Olivet Institutional Baptist Church stands as one of the nation’s leading cathedrals of the African-American religious experience. A Christian congregation thriving in an urban setting, Olivet’s membership spans across the city of Cleveland and throughout the northeast Ohio region. Historically, Olivet has had a celebrated tradition of activism through its engagement and advocacy in addressing some of the significant social causes of the day, including civil rights, social justice and public health. This involvement has figured in Olivet’s national recognition. The Olivet pulpit has received some of the world’s most recognized global figures of peace, justice, equality, compassion and goodwill including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Presidents Jimmy Carter and William Jefferson Clinton; Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore; Oprah Winfrey; and some of the nation’s most inspiring preachers. Today Olivet continues to strive to be a spiritual community aimed at spiritual growth, raising social awareness and reaching out to enhance the quality of life for the human family.
The seed that is now Olivet was planted during one of the most economically depressed periods in this nation’s history. During this time, African Americans continued to migrate to the northeast and Midwest in large numbers, all seeking to build better lives and live out their dreams. Many sought places of worship that were welcoming, reminiscent of their past experiences, and that could provide the kind of nurturing that was part of a familiar religious tradition. It was during this period, in early 1931, that a group of former members of the Triedstone Baptist Church began meeting to create a place where a community of like believers could worship. Hoping to bring the Light of Jesus Christ to the larger community, New Light Baptist Church was established and for the next two years was led by Pastor A.W. Nix. Growth was slow but steady and the original group of forty members slowly became one hundred and fifty members at the end of its second year.
Many challenges were apparent as this new church struggled to continue, and new leadership was sought. In the summer of 1933 and after several months of searching, Reverend N.H. Armstrong became pastor. And for the next four years, the church grew in membership and ministry. The church’s focus changed from “bringing more of the light of Jesus Christ to the community” to focusing on “Christ’s ascension from the Mount of Olives”, thus New Light became Olivet. In 1937, as opportunities in education, employment, and housing slowly became more available, Rev. Armstrong resigned his pastorate
During a period of several months without a pastor, membership decreased substantially making it necessary for the church to find smaller quarters, and to continue the search for yet another leader. Thankfully, in the fall of 1937, Rev. Eugene Ward accepted the pastorate and became the church’s third leader. A decision was made to incorporate in Ohio as Olivet Baptist Church but another church had already incorporated under this name; therefore, the name was changed to Second Olivet Baptist Church.
As social conditions began to improve and economic conditions started to rebound, the Cleveland community was able to provide more jobs in the manufacturing, automobile, steel and oil industries. Members of Olivet filled many of these jobs thereby ably providing for their families and contributing to their church and communities. Other families and individuals began to join Olivet in large numbers signaling the need for a larger church. In early 1950, ground was broken for a new state-of-the-art facility. Unfortunately, legal challenges would delay construction two years hence.
During this time, Rev. Ward’s 13-year tenure as pastor of Olivet ended.
In I952, led by God and called by the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Dr. Hoover began a tenure which would last over two decades leading this congregation through one of its greatest periods of growth and expansion. His ministry during this period would not only transform Olivet but leave a lasting impact on the city of Cleveland, its clergy and the African-American community. As Olivet’s fourth pastor, Dr. Hoover, with his wife Lodene at his side, developed a holistic model of ministry, embodied in the institutional church movement of that time which aimed to minister to the soul through spiritual and social uplift. Through his efforts, what was the Second Olivet Baptist Church became the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church under his leadership. He was the driving force, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, behind the 1954 completion of the church’s present 1,500 seat sanctuary, which was at that time the largest sanctuary designed by and built by an African American architect and congregation in the city of Cleveland. In 1966, Olivet would further expand with the opening of the O.M. Hoover Christian Community Center, a space dedicated to fellowship and recreation. Its establishment would be a standing testament of Dr. Hoover’s vision of “Making Our Neighborhood A Brotherhood”. Dr. Hoover was a 1949 graduate American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, TN. He was conferred the Doctor of Divinity (hon.) for his distinguished service in ministry and civic contributions.On November 7, 1973, at the age of 52, Dr. Hoover entered into eternity while still leading the congregation which he had served for more than two decades years.
A year later, in December of 1974, Olivet was blessed with its fifth pastor when Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. accepted the Call. He served Olivet for thirty-three years expanding the vision to one “of a church whose doors are high enough to bring in your mind with your body”; and, developing the church’s mission, “To preach, teach and practice the unconditional love of Jesus Christ” The accomplishments during his ministry loom large, most notably, and to name a few: the appointment of women to the governance bodies of the church– both the Boards of Deacons and Trustees; the founding of the Olivet Housing and Community Development Corporation resulting in the building of a two million dollar Health facility on the Quincy Avenue campus. In partnership with University Hospitals, this comprehensive health clinic combines pastoral care, spiritual intervention, wellness and education to deliver quality, outpatient care to residents of Fairfax and other surrounding communities. This facility is appropriately named in his honor the Otis Moss, Jr.—University Hospitals Medical Center.
Theologian, pastor, and civic leader the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., has been one of America’s most influential religious leaders and highly sought-after public speakers. His work in the international community has taken him to Hong Kong, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, West Africa, South Africa and Israel. He served as an advisor to former President Carter at Camp David and in 1994 he was the special guest of former president Clinton at the Peace Treaty signing between Israel and Jordan. He presently serves on President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Council.
Dr. Moss also serves on the board of trustees at Morehouse College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1956. He earned a Masters of Divinity Degree from the Morehouse School of Religion (ITC) in 1959 and holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH. In 2004, Dr. Moss was bestowed the unique honor of the Lyman Beecher Lectureship on Preaching, Yale University. He also holds six honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. In 2008, Dr. Moss retired and was recognized as Pastor Emeritus for his distinguished service.
In 2009, the Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin became the 6th of Olivet. Reverend Colvin is a cum laude graduate of Morehouse College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) with a double major in History and Religion. He earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) from Columbia University.
A proponent of Christian praxis, Reverend Colvin has sought to integrate personal devotion and critical reflection into a ministry of social action and transformation. He has been a voice in the pulpit and activist in the community on matters of justice, equity and reform. Under Pastor Colvin’s leadership, Olivet has renewed its commitment to faith through action and wholistic transformation of self and society.
Today, Olivet continues to grow with over 4,000 members across the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio. An intergenerational congregation which embraces its cultural and spiritual traditions as well as innovative waves to reach across boundaries, Olivet seeks to minister to the Christian family and global community through the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Olivet Institutional Baptist Church is to be a community of faith energized, active, inspired and engaged to share the Gospel and spread the love of Jesus Christ.
REACHING HIGHER in our commitment to excellence in service to others and in the practice of ministry (Psalm 8:1, Mark 7:31-37)
REACHING HIGHER in the use of our creativity, our imagination, our talents, our gifts, our skills and our resources to be an active and vibrant ministry in the 21st century (Matthew 25:14-30; Malachi 3:10)
GROWING STRONGER in our intention to be an intergenerational church where youth, young adults, seasoned saints and seniors are nurtured, honored and engaged (Acts 2:17; Luke 18:16)
GROWING STRONGER in our focus on Spirit-filled, soul-stirring and innovative worship as a source of spiritual renewal and inspiration; while continuing to celebrate fulfilling traditions (John 4:24, Colossians 3:16)
GROWING STRONGER in our passion for spiritual transformation; seeking to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ thereby enhancing the quality of our fellowship with one another through practice of spiritual discliplines (John 15:1-7, Romans 12:1-2