield. He has moved to ensure that the church’s ministries and auxiliaries, now numbering more than 50, are relevant to the needs of the rapidly expanding congregation and community.
In 1991, the Rev. Bernadette Glover-Williams became the assistant pastor and was the first woman to serve in pastoral leadership. In 1993, Rev. Patricio Wilson was the first youth pastor added to the staff. He served in that capacity until December 1998 when he was sent to Cary, N.C., to open Christ Church, an outgrowth of Cathedral-Second Baptist Church. The Rev. Deniece Reid came on staff in 1995 to serve the church’s growing population. Minister Eric Brewer came on staff as Minister to Youth in 1999.
Other accomplishments of Cathedral International under Bishop Hilliard’s leadership include the establishment of a fully licensed, state-certified grades K4 through 6 learning center; the Cathedral Community Development Corporation, designed to economically empower the church and its community; the acquisition and renovation of additional properties, including the Cathedral Family Life Center, Cathedral Cafe, Timothy House and the Donald Hilliard, Jr. Community Affairs Complex. The former church parsonage next to 101 Broad St., now houses Joy in the City, a child-care center for infants through toddlers.
Bishop Hilliard has also planted several affiliate churches: Christ Family Church (Cary, NC); Cathedral North Hills (Teaneck, NJ); and Cathedral International @ Bear, DE.
American Baptist Churches, USA cited the church as a model for church growth.
In 95th year church anniversary celebration, Bishop Hilliard stated, “We look back on our journey, ever thankful for God’s grace in bringing us to this station. And as we approach other milestones along our path, we look forward by faith, knowing that the promise of I Corinthians 2:9 is ours: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.”
2004 marks the 100th Anniversary of Cathedral International, a significant milestone in the life of the ministry.
1892: First gathering of 35 worshippers in basement of the First Baptist Church
1901: First established mission, 315 Front St.
1901: Rev. John Field installed as pastor
1904: Purchased building on Gordon Street and dedicated as the Second Baptist Church
1904: Church incorporated as Second Baptist Church
1906: First baptism at Bayard Beach, Perth Amboy
1911: Rev. P.W. Potts called to pastor
1922: Rev. Dave Carter called to pastor
1931: Rev. William E. Smith called to pastor. Rev. Smith helped to organize the Perth Amboy Chapter of the NAACP
1947: Rev. Cecil Gallup called to pastor
1955: Rev. H.M. Martin called to Pastor
1957: Purchased Red-Brick Church, 101 Broad St.
1968: Built new parsonage next to church building
1977: Purchased parking lot on State Street
1981: Rev. Leroy Jefferson called to pastor
1983: Rev. Donald Hilliard Jr., called to pastor
1990: Second Baptist Church Christian Academy founded
1990: Former Majestic Theater purchased; renovations begin
1992: Former Elks Building purchased and dedicated as the Family Life Enrichment Center
1992: Grand March from 101 Broad St. church to Cathedral, 277 Madison Avenue
1993: Vision 2000 unveiled
1994: Former Madison Pines restaurant purchased, renovated, dedicated as Cathedral Cafe
1994: Purchased 284 Madison Avenue rental property
1995: Former Margaretten Mortgage building purchased, renovated and named the Donald Hilliard Jr., Community Affairs Complex and Divine Provisions Parking Lots I and II purchased with Margarretten building
1995: 280 McClellan Street property purchased and converted into the Mercy House
1995: First worship service at Cathedral Assembly by the Shore, Asbury Park, NJ
1995: Cathedral Community Development Corporation founded
1996: Grand march and opening of the Donald Hilliard Jr., Community Affairs Complex(205 Smith Street)
1997: Grand opening of the Cathedral Community Counseling Center
1997: 282 McClellan St. property purchased
1997: Family Life Enrichment Center (272 Madison Avenue) renovations completed
1997: Former Mercy House dedicated as the Timothy House (Transitional housing for men)
1998: Perth Amboy Zoning Board approves requests to build 10 homes on Jefferson Street
1998: First Ocean Baptism service in Atlantic Ocean, Asbury Park, NJ
1998: NJ Governor Whitman grants Perth Amboy special UCC area resulting from Cathedral Community Development Corporation petition
1999: Asbury Park Community Cornerstone Complex dedication and grand opening
1999: Second Baptist Church brings national organization Feed The Children to Perth Amboy 30 tons of food, books and toys distributed
1999: Grand opening of Joy in the City Day Care Center, 99 Broad St., Perth Amboy (relocated to 205 Smith Street)
2000: Official grand opening and dedication of The Mercy House (outreach center)
2001 – 2002: Grand opening of Cathedral Village; Purchased former Ice Cream Factory (Kaliedoscope); Purchased Amboy Florist; Purchased former Oasis Bar (Asbury Park); 205 Smith Street Condo (Pedidoc) CCDC; First Worship Service in Plainfield, NJ; Launched $25M Expanding Our Border Campaign; Church reaches 5,000 members mark
2003 – 2004: Grand opening of Book & Gift Shoppe (CCDC); Sold Amboy Florist; Planted churches in Bear, DE, Teaneck, NJ, and Easton, PA; TNT Building in contract for sale; “Say Yes” Broadcast returns; Closed on 100 acres in Cranbury, NJ.
2004: Officially change the name of the church from Second Baptist Church to Cathedral International
2006: Ground Blessing Ceremony in Cranbury, NJ; launched worldwide live streaming of worship services; launched Angel Food program
2008 – 2010: Celebrated Bishop Donald Hilliard, Jr.’s 25th Pastoral Anniversary; Commenced Bible Study in Jackson, NJ; Renewed annual Picnic in E. Windsor, NJ; Launched Debt Elimination Campaign; Launched 10 Year Planning Process
2012: Created a Social Media presence on Facebook and Twitter
2013: Celebrated Bishop Donald Hilliard, Jr.’s 30th Pastoral Anniversary; State Attorney General conducted Gun Buy Back Program on Cathedral Campus; Raritan Bay Area YMCA became a tenant and opened a childcare center
2014: Bishop Hilliard takes a three month sabbatical; Cathedral International celebrates 110 years of ministry;