Monumental’s story begins during the third decade of the nineteenth century, thirty-seven years before Emancipation. No church is born in a vacuum, and one cannot understand or appreciate the long and glorious history of the African-American church, without analyzing the soil, which gave it birth.
When Monumental was born, John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, Joseph Watson was mayor of Philadelphia, and the abolitionist Frederick Douglas was eight years old. Times were bad for men and women of African descent. After the War of 1812, kidnappers operated openly, and according to Gary B. Nash, author of Forging Freedom, free blacks in Philadelphia were snatched, and transported down the Delaware River toward slave territory and sold or resold back into slavery.
While the rest of Philadelphia celebrated Independence Day on July 4, 1824, in segregated ceremonies, many blacks were holding their own meeting at Bethel A.M.E. Church to consider a proposal for resettlement in the Caribbean; having already opposed a sponsored African colonization effort several years earlier in 1817. Ultimately, the leading blacks of Philadelphia, including Richard Allen, concluded that to flee to another land was not the answer. Therefore, many who had left to settle in the Caribbean returned, and those who stayed became more determined to survive where they were.
In his book, 100 Years After Emancipation: History of the Philadelphia Negro, John A. Saunders chronicles the emergence of the black Church in Philadelphia. According to him, the years from 1825 -1837 saw the formation of five black congregations in Philadelphia: two Baptist, two Methodist, and one Lutheran. This proved to be an era unprecedented in institutional growth for blacks. Churches, benevolent societies, and other self-help projects began to shape the identity of the Philadelphia black community. Because of the evangelical fervor of the Baptists and Methodists, and the autonomy of Baptist churches, blacks flocked to these denominations in mass numbers. By the mid 1830’s there were 4000 black parishioners in fourteen churches.
It was during this period of growth that Monumental’s history began. On March 24th 1826, six free men and women met in the home of Abel and Ebba Ward, and organized the African Baptist Church of Blockley Township, Hamilton Village (also known as Blockley African Baptist Church). At the time the area called Blockley was not a part of the city of Philadelphia. The others present were: George H. Black, Sarah Black, Jacob Gardner, and Nancy Francis. A licentiate George H. Black, one of the founders, was ordained and called as the first pastor. According to the history of First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia, George Black was sent out from that congregation to help organize African Baptist Church.
From 1826 to 1829 worship services were held in the home of Abel and Ebba Ward. An earlier written history reports that the church became a “haven of rest” along the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom. Under Rev. Black’s leadership the congregation grew from six to twenty-six. According to a deed recorded September 6, 1883, three of the early church trustees were: William Washington, Jacob Gardener, and Matthias Black. Matthias Black was born in 1810, served as church clerk from 1834 to 1871, and was also choir director and superintendent of what was then called the “Sabbath School.” He died March 15, 1872.
In 1829 a lot was purchased on the corner of what is now 41st and Ludlow Streets, and a small frame “meeting house” was erected, about which little is known. Also in 1829, the small body was recognized by the Philadelphia Baptist Association, a fellowship of American Baptist Churches (white) given institutional authority to recognize other Baptist churches. Rev. Black resigned in 1829 because of failing health, but returned as pastor from 1835-1837, after the four-year pastorate of Rev. Leven Stokely. When Rev. John Givens became the third pastor in January 1837 the membership had increased to thirty-seven. Rev. Givens, a former member of Tenth Baptist Church (white), was the first to receive a stipulated salary, which was fifty dollars a year.
Rev. William Jackson came to pastor the church in January 1841 following his ordination September 16, 1842 at the age of 23. Our fourth pastor, he was born August 18, 1818 in Norfolk, Va., and according to a work published in 1869 entitled, History of the Churches of New Bedford, was a “zealous champion of the rights of his race.” His father was employed during the War of 1812. He had moved to Philadelphia in 1831 after the Nat Turner insurrection, and was an agent on the Underground Railroad. He also served on board the US Sloop (single-mast
sailing vessel) Vandalia from 1834 – 1835 and was described as “a man of strong will and untiring perseverance.” He would serve thirteen years, longer than any previous pastor. He married Jane Adora, and they were parents of nine children. In the spring of 1844 under the leadership of Rev. Jackson, construction began on a new building, which would measure 23 feet by 40 feet and cost sixteen hundred dollars, no small feat for these few blacks a little less than two decades before the start of the War Between the States.
The building was underway by 1845, the year inscribed on the cornerstone, completed in 1846 and dedicated July 7, 1848. The church bell was installed in December 1853. Again, according to the previously mentioned New Bedford history, the church was the “first colored church that ever had a bell.” It was thought that black churches were not allowed to have a bell so that fugitive slaves could not be warned of impending danger. In 1853, during Rev. Jackson’s tenure, the church, which was then facing Oak Street (later renamed Ludlow St.), was renamed Oak Street Baptist Church. On occasion, he was given leave to serve churches in Newburgh, NY and Wilmington, DE. While at Oak St., and after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, one of his parishioners, William Henry Taylor, was captured and arrested as a fugitive slave. He speaks in his own words. …I felt myself nerved with moral and physical courage to do my duty, and save a brother man from perpetual and cruel bondage. Hence, as the leader of a band of brave men, we went forth and rescued the prisoner from the clutches of the United states Marshall…we gave [Taylor] the attire of a woman, and successfully landed him in a few hours on the shores of Canada, where he found shelter and friends in the city of Toronto. As the leader of the rescuing party, I was duly arrested and incarcerated in the city jail.
Through the efforts of powerful sympathizers, he was soon released, but his actions aroused the ire of many white citizens. Therefore, it was deemed unsafe for him to remain in Philadelphia. Resigning Oak St. in 1854, and leaving his wife and children, he relocated to New Bedford, MA, a hotbed of abolitionist activity, where he became pastor of the Second Baptist Church and a friend of abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, who also was living in the city at during time. While there, he became a founding member of the New Bedford Vigilance Aid Society, a group that assisted fugitive slaves in their effort to reach freedom, and was known for “his ardent opposition to the efforts to promote the return of Blacks to West Africa through the American Colonization Society.” Leaving his family behind in Philadelphia was painful for the couple, and many letters between them have survived, some containing painful accounts of the hardships of their necessary separation, and the deaths of six of their nine children who died either in infancy or during their childhood years. Rev. Samuel Miles conducted services for the remainder of the year.
According to the work previously mentioned, in later years, Rev. Jackson entered the Army (July 14, 1863) and became chaplain of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantries, and was the first “colored man” to receive a commission from the army. He was pastor of Congdon Street Baptist Church, Providence, RI from 1870 to 1878 and later, Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, NJ. Three pastors of Oak Street were also pastors of Congdon. They were: Rev. William Jackson, Rev. Caleb Woodyard, and Rev. Walter Moss. Rev. Jackson was influential in the formation of the American Baptist Missionary Convention, incorporated in 1848, and the New England Missionary Baptist Convention incorporated in 1874, both organizations reaching beyond state lines and dedicated to “racial uplift.” On August 18, 2018, the Jackson family, along with the City of New Bedford, gathered at the Union Baptist Church to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1818. This outstanding minister of the Gospel and soldier of freedom died in 1900 at the age of 82 and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford.
After resigning as pastor of the Second Baptist Church of New Bedford, Rev. Edmund Kelley became the next pastor to be installed in the Oak Street Baptist Church, in 1855. Ironically, Rev. Jackson, upon leaving Oak Street, became the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of New Bedford. Rev. Kelly served from 1855 to1859. During this period, the baptistry was added at a cost of $1050, and membership increased to over 120.
Rev. Edmund (Edmond?) Kelley was born into slavery in Columbia, Tennessee on May 23, 1818, and was baptized May 14, 1838. He was 16 years of age before he mastered the alphabet. Since it was a violation of the law for a slave to read and write, he did so secretly. He writes,
So great was my desire for an education, that before retiring at night, I would kneel down and pray to God to awaken me at 11:00pm, so I might study my lesson. Precisely at 11, an unseen hand seemed to shake me, and I would arise, and taking my book commence to study, in order that I might be ready to recite the next day.
His owner, Ann White, eventually transferred him to her daughter, Nancy. In a work entitled, The African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, it is recorded that he married Paralee Walker in 1839, and fathered four children by her. The Concord Baptist Association licensed him March 19, 1842.
The license reads,
To any regular Baptist Church, greeting: — This is to certify that brother Edmond Kelley has been regularly authorized by the Baptist Church, Columbia, Tenn., to exhort and preach wherever he may have liberty to do so. This church also affectionately recommends him as a member whose conduct has always been exemplary and well ordered, and prays that his services among his colored brethren may prove acceptable, and by being blessed of the great Head of the Church, tend to the building up of our holy Zion. Done by order of the church, this 19th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1842.
CHAS. A. FULLER, Clerk
When the blacks withdrew from the First Baptist Church in Columbia, (white), Rev. Kelley became one of the eight founding members of the oldest black baptist church in the state of Tennessee, the Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in 1843. He was ordained October 1, 1843, in the First Baptist Church, Nashville, the first black to be ordained in the state of Tennessee.
When the white churches tried to keep him as property in trust for the association, he refused, and under the urging of his owner, Ann White, left Tennessee to escape from being sold. She gave him a pass that enabled him to preach anywhere in the United States, therefore, in 1847 he left for Boston and to freedom, although still a fugitive slave. In Massachusetts he became pastor of Second Baptist in New Bedford, during which time the member churches of the Boston Baptist Association assisted him financially in obtaining his family’s freedom for the sum of $2800, no small sum in the 1800’s. Though his efforts to raise the necessary money to obtain his family’s freedom were often discouraging, he persevered, and finally the day came, after four years of struggle, when he and his family were reunited in New Bedford.
Encumbered by significant debt because of his efforts to obtain his family’s freedom, Rev. Kelley published in 1861, a record of his journey to freedom in a work entitled, A Family Redeemed from Bondage; Being Rev. Edmond Kelley (the author,) His Wife and Four Children. He writes, At the time of my leaving home, my family consisted of a wife and four children, who were owned by Mr. James Walker, a wealthy farmer in Columbia [Tenn.]. After coming to the Eastern States I felt an anxiety that my family should share with that freedom which belongs to all men. In 1852, he sailed for England, traveling to London, Bristol, and Ireland to promote his slave narrative, and both knew and worked with some of the famous abolitionists at the time, including Henry Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and the well-known Frederick Douglas.
According to the book entitled, [A History of] Shiloh Baptist Church, by Rev. Henry N. Jeter (1851-1938), published in 1904, Rev. Kelley went on to become the founding pastor of many churches, including 12th Baptist Church, Boston Mass (1848); Zion Baptist Church, Arlington, VA (1866); and the Myrtle Baptist Church, in Newton, Massachusetts (1874), where he served two years.
According to Lewis L. Laska, in a work entitled, Edmond Kelley, Tennessee’s African-American Ordained Baptist Minister, Rev. Kelley was an important figure in the American Baptist Missionary Convention, organized in 1940, and a precursor of the National Baptist Convention. In fact, he became vice-president of the African American Missionary Baptist Convention in 1854, and led a group of black ministers in meetings with both President Abraham Lincoln and President Andrew Jackson, promoting the cause of freedom.
In 1859, he wrote a resolution, which reads as follows, “Resolved, That slavery is against the progress of the Gospel at home and abroad. Resolved, That we use all laudable means to abrogate it. Resolved, That no slaveholding minster be invited into the pulpits of any of our churches.” He was instrumental in designing the Black Baptist Convention model of local associations, state conventions, feeding into the National Convention. He was a great proponent of education within the churches and both promoted and published Sunday School material decades before the black Convention established a publishing house. He died Oct. 4, 1894, at age 76 and was also buried in New Bedford in Oak Grove Cemetery.
THE CHURCH AND THE CIVIL WAR
The next few years proved to be an unsettling period for the church and for the nation, which found itself in the throes of the Civil War. From 1860 thru 1868, a period of a mere eight years, four pastors, and a series of visiting ministers kept the church going. The first of these four, Rev. Charles Rogers, a freed slave, was known as an “extraordinary and powerful preacher,” although he was not formally educated and recently freed from slavery. It is reported that some members refused to fully accept him because of his limited background, which may have led to his resignation at the end of 1863 after only two years. This was also the year of Emancipation.
Rev. Caleb Woodyard, who would later pastor Congdon Street Baptist Church, Providence, RI from 1867 to 1869, followed Rev. Rogers in 1864. He was known as a progressive leader, who sent delegates from the church to the American Baptist Missionary Convention held in Alexandria, Virginia, the first held below the Mason Dixon line since Emancipation. He resigned in the fall of 1865. Rev. Woodyard was followed by Rev. Frederick T. Boaze (1865-1866), and Rev. Richard B. Coultor (1867). He was followed by a series of visiting ministers. Until the Civil War at least sixteen pastors served five years, or less. Until this time only Rev. William Jackson (1841-1854) served more than a decade. This observation underscores the unsettled nature of the times, as the church, now only 43 years old searched for stable leadership. The prayer for such leadership was answered with the arrival of the next pastor.
THE PINN YEARS
In the year 1869, just four years following the end of the Civil War, Rev. Robert Andrew Pinn became pastor. Born in Virginia in 1817 he was registered as a “free Negro” in Fredericksburg in 1839. According to the website, , Rev. Pinn was a descendant of a Robert Pinn, born about 1710, an Indian who joined the free African American community of Lancaster County, VA. Rev. Pinn’s eighteen-year pastorate, the longest of any of his predecessors, represented a significant turning point in the history of the church. He was the first since Rev. William Jackson to give stability and consistent leadership marked by relative longevity. During his years as pastor the church underwent a rebuilding project that would meet the needs of a growing congregation well into the 20th century.
In 1876 the congregation, under Rev. Pinn’s leadership, purchased lots from a Mrs. Underwood and a Mrs. Washington who owned land adjacent to the church; land that previously had been used as a burial ground. According to a previously mentioned deed, the land was purchased “for the purpose of erecting thereon a proper and suitable place of Religious Worship, according to the Doctrines and discipline of the Baptist Church and the parishioners by virtue of the act of assembly of the Twenty Sixth day of April A. D. 1855…” Under the agreement with the owners the remains of those buried on the lots would not be disturbed, save for the bones of those buried under the foundation of the new building. These remains were reinterred at Olive Cemetery, an African American burial ground, owned by the abolitionist, Stephen Smith, located at Girard and Belmont Aves. Olive Cemetery was established in February 1849. By 1923, the cemetery was closed and the remains were reinterred at the historic African American Eden Cemetery. A tablet was to be placed behind the pulpit with the names of the deceased whose remains had been removed. The church’s name was changed for the third and final time, incorporated in 1877 as Monumental Baptist Church. Apparently, the name was chosen as a monument to the deceased who occupied spaces beneath the expanded facility. In 1882, a few members left and organized a church that was later named Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
Construction began in 1884, which is the year inscribed in the cornerstone; and through the efforts of many church auxiliaries, namely the Deacon Board, Willing Workers, Ladies Aid, Acme Club, Sunday School, the generosity of the members and the leadership of Rev. Pinn, $11, 283 was paid to the contractor.
Rev. Pinn died October 16, 1887, and did not live to see the completion of the new building. However, the new building was completed, and services were held for the first time in the new edifice the first Sunday in July 1889 two years after his death. Because he was held in such high esteem the Ministers’ Conference of
Philadelphia placed windows in the new church in his memory, and one window in the rear of the sanctuary was engraved with his name and the years of his pastorate. The window has since been removed and placed in the history room of the present building. According to W. E. B Dubois’ groundbreaking work published in 1899.
The Philadelphia Negro, by the year 1838, there were only four Baptist Churches with a total of 700 members, but by 1896 there were seventeen Baptist Churches in Philadelphia with a total of 6,000 members. That year, according to his research, Monumental claimed 435 members and the church property was valued at 30,000 dollars.
IN TO THE 20TH CENTURY
In 1890 Rev. Eugene Evans became pastor. Rev. Evans came to Monumental from Frankford, Kentucky. He was known as a scholar and an orator, and was involved in politics in Kentucky, giving speeches to as many as 2,000 people on behalf of the Republican Party. At the time, blacks were loyal to the Republican Party, since it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves. In a January 1895 letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rev. Evans is described as, “the brainy and brilliant editor” of the Christian Citizen, as church weekly, edited by Evans, and located at 1840 Lombard Street. At the time, Rev. Evans in his late 30s was a candidate for the position of Chaplain of the 54th Congress of the United States. He died in Springfield, Missouri, in 1895, and was buried in Vincennes, Indiana. Following Rev. Evans, the call was extended to Rev. Alexander Gordon, who would serve the thriving church for the next seventeen years.
Rev. Gordon was born June 18, 1858 in Louise County, VA, and during the war was carried away by Sherman’s Army. During this time he became a butler and waiter for General Sherman, Justice Bradley of the United States Supreme Court, as well as other noted politicians and statesmen. Before accepting Monumental he pastored in Waynesboro, VA, as well as the Diamond Hill Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA. He had attended the old Maryland Seminary in Washington, DC.
In the year 1904 the first organized singing group was formed. It is interesting to note that the then innovative idea of a “special” group in the church, organized for the specific purpose of providing music for the worshipping congregation, was not easily embraced during this period among churches in Philadelphia, among other cities. The presence of “church choirs” created quite a stir in Philadelphia’s church life in the latter half of the 19th century.
In the year 1906 twenty-one members of Monumental requested and received letters of dismissal and organized the Rev. Robert A. Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, taking the name of one of Monumental’s previous pastors. However, in spite of internal division, in a report found in the 1908 minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, Monumental is described as, “progressing well. Peace and good will existing between pastor and people. Spiritual growth, healthy. Sunday School and all organizations, progressing nicely. Our Ladies’ Aid Society has been a great benefit to the poor of the church.” Also, according to the minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the New England Missionary Baptist Convention was expected to hold its annual session at Monumental in June 1912.
Rev. Gordon resigned April 12, 1912, later became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Chester, PA, and died in 1933. He was funeralized at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, and eulogized by Rev. W. E. Johnson, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, who said that Rev. Gordon was a man who “had high hopes for getting things for the race, based on sound principles of industry and integrity.” Rev. Moses, his successor at Monumental, gave remarks at the funeral service. Rev. Gordon fathered at least two sons, A. A. Gordon, a medical doctor, and Levi P. W. Gordon, a dentist, both who practiced in Philadelphia.
Following the seventeen-year pastorate of Rev. Gordon, Rev. James W. Moses began a fifteen-year pastorate in 1912. During the years of Rev. Moses’ leadership, the Sunday School annex was rebuilt and completed in 1914, at a cost of $33,000. The year 1914 is inscribed on the cornerstone.
In 1923 the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. began a drive to purchase land on which slaves had been bought and sold, to build a publishing house in Nashville, Tennessee. Monumental Church was one of 300 churches to contribute toward the effort and the names of both church and pastor, J. M. Moses, are inscribed on a plaque in the entrance hall of the Morris Building in Nashville, Tennessee. Rev. Moses was Monumental’s pastor during the church’s Centennial celebration in 1926.
As a youngster the Rev. S. Howard Woodson, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Trenton, New Jersey, whose father preached in Monumental’s pulpit, recalls Rev. Moses as “a big man with a heavy, deep voice, and long white hair. He looked like Moses!” In 1927, Rev. Moses resigned.
As a youngster the Rev. S. Howard Woodson, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Trenton, New Jersey, whose father preached in Monumental’s pulpit, recalls Rev. Moses as “a big man with a heavy, deep voice, and long white hair. He looked like Moses!” In 1927, Rev. Moses resigned.
Rev. Walter James Moss, who had resigned the pastorate of the Congdon Street Baptist Church, Providence, RI, became the next pastor in 1928. During Rev. Moss’s leadership the church bought its first parsonage in 1928, located at 4928 Brown Street, at a cost of $ 8,000. George W. Kemp and Lewis Thorn are listed on the deed as trustees. It is reported that even through the Depression years “he made certain the needy in the surrounding community were supplied with food and fuel.”
Rev. Moss, whose wife’s name was Fannie, died suddenly in the parsonage at age 54, after only a four-year pastorate.
THE JACKSON YEARS
On Sunday, May 27, 1934 Dr. Joseph Harrison Jackson was installed as pastor of Monumental Baptist Church. Although his pastorate was of relative short duration (seven years), Dr. Jackson, a native Mississippian is remembered for his pastoral leadership, eloquence in preaching, and for his sojourn on the world’s stage. Born in Rudyard, Mississippi, Jan. 11, 1900, he was a graduate of Jackson State College, Jackson, Mississippi. He was also a graduate of Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, New York, quite an achievement for an African-American in an era when northern white seminaries only allowed a quota of one or two African-Americans per class. The church he pastored in Omaha, Nebraska prior to coming to Monumental gave him a leave of absence so that he could pursue his theological training at Colgate.
Rev. Clarence Davis, an erudite son of Monumental and pastor of Mt. Hebron Baptist Church, Los Angeles, CA, recalls that Monumental was set to call another minister to be its pastor. But, before the meeting to call, Dr. Jackson, pastoring in Omaha, Nebraska, and passing through the area on his way to another preaching engagement, was invited to fill the pulpit as guest preacher that Sunday. Upon hearing him, the congregation was moved to call him instead.
As a leader in the Baptist denomination Dr. Jackson, a rising star in the Convention, soon became Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. while he was the pastor of Monumental. In 1991 several of the Fifty Year members of Monumental recalled that when the National Baptist Convention met in Philadelphia in 1939, Dr. Jackson saw to it that young people from Monumental had jobs at the convention.
Under Dr. Jackson’s leadership the Hallelujah Gospel Chorus was organized. Known for his oratorical skills, Dr. Jackson was a masterful preacher, eloquent in his delivery and erudite in his preparation. He is remembered as one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century, a religious statesman and one of only three black preachers invited to preach in the World Baptist Alliance’s annual session held in 1955 in London, England. Dr. Jackson resigned as pastor of Monumental in 1941, accepting the pastorate of the Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, and subsequently becoming the president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. However, it was his ministry in Philadelphia, as pastor of Monumental, and as Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, that launched him into national and international prominence.
Dr. Jackson attended the first session of Vatican Council II at the personal invitation of Pope John XXIII. Dr. Jackson, a great leader, died August 18, 1990. He authored several books, including: Unholy Shadows and Freedom’s Holy Light, and Many But One.
THE PEACE YEARS
Rev. Moses Marquette Peace was born March 22, 1904, a native of Bolivar County, Mississippi. On May 16, 1942 just six months after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Rev. Peace, a colleague of Dr. Jackson, became Monumental’s 19th pastor, after resigning as pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church, Aiken, SC. Rev. Jackson and Rev. Peace had attended neighboring colleges in Jackson, MS. Under his dynamic leadership, the parsonage on Brown Street was sold in 1945, and a new parsonage purchased at 123 N. 50th Street. The membership increased to over 1,500, which rendered the building on the original site inadequate. “There is a new church in our future,” became the theme, and the goal was realized with the purchase of the Old First Reformed Church of Christ (United Church of Christ), located at 50th and Locust Streets, at a cost of $280,000. The old church at 41st and Ludlow Streets was sold to St. James Pentecostal Church for the sum of $55,000.
According to the history of First Reformed Church, (located at 4th and Race Streets), construction of the church edifice located on the corner of 50th and Locust Streets began in 1916, and was completed in 1925, at a cost of $250,000. Built by the congregation of First Reformed Church, the gothic structure was designed to house a beautiful sanctuary, and was originally equipped with a $35,000 pipe organ.
In addition the building is faced with Holmesburg granite, trimmed with Indiana limestone, and the sanctuary finished with quartered oak. According to the original drawings, the size of the building is about 83 by 133 feet, and the tower points upward 65 feet into the sky. In addition to the sanctuary, the building was built equipped with a kitchen, fellowship hall, church school facilities, and space for offices and storage.
On Sunday, April 2, 1967 after 122 years in the original location, the congregation, led by Rev. Peace, marched from 41st and Ludlow to its new location. Dr. Jackson, still president of the Convention, returned from Chicago to share in the dedicatory services held in July of the same year.
On Sunday, May 3, 1976 during the year of the nation’s bicentennial and the churches sesquicentennial the final payment of $9,023.08 was made, (one year ahead of schedule), and on Sunday, June 27, 1976, in a 4:00 p.m. worship service, the mortgage was burned. On August 25, 1981 lots from 215 to 299 S. 50th Street were acquired for parking facilities, serving the congregation in a city where ample parking for church members is scarce.
The Floral Club, Mother’s Board, Pastor’s Aid Society, Young Adult Ushers, (presently the Hospitality Guild), Rosebud Chorus, Nursery Staff, Student Aid, the Mary Peace Willing Workers, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Men’s Brotherhood, the Junior Ushers, the Cloverleaf Club and the M. M. Peace Male Chorus were organized under his leadership.
Dynamic preaching, leadership, and organization characterized Rev. Peace’s leadership. During his pastorate, he ordained and licensed nineteen ministers. Many of them have served in pulpits locally and beyond. A man of pleasant spirit, he remains in the hearts and minds of those to whom he ministered.
Dr. Peace was an extremely popular and effective preacher, and some of his sermons titles yet ring in the minds and hearts of those who sat under his preaching. Some of them are: “Nuthin’ for Mah Journey” (an annual New Year’s message), “Ride the Wild Horses,” “I Saw God Smile,” “Life Can Be Beautiful,” “What’s in a Name?” and “How Far to Wonderland?” He was well-read, and members who sat under his preaching recall that it was not unusual for him to bring to the pulpit, not just a Bible and preaching manuscript, but articles from books and newspaper, as well.
Dr. Peace, a graduate of Campbell College, in Jackson MS, and Morris Brown College, in Atlanta, GA, was in great demand as a revivalist and lecturer on college campuses, such as Benedict and Morris Colleges. Dr. Peace served Monumental for forty-four years, retiring in January 1986 and was given the title, Pastor Emeritus. A retirement banquet was held on Saturday, January 11, 1986 at the Marriott Hotel in Bala Cynwyd. He died the morning of November 23, 1991.
Rev. Robert J. Parker served as interim pastor from January 1986 until the summer of 1987. During this interim leadership of the church, Rev. Parker led the congregation to embrace tithing. Also, a new three-manual Rodgers organ was purchased and a bathroom was installed on the main floor of the sanctuary.
THE MAPSON YEARS
On June 18, 1987 Monumental extended the call to Rev. Dr. Jesse Wendell Mapson, Jr., and he became the twentieth pastor of this historic congregation. Raised in Newark, New Jersey, Rev. Mapson, a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, and the son of a distinguished Baptist preacher-pastor, resigned his former church, the Union Baptist Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, after an eighteen-year pastorate, and accepted the call to Monumental on the second Lord’s Day in July 1987.
Rev. Mapson is a graduate of Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia; holds a Master of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary (Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School); and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary). In 2002 Palmer bestowed upon him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
On the first Sunday in September 1987, the new pastor officially preached his first sermon, entitled, “Give Me This Mountain.” The worship service was made more significant by the presence of Rev. Peace, who, until his death, accepted and supported his younger successor with open arms.
Installation services were held on Sunday, November 8th, preceded by an Installation Banquet at the old Adam’s Mark Hotel, City Line Avenue, on Friday evening, November 6th. Rev. Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy, pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, a spiritual mentor of pastor Mapson, was the banquet preacher.
At the Sunday morning service Dr. Jackson, former pastor of Monumental, was guest preacher, and at 6:00 p.m., Rev. Mapson’s father, Rev. J. Wendell Mapson, Sr., pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Newark, New Jersey, delivered the Installation sermon. During the Installation ceremonies Dr. Peace gave the charge to the church he had led for forty-four years. It was a day of great rejoicing and celebration. History was made with Rev. Jackson, Rev. Peace, and Rev. Mapson sharing the same pulpit representing over 50 years of pastoral succession in the same pulpit.
Under Dr. Mapson’s leadership, much progress has been made in the life of the church, as the congregation continues to grow spiritually and numerically. Many improvements have been made to the building, which has stood almost a century. During Rev. Mapson’s leadership a new baptistry was installed, and the fellowship hall renamed the Rev. Moses Marquette Peace Fellowship Hall, to honor his forty-four years of pastoral leadership. The sanctuary has been air-conditioned, the original pews padded and new chairs purchased to accommodate worshippers in the overflow sections. Chairs in the choir loft have been replaced, the pulpit centralized, new classrooms added to the second level and the chapel moved. In 1993 a Mason Hamlin grand piano was purchased and dedicated. In 1995 the property at 4946, a former drug house, was acquired from the city, and renovated to include classrooms and a computer lab. In a special dedicatory service, the building was named the Rev. Joseph Harrison Jackson Annex.
Further accomplishments include a media ministry, weekly Bible study, a New Members’ Discipleship Class, the annual Jackson-Peace Church-Wide Institute, renamed the Jackson-Peace Disciples-in-Training Institute, and the expansion of the church staff. The following ministries have been instituted: The Christian Education Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Singles’ Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, and recently formed Jubilation, our Young Adult Choir, Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Library Ministry, After-School Ministry and Summer Camp, Seniors Ministry, Couples’ Ministry, Parenting Class, Transportation Ministry, and the reorganized Higher Education Ministry.
In the year 2000 Monumental began an extensive renovation project, including: the cleaning of the stone on the exterior of the building, a renovated ladies’ room and lounge, the enlarging of the choir stand, the painting and re-carpeting of the sanctuary, the re-upholstering of the pews, and installation of new sanctuary lighting fixtures, the installation of a remote video taping system, with closed circuit hook-up in the fellowship hall, repair of the church tower and a new roof. In 2009 property at 4947 Locust Street was purchased. In 2012 the sanctuary floor was re-carpeted and new pews installed, including new pulpit furnitings. The year 2015 was designated the “Year of the Family,” an attempt to celebrate and reclaim families. In 2016 the church celebrated the 190th year of its founding with year-long events and activities, as we were led to envision the future through the “Gift of Sacrifice.” In 2018 the original site at 41st and Ludlow was sold to a developer, although the building cannot be demolished. After 190 years of the saints worshiping the Lord, it will be used no longer as a house of worship.
Under Pastor Mapson’s 30 plus years of leadership, we are still attempting to become a Christ-centered and Spirit-led congregation seeking to glorify god through worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship and discipleship. May God continue to be, The Church Where Jesus Christ is Central.
MONUMENTAL PASTORS THROUGH THE YEARS
Rev. George H. Black 1826 – 1829
Rev. Leven Stokely 1830 – 1834
Rev. George H. Black 1835 – 1837
Rev. John Givens 1837 – 1840
Rev. William Jackson 1841 – 1854
Rev. Samuel Miles 1854
Rev. Edmund Kelley 1855 – 1859
Visiting Ministers 1860 – 1861
Rev. Charles Rogers 1862 – 1863
Rev. Caleb Woodyard 1864 – 1865
Rev. Frederick Boaze 1865 – 1866
Rev. Richard Coulter 1867 - 1868
Visiting Minister 1868 - 1869
Rev. Robert A. Pinn 1869 - 1887
Rev. Wm. H. Davenport 1888 – 1890
Rev. Eugene Evans 1890 – 1895
Rev. Alexander A. Gordon 1895 – 1912
Rev. James M. Moses 1912 – 1927
Rev. Walter J. Moss 1928 – 1932
Visiting Ministers 1933 – 1934
Rev. Joseph H. Jackson 1934 – 1941
Rev. M. Marquette Peace 1942 – 1986
Rev. Dr. J. Wendell Mapson, Jr. 1987 – Present
MONUMENTAL BAPTIST CHURCH TIMELINE
1826 – Six people meet in the home of Abel and Ebba Ward, organize the African
Baptist Church, and elect Rev. George Black as pastor.
1829 – Purchase of lot on corner of what is now 41st and Ludlow, erection of the
Original church, which was a small frame building, and recognition by the
Philadelphia Baptist Association.
1846 – Completion of new church building during pastorate of Rev. William Jackson.
Church renamed Oak Street Baptist Church.
1869 –Thecall is extended to Rev. Robert A. Pinn to become pastor.
1876 – Purchase of additional lots on 41st St. for construction of new building,
during pastorate of Rev. Robert A. Pinn and the nation’s centennial.
1877 – Name changes to Monumental Baptist Church, and church is incorporated.
1884 – Construction begins on new building.
1887 – Rev. Pinn dies before completion of new sanctuary.
1888 – Completion and dedication of new church building during pastorate of Rev.
1904 – First church singing group is organized.
1914 – Sunday School annex built during pastorate of Rev. James W. Moses.
1923 – Church gives 300 dollars, along with other African-American member
Baptist churches across the country, to help build new Sunday School
Publishing House for National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in
Nashville, TN on land where slaves had been bought and sold.
1928 – Purchase of first parsonage at 4928 Brown St. during pastorate of Rev.
Walter Moss at a cost of $8,000 dollars.
1934 – Rev.Joseph Harrison Jackson becomes pastor, and later President of the
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
1942 – Rev. Moses Marquette Peace, Sr. is called, and begins a 44 year pastorate.
1945 – Purchase of second parsonage at 123 S. 50th Street.
1967 – Under Dr. Peace’s leadership a new church building at 50th & Locust Sts.
is purchased and dedicated at cost of $280,000 dollars.
1976 – Mortgage is paid off one year ahead of schedule during the church’s Sesqui-
centennial and the nation’s Bicentennial.
1981 – Purchase of lots on southeast corner of 50th and Locust Sts. for church
1986 – Purchase of new three-manual Rodgers organ, replacing original pipe organ.
1987 – Rev. Jesse Wendell Mapson, Jr., is called and installed as Monumental’s
20th pastor, with Rev. Jackson and Rev. Peace participating in Installa-
tion services, representing over 50 years of pastoral leadership.
1988 – Air conditioning of sanctuary
1990 – Purchase of 15 passenger van
1993 – Purchase and dedication of Mason-Hamlin seven-foot grand piano.
1995 – Acquisition of property at 4946 Locust Street, dedicated and named in
memory of Rev. Joseph H. Jackson, and used as church annex.
2002 – Renovation of Sanctuary, including new lighting, replacing original
lighting fixtures, new seat cushions and painting of sanctuary.
2008 – Purchase of 25 passenger church bus
2009 – Purchase of three family house at 4947 Locust Street.
2012 – More extensive renovation of Sanctuary, including carpet, pulpit and
new pews, replacing original pews.
2014 – Year of Jubilee in celebration of Pastor Mapson’s 50 years in ministry,
45 years in the pastorate, and 27 years at Monumental. Scripture for
Jubilee celebration: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled
me, because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…”
(I Tim. 1:12)
2015 - Year of Reclaiming the Family