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North Brentwood pastor celebrates 50 years at the pulpit plan was to stay for two years. But the Lord had another plan for me, the Mitchellville resident said. wanted me to remain at this church, in this town, in this community. I had to be open to receiving what he had in store for me. 74, moved to the area from Mississippi to attend Howard University in 1950. He began at First Baptist in May of 1958 and two years later led a bus of Freedom Riders to Tallahassee, Fla., to protest segregation a trip that ended with 10 people, including Smith, in jail. church was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, he said. sent, well I took, assistance to people in the south who needed it. said he believes the church commitment to fighting injustice and emphasis on young people, education and political awareness has helped the congregation grow. registration is constant in the church. They can register right here in the building, he said. give [the congregation] exposure to candidates. We can not endorse [a candidate], but we believe in political education. said he is also proud of the role that women play at First Baptist, as many hold leadership positions. a lot of churches women aren allowed to preach. Women can even be in the pulpit to make an announcement, said Rita Franklin, chairwoman of the deacon ministry. Until 1996, the church had a deaconess ministry that was separate from the deacon ministry, but since a deaconess is not a scriptural office, Smith decided to combine the two groups. Smith, who has served as the president of the Prince George chapter of the NAACP, the head of the county community action department and the first chaplain of the Black Ministries Program at the University of Maryland, College Park, said he also strives to create a family environment in the church. is an emphasis on having a family atmosphere. I like to try to know people on a first name basis and I will call and check on people from time to time, he said. Franklin, who has been at First Baptist for 30 years, said she is amazed at how Smith is able to remember the names of more than 3,000 members. I came, there were 300 or 400 members. At that time it felt like a family and it still feels, with 3,000, members like a family, she said. knows and remembers about folks. He remembers everyone by name, and not just that, he remembers what going on in their lives. 102 year old church, which moved into an million facility three years ago, has more than 20 ministries and youth education programs, including a technology center where they teach basic computer knowledge to both children and adults. Franklin said it was the youth programs that caused her and her husband to originally join First Baptist. had just gotten married, the Adelphi resident said. were attracted because we knew they had good programs for youth and we knew we wanted to have children. church held an anniversary gala May 18 and an anniversary worship service May 25 to celebrate Smith 50 years as the church pastor. Smith said he hopes to spend a few more years at First Baptist, working to solidify the programs that began during his tenure.