In The Beginning The Saints of God would meet at 1718 W. Wesley Street, (now Edmaire Street), the home of Sister Anna Southern. Among these founding worshippers was Sister Gilmore the mother of Evangelist Marion Williams, founder and first pastor of the Dixmoor House of Prayer Church in Dixmoor, Illinois.
In February 1923, that group of saints was legally adopted as the Morgan Park Assembly Church into the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Brother Herbert Clyde Moore of Indianapolis, Indiana was selected as pastor and officially took office over the congregation of about 25 people in May of 1923. Elder Moore did not come alone he brought his lovely bride, Sister Maude E. Moore, who proved time and again to be truly a first lady of the church and the surrounding community.
The little group of saints purchased property to build their first church home. However, being such a small organization, the contractor would not trust them in building a new church, so a storefront was settled upon. Bishop G. T. Haywood of Indianapolis, Indiana dedicated the storefront in February of 1925. Brother Charles Johnson was the first Assistant Pastor.
The years 1929 through 1936 were known as the lean years. The church was plagued with financial difficulties. In 1934, Mr. J.T. Yerkes, a church friend and businessman, took over the mortgage and cut the payments. He also promised that when the mortgage balance had been paid down to $500, he would donate that amount and release the mortgage. On October 18, 1938, Mr. Yerkes promise was kept and the last mortgage payment was made. The saints lifted up their voices and rejoiced for they knew it was truly the Lord that had brought them through. Now it was time to go a step further.
A building fund was started to remodel the storefront into a real church edifice. In December 1940, the Morgan Park Assembly Church witnessed its second Dedication Service. Elder R.Tobin of Indianapolis, Indiana dedicated the new church. The little church prospered and grew. Many of the auxiliaries that we enjoy today had their beginnings in that new church.
God blessed Elder Moore to have the prayer, support and working power of: Deacons Thomas Foster, Andrew Scott, Abraham Glenn, Andrew Davis, John Turk, Ernest Duncan, Horace Garner and Arlington Carter. These men along with Trustee John Wakefield, Elder Val Johnson and Elder Robert Baggett, who was appointed Assistant Pastor in 1962, helped shape the destiny of the Morgan Park Assembly Church.
The Lord continued to bless the Morgan Park Assembly Church and soon it became apparent that it was again time to move. Plans for fundraising to finance a new church were initiated. The church was blessed to be able to purchase adjacent lots to build on. This meant that relocation would not be over a great distance but actually next door. What a blessing! Fundraising took several years but the prayers and efforts of the saints proved fruitful and in March 1971 ground was broken for the next New Church.
The Lord spoke to Elder Robert Baggett, the Assistant Pastor and told him to speak to Elder Moore in regards to putting the entire Bible, His Word, in the foundation of the church while the cement was being poured. Elder Moore readily accepted the challenge and thus the Word of God was distributed: Old Testament Books, Prophets and Psalms were distributed along half of the west wall and the North wall. Along the East wall Elder Moore distributed the Gospel of Saint Matthew up to Chapter 15 and then told Elder Baggett to finish. Elder Baggett then continued along the East wall laying the remaining chapters of St. Matthew, and the Gospels of St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. He laid the Book of Acts, Romans and the Epistles in the foundation of the South wall and finished by laying the Book of Revelations along the remaining half of the west wall.
The church was truly built on the Word of God.
On Sunday, January 16, 1972, Elder Moore led the march from the Old Church, at 11413 South Vincennes to the new Church at 11401 South Vincennes. Bishop John S. Holly dedicated the new church home.
The saints quickly adjusted to their new church home. In 1973 a memorable celebration was held on Elder Moores 50th pastoral anniversary to show the saints appreciation. In September of that same year the church was again celebrating; this time it was the 32nd Annual Church Convention. But alas, this time it seems the celebration was only a prelude to sadness. On October 1, 1973, just at the close of the convention, Elder Herbert Clyde Moore passed away into Glory. The Mantle of Authority must now be passed on. Only Be Strong and of Good Courage The new church faced the period of adjustment with prayer and determination under the leadership of Elder Baggett as acting Pastor from October 1973 until he was elected Pastor in December 1974. On February 16, 1975, Elder Robert A. Baggett was installed as Pastor of the Morgan Park Assembly Church. He, along with his loving and faithful wife, Sister Elaine Baggett, began a higher service for the Lord. They had been well prepared for this position by their diligent service in various auxiliaries over the years. Elder Andrew Davis was appointed Assistant Pastor and the new leaders began to conquer the challenges of leadership. Fundraising activities were blessed and on February 20, 1977, the Morgan Park Assembly Church held a Mortgage Burning Service. This was a special blessing because the 15-year mortgage was being liquidated after only 5 years. The church enjoyed the enviable position of being mortgage free!
Elder Baggett was appointed to the office of District Elder in 1979.
The Lord brought to District Elder Baggetts attention how our church was sometimes confused with other churches in our community. Even the doctrine at times was questioned. Thus, the name Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park was adopted in 1982 so that everyone would know who and what we were.
Without a Vision
The congregation of about 400 rapidly grew as the Lords blessings flowed. District Elder Baggett appointed Elder F.W. Jackson as a second Assistant Pastor. As the church continued to grow, District Elder Baggett found it necessary to appoint yet another Assistant Pastor in the person of Elder Louis LaFayette, Jr. As the congregation continued to increase the whispers of expansion became a shout.
Again fundraising activities were implemented and on June 26, 1983 a symbolic by faith groundbreaking ceremony took place on the site of the proposed addition, which at that time was the south parking lot. It was District Elder Baggetts vision to take the community in the natural as well as the spiritual. The Honorable Mayor Harold Washington, (then mayor of Chicago), was one of the honorary groundbreakers at the ceremony. Though spirits and expectations were high, we had no idea that the fruition of District Elder Baggetts vision would lead us on an almost 10 year odyssey.
In 1986, the membership was at approximately 1100. Our sanctuary was bulging at the seams. The balcony was always crowded. Chairs were being set up across the back of the sanctuary and down every aisle attempting to alleviate the crowding during services and still the people stood in every available spot. The journey to building the new edifice was fraught with financial obstacles, construction delays and sometimes discouragement.
Let us Hold Fast
It was during this period that the church suffered another staggering blow. On January 7, 1990, our beloved Elder Andrew Davis, Assistant Pastor was called to Glory. He was sorely missed. He was a teacher, mentor, brother and friend to us all. Several of the young ministers who studied and fellowshipped with him have gone on to become pastors and teachers. Many of us still have wonderful Elder Davis stories we treasure. We owe a loving and grateful Thank You to his wife, Sister Alexine Davis for sharing her husband with us.
District Elder Baggett appointed Elder Bobbe Worthon as Assistant Pastor to share the help with the ever-increasing membership.
In spite of the halting, unsteady progress of the building expansion, the actual building of the church was finally completed in 1993. As with the original building, the pages of the Bible are distributed in the foundation of the new structure.
On June 6, 1993, District Elder Baggett was given the honor of having a portion of Edmaire Street renamed Dr. Robert A. Baggett, Sr. Drive. Later that year in September, we marched into the new edifice on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The original sanctuary was promptly named in honor of the first Pastor, Elder Herbert C. Moore. The Prayer room in the new building was aptly named in memory of one of our favorite prayer warriors, Elder Andrew Davis. The new dining hall was named for District Elder Robert A. Baggett, who was elevated to the position of Suffragan Bishop in January 1995.
Be Ye Steadfast
The saints had barely begun to settle into their new surroundings when Suffragan Bishop Baggett informed his congregation that he was retiring.
God told Suffragan Bishop Baggett his successor was to be Bishop William Anthony Ellis of San Antonio, Texas. Bishop Ellis and his wife, Sister Mary P. Ellis, were Pastor and First Lady of the Greater Lincoln Park Temple in San Antonio. Bishop Ellis was also Chief Prelate of the 15th Episcopal Diocese of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Bishop Ellis was asked by Suffragan Bishop Baggett to seek the mind of God in his decision to accept the mantle of authority here at the Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park. In December 1995, the congregation elected and accepted Bishop William A. Ellis as the third Pastor of their church.
Bishop Ellis enjoys a rich Pentecostal heritage. His father was the late Elder Charles Ellis, founder of the Indiana Avenue Pentecostal Church of God, (35th Street), in Chicago. His older brother, the late Bishop David Ellis, was pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan. His son, Elder Jonathon Ellis, a dynamic young preacher in his own right, has become a part of the heritage since he became succeeding Pastor of Greater Lincoln Park Temple.
The Sacred Service of Installation and Affirmation of Bishop William A. Ellis as Pastor and President of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park took place on March 17, 1996. It was a grand occasion. Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, then Suffragan Bishop Horace Smith, District Elder Edward McGhee, and Bishop David Ellis were some of the program participants of note.
One of the more poignant moments of the ceremony was the anointing of Bishop William Ellis by his brother Bishop David Ellis. That moment was to become even more treasured and precious in our memories. Just two days after the glorious celebration, God called Bishop David Ellis home. Our newly elected Pastor and First Lady were at once thrown into a position of adjusting to a new congregation and coping with a devastating loss.
The entire congregation kept Bishop and First Lady Ellis lifted in prayer as they went about the business of locating a home in the Chicago area and becoming acclimated to their new positions under the burden of their grief.
In the summer of 1996 we bid fond farewells and asked Gods continued blessings upon Suffragan Bishop and Sister Baggett as they retired to Las Vegas, Nevada. Their son Robert, Jr. and his family accompanied them, and their daughter Eileen soon followed.
Eye Hath Not Seen Nor Ear Heard
His declaration of Im Bishop E and Ive been set free and his rendering of the song Down through the Years in memory of his brother, Bishop David Ellis, were undeniable signs that Bishop E had indeed settled in to make the Park his home. The whirlwind transition into the Ellis Dynasty was a non-stop praise and worship feast. Our youthful and dynamic Pastor implemented new ideas and brought changes to the Park that put a new focus on the growth of the church.
Amidst the joys of transition there was also sorrow in the loss of an integral part of our past. On September 21, 2001 we received the sad news from Las Vegas, Nevada of the passing of Suffragan Bishop Robert A, Baggett, Sr., our Pastor Emeritus. Ironically, as with the passing of our first Pastor, Elder Herbert C. Moore, we were just at the close of the annual church convention.
We Shall Run and Not Be Weary
Bishop Ellis free spirit and friendly, open personality have gained him respect and recognition in the political, entertainment and of course, the religious communities. He has introduced renowned speakers of diverse origins to give the congregation a vast scope of learning and applying Gods word. He established an Annual Leadership Conference to govern our 45 ministries and insure unified knowledge in the administration and service of the Church on a continual basis.
Bishops keen sense for order and beauty in Gods house has prompted many changes to the church's interior. New carpeting was installed, pews were reupholstered and the pulpit was redesigned giving the sanctuary a fresh new look. Balcony guardrails were replaced with stronger and more attractive brass rails. The kitchen was expanded and equipped with updated appliances allowing the culinary staff to better accommodate the growing congregations natural appetites.
On the outside a data board keeps passers-by informed of the church's activities and cordially invites their presence. An additional parking lot was purchased and parking facilities were paved, landscaped and fenced, enhancing not only our church property but the neighborhood as well.
With the investment of purchasing new audio and video equipment our media ministry has evolved and developed to include not only a radio broadcast, but a very effective television broadcast also. The media ministry also includes capabilities of reproducing each service on audio or videotape and compact disc. The listeners and viewers now have access to each broadcast upon request.
As our visionary Pastor leads the congregation of approximately 2000 into this new millennium and as we enter into our eightieth year as a church literally built on the foundation of Gods word we indeed celebrate and thank God for this year of Release!
Written by Sister Pamela Norfleet