In 1840, the land of Lawnside was developed and purchased by abolitionists to establish a community for freed and escaped slaves, becoming the first independent, self-governing black municipality north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
In 1911, a small band of believers from Lawnside, who were committed to Baptist principals, formed a Baptist mission. In their efforts to remain true to their faith, they followed the biblical model of meeting in various homes and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Soon afterwards, these trailblazers erected a tent to hold services on the same site where the current church structure stands. There they began regular worship services, and in June 1915, they decided to establish the Grace Temple Baptist Church.
By 1917, Grace Temple had already begun building the first church on the highest elevation in the Borough of Lawnside, becoming fondly recognized as, “The Church on the Hill”.
The first small-framed church, which replaced the tent, stood on property purchased from Mr. Leslie Watkins, a local farmer. By 1920, under the pastoral leadership of the first recorded pastor, Reverend Rafael A. Johnson, Grace Temple began to mark milestones in ministries and ministry.
By 1928, under the pastoral leadership of Reverend J. Luke Jones, Grace Temple had progressed in all areas, especially membership. Unfortunately, in August of that same year, a fire destroyed the church building forcing the members to initiate a building program to offset debt incurred by the loss of everything in the fire.
As the nation was in the throes of the Great Depression, in 1931, Grace Temple welcomed the Reverend Joseph Payne, then Reverend W.H. Watson, who was instrumental in rebuilding the Church by 1938. He also led in connecting the Church with the National Baptist Convention, Bethany Baptist Association, and the New Light Union.
In 1942, Grace Temple celebrated its 27th anniversary with a banquet and a mortgage burning ceremony. In July 1943, under the pastoral leadership of the Reverend S. Howard Woodson, and then subsequently the Reverend H.H. Ficklin, Grace Temple increased its community involvement by permitting the Defense Council to use the Church’s basement as a casualty and first aid station during World War II. In addition, church collections were used to help equip the rest rooms at Fort Dix.
During this same period, Grace Temple erected a cross at the top of the building and recognized its first assistant pastor, the Reverend Lonnie E. Johnson, who became the pastor in 1960. The church also installed chimes to assist the community with daily time and instituted the annual community Good Friday Service.
As the 1980s approached, Grace Temple experienced its greatest increases in membership and financial support under the leadership of the Reverend Benny Smith and the Reverend Theodore Edmunds.
In April 1984, the current building was constructed and during this period, the congregation paid off a $300,000 mortgage, 18 years ahead of schedule.
By January 2003, Grace Temple welcomed its next pastor, Reverend Reggie Johnson who is credited with establishing a community development corporation and licensing the first female associate minister. Also, during this period, the congregation established an international partnership with Pastor Diosdado T. Tablac of the Philippians, which gave birth to Grace Temple Baptist Church of the Philippians.
After the retirement of Reverend Johnson, the Reverend Cheryl Gourdine served as Interim Pastor, becoming the first women to serve in role of Pastor.
With great anticipation, Grace Temple joyfully welcomed its eleventh and current pastor, the Reverend Dr. Charles L. McNeil, Sr. in August 2017. He comes with a renewed sense of purpose as Grace Temple forges ahead with the grace of God.