The Rev. Joseph M. Brown Sr., founder and pastor of Manna Bible Baptist Church in Baltimore's Pimlico neighborhood, died of cancer Thursday at Sinai Hospital. The Northwest Baltimore resident was 81.
Mr. Brown was born and raised in Philadelphia. During World War II, he served in the Army with the military police in Europe, attaining the rank of sergeant.
After the war, he returned to Philadelphia and worked for the post office for a decade while studying theology at Manna Bible Institute. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1957 in Philadelphia and from 1958 to 1968 was pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church at Eden and Chase streets in Baltimore.
In 1968, Mr. Brown founded Manna Bible Baptist Church in the 3400 block of W. Belvedere Ave.
"He was brought to the church by the conflict he saw during World War II, and he continued preaching until two weeks before his death," said a son, Joseph M. Brown Jr. of Catonsville. "My father's whole life was serving Christ."
Mr. Brown also conducted the Grace Memorial Hour, a daily gospel radio program that he founded more than 40 years ago.
"He had such a passion for evangelism and the love of God and the human family," said the Rev. Keith G. Greer, a former associate at Manna Bible and now pastor of Clearview Baptist Church in Randallstown. "His sermons preached on Sunday for 300 to 400 people were recorded and through the week they were broadcast around the world, where they reached tens of thousands."
The Rev. Paul J. Lewis, a friend of 45 years and founder of Berean Bible Church in Baltimore, said: "He was a man who never changed over the years. He rejected the pressures to become a megachurch and refused to go along or compromise his beliefs. He wasn't interested in being a star and just wanted to bring others along with him.
"He was forceful in his delivery when preaching, but at no time did he try to excite people's emotions," Mr. Lewis added. "He didn't have to shout. He taught Christianity as a lifestyle - that had to be lived every day."
"He ran the race from the beginning of his life to the end, preaching the word of God and winning souls over to the church," said Julius E. Brockington, who has been church organist and music director since 1978. "He won me over. I came from the world of drugs and nightlife where I played with my band. I followed my daughter to his church one Sunday and got saved right there."
Mr. Brown was especially proud of his church's three choirs.
"He loved good gospel music with a message, and he always went over with me what the choirs were going to sing," Mr. Brockington said. "The music had to have a message."
Mr. Brown enjoyed attending family reunions, reading and bowling.
Services will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at his church.
Survivors also include his wife of 63 years, the former Kathryn Moore; another son, Stephen A. Brown of Towson; a daughter, Sharon D. Simms of Randallstown; six grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.