Main Baptist Church History
1867 – Present
1867 – Present
“Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.”
Over one hundred years ago some of God’s people prayed, in faith, believing that what God promised He would perform. The answer to this particular prayer was the birth of a church, The Colored Baptist Church in Aurora, Illinois.
Our church, Main Baptist Church, had its beginning in the Park Place Baptist Church, which was instrumental in the transportation of slaves to Aurora by way of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War days. After the Emancipation, more Negroes migrated to the North, and some settled here in Aurora. Park Place Baptist manifested its concern by welcoming Negroes as part of its congregation. As they grew in numbers and met in their homes for prayer meetings, they felt the need for their own place of worship. At that time, Rev. Buttons, the Pastor of Park Place, was approached by Rev. Barnett, the leader of the Negro membership, concerning a church organization.
Thus, through the help of Rev. Buttons and Park Place Baptist Church, the Colored Baptist Church of Aurora came into being in June 1867.
Around the 1890’s, a frame church was erected on the present site. The property was a gift to the church from a prominent Aurora citizen. Services were held in the basement. At this time, the name of the church became Third Baptist. Because there was no baptismal pool, baptismal services were held at Claim Street Baptist Church.
On November 24, 1924, Third Baptist Church was torn down and worship services were held in the G.A.R. Hall, Aurora City Hall, Labor Temple, and various other places. On Sunday, August 23, 1925, Rev. G. W. Alexander preached the sermon for the ‘Laying of the Cornerstone” and the church was renamed Main Street Baptist Church.
During the first 48 years, the following Ministers served as Pastor (though not necessarily in this order): Rev. E. R. Moore, Rev. Edward Robinson, Rev. William Webster, Rev. Ernhouse, Rev. E. H. Beverly, Rev. John Ford, Rev. E. H. Borden, Rev. George Dickerson, Rev. Hackney, Rev. Vernon Cooper, Rev. William Gray, Rev. B. P. E. Gayles, Rev C. B. Smith, and Rev. Alton Blake.
Some of the organizations started were choir, quartet, Sunday School, Missionary Society, B.Y.P.U., as was the introduction of the envelope system of paying church dues and the tithing method of supporting the church.
In November 1949, Rev. Joseph L. Griffin of Chicago accepted the call as our Pastor. Additional organizations of the church included the Junior Missionary Society, the Volunteer Service Guild, Willing Workers Club; observance programs of the Pastor’s Anniversary, Women’s Day, and Men’s Day were started along with the purchase of the parsonage at 19 N. East Avenue and the establishment of a Scholarship Fund. Through gospel preaching, revivals, and faithful witnessing, growth in our church membership increased.
In November 1954, Rev. Griffin resigned and for the next five months, our church was without a Pastor. During this time, our congregation was led by Deacon Charles Barbee, Chairman of the Deacons Board, together with his fellow deacons.
In April 1955, Rev. Robert Wesby became our Pastor. During his pastorate, Children’s Church, the Pathfinders, Silent Helpers, and the Credit Union were organized. Rev. Churchill Cowherd was ordained and served as Assistant to the Pastor. Other accomplishments under Rev. Wesby’s pastorate included the Sunday evening broadcast over WMRO and purchasing 818 E. Galena Blvd.
In November 1963, Rev. Wesby resigned as our pastor and Rev. Churchill Cowherd served as Interim Pastor.
On Mother’s Day, May 14, 1964, we enthusiastically welcomed Rev. Robert Edward Morgan as our Spiritual Commander and he continued the legacy of the Main Street Baptist Church by addressing the needs of the individual, the church, and the community. He created many new organizations, when necessary, and reactivated others. Namely, adding new Trustees (women trustees, a first in the life of our church, were added; they were Sisters Estella Smith, Martha Dade, Tommie Wells, Eunice Tresenwriter, and Donna Williams) and Deacons; organization of the Pastor’s Aid, Men’s Club, Church Council, Christian Education Board, Deaconess, Mothers’ Board, Nurses’ Aid Guild, as well as a Youth Fellowship.
Due to the changing of the names of many of the streets in Aurora, it became necessary for a church name change; by popular vote, we became Main Baptist Church in 1964.
During the third year of Rev. Morgan’s pastorate, a comprehensive building and expansion program was launched to meet the educational and sanctuary needs. Rev. Morgan resigned his pastorate in the Fall of 1972 and again Rev. Churchill Cowherd served as Interim Pastor.
On August 12, 1973, Rev. Dezo McGill became pastor of our church. His first endeavor was to advance the Sunday School hour and add Baptist Training Union workshops before the Sunday morning worship hour. A nursery during morning worship was instituted with Sister Dorothy Walton directing. In September 1974, a church library was established and dedicated honoring the labor of Rev. Robert E. Morgan and the Hostess committee was organized to greet members and visitors each Sunday.
On Sunday, June 8, 1980, the church mortgage was burned in the presence of Rev. Dezo McGill, Rev. Robert E. Morgan, Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield, city officials, and the congregation-at-large. This signified that the debt was paid in full and we praised God for this and all blessings! Under Rev. McGill’s leadership we also purchased an additional lot to provide much needed parking spaces for our growing congregation and an additional Worship Service at 7:30 a.m. was instituted in December 1980 to eliminate overcrowding at our 11:00 a.m. Worship Service.
Because of the vision of our Pastor and his concern in meeting the needs of our growing church and community, the following ministries and organizations were added to the church program: Golden Agers Ministry, Family Night, Tape Ministry, Mission II, Women’s Bible Study and Prayer Group, The Adventures of the 3R’s Summer Learning Program, Evangelistic Committee, Men’s Ministry, Singles Ministry, Marriage Ministry, Toastmasters, New Members Class, part- time Children’s Church Pastor and assistants.
Property was purchased and renovated at 808 E. Galena Blvd. for our education annex and was dedicated in the Fall of 1993. In addition to housing our nursery and Children’s Church, Sunday School classes were also held there. Pastor McGill also had global incite and started Africa Crusade Ministry, a team that traveled to Zimbabwe Africa for over 25 years teaching, preaching, and providing outreach ministry to thousands upon thousands.
In October 2006, Pastor McGill announced his retirement after 32 years and Minister Larry Spires served as Interim Pastor. Our Deacons’ Ministry, chaired by Deacon Hase Phillips, established a Pulpit Committee which faced an awesome task of searching, screening, and presenting candidates to us seeking to shepherd us as Pastor.
On June 2, 2007, Rev. Dr. Julian E. Spencer of Tracy, California accepted the call to lead us, bringing the vision of Main Baptist Church being Christ-Centered, Purpose-Driven, and Spirit-Led. We seek to be the church ‘Where Christ is the MAIN Thing!’ (Colossians 3:11). As Pastor Spencer has brought vision and energy to our church family, we remain COMMITTED. ‘Committed . . . to Christ, His Church, and our Community’.
Our commitment continues to go beyond the walls of our current edifice. Pastor Spencer established The Good Samaritan Network (GSN) - a not-for-profit organization - designed to connect what we do in missions with the community. Annually the GSN co-sponsors a Back-to-School event as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas events. Every Tuesday we ‘Feed Thy Neighbor’ by providing not only food for the body, but also spiritual food for the soul. During the week our Bible Study is inspiring as we study and commit in Abundant Life Groups both in the church and throughout the community. Our Sunday Worship Experience reaches hundreds as we worship at 7:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 11:00 a.m., providing webcasts so that the service can be viewed ‘live’ throughout the country.
As we reflect on our 147 year journey, we take the time to thank God for the journey – for without Him, we could do nothing. Looking forward to ‘Building Our Future’, God has given Pastor Spencer the vision for a new facility. The Unity Center, affectionately called “The U”, will have more than 860 seats and approximately 32,000 sq. ft. of flexible space to offer ministry-related activities seven days a week.
We thank God for His faithfulness to this ministry. We thank Him for continued growth and strength to move forward as an effective and spiritual pillar in this community, striving toward the Mark of the High Calling of Christ. We will continue to press forward for the advancement of the Kingdom of God by proclaiming the Word of God, leading lost souls to Christ, and ministering to the needs of the saved and unsaved in the church congregation, local community, across the nation, and throughout the world.