In the autumn of 1929, the American economy stood perched on the brink of the worst depression in its history. Shiloh felt the tug of the sluggish economy well before the Great Stock Market Crash in October of that year. Her financial picture was bleak, the active membership had fallen to a little over 500 people, and there was no evidence to suggest economic recovery for the nation as a whole, much less for Shiloh in particular, and the pulpit was vacant. In those dark days of 1930 Shiloh looked to a man such as Rev. Earl L. Harrison to bring a ray of hope to its people and to carry them into a new day of prosperity. In September 1930, Rev. Harrison was called to become Shiloh’s fourth pastor. Thus began the longest era of pastoral leadership in Shiloh’s history. Coming to Shiloh in November 1930, Rev. Harrison ushered in a flowing spirit of reconciliation, sacrifice and perseverance.
Despite great adversity throughout much of his youth and early manhood, Rev. Harrison continued to see the bright side of life and to give his best to every situation. He said of each church he pastored: “I gave my best in dedicated service, as if I expected to spend a lifetime with that congregation. I did my best in everything I undertook to do.”
We can place Shiloh’s focus and mission within two identifiable periods under Rev. Harrison’s leadership. The first would be called the Period of Recovery when, between 1930 and 1943 the church regrouped, reorganized, revived the innovative energy of its past, and ultimately regained its strength. Recovery represented a process of internal development. In 1930 Rev. Harrison had taken an active congregation of fewer than 600 and built a church of more than 4,000 by 1942. The second period, the Period of Extension, occurred primarily after 1944 and continued at the time of Harrison’s death. Financially secure and with the largest membership in the District, Shiloh extended its holdings and ministries into space hitherto undeveloped. This latter period reflected a growing awareness of Shiloh’s role in community development. The continuation of this focus is evident in the development of the Henry C. Gregory III Family Life Center under the pastorate of the late Rev. Henry C. Gregory III and the Wallace Charles Smith Community Services Center under our current pastor, Rev. Wallace Charles Smith.
As we celebrate the majesty and steadfastness of our Lord that has guided Shiloh toward the victory of the Great Commission for almost 150 years, we are most excited to welcome Rev. Harrison’s grandson, the Rev. Eugene James III and his congregation of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church.