Morris Brown A.M.E Church is one of the oldest AME churches in the tri-state area, dating back to 1881. During its 131 years, Morris Brown has had its share of leadership transitions, but it is a church on the move. In just four and a half years, the Rev. James Baker, Jr., the senior pastor, has made great impact in such a short time, the church is experiencing solid growth and ministry stability under his keen leadership.
“We have been focused on reaching the unsaved. Our church mission statement is ‘Saving Souls, Strengthening Families, and Renewing the Community.’ And the other challenge, I’ll say, is really working to renew the community where we sit,” said Baker.
Baker was licensed to preach at St. Matthew A.M.E Church in Philadelphia, under the pastorate of Bishop Richard Franklin Norris.
Addressing a question about his views on challenges facing the modern-day church community, Baker said “Ministering to the needs of the people that we encounter, and particularly given the economic situation that the country is in. For African Americans, the economy has always been a challenge, because we have always had high unemployment, we have always had challenges of equal opportunity, and so, for us, that’s one of the challenges.”
According to Baker, the church’s evangelism ministry, men’s ministry and the missionary ministry are really making strong progress and impact within the community.
“We run a Thursday soup kitchen, our first one for the fall was last week, and we had over 100 people, we feed them the Word and food.”
The Thursday soup kitchen ministry has actually yielded new members for Morris Brown, which has approximately 700 members on roll.
“Our men’s ministry, which is called God’s Anointed Men of Excellence, is really reaching that neighborhood,” he said. “Much of our growth, over the past four and a half years, have come from local folks.”
Baker underscored his elation for the success of his “Church Without Walls” community outreach initiative, “we bring out spiritual music, we do testimonies, and we feed folks hot dogs, fried fish, hamburgers,” and nine souls were saved during the October 27th event.
“I’ve been a member of Morris Brown A.M.E since I was 10-years-old,” Frankie Butler, 67, a retired nurse from Temple University Hospital. “I am the vice chair of the Trustees and I am the president of the Missionary Society.”
Butler enjoys serving and supporting her church.
“We’re family oriented, we’re not a great big mega church, but we are a family-spiritual church. I just love working in support of the church,” she said.
Commenting on her greatest experiences at Morris Brow, Butler said: “Over the years, it’s been seeing the many pastors that have come and gone, and what they have brought. Over the last five years now, we’ve had Rev. James Baker, who came at a time when we needed spiritual and financial help. I personally feel that he came with the vision, he came excited, and he has brought us all aboard. He has made us believers. We had gotten to a point where we thought things weren’t going to work out, and he just came and told us, if we have the faith, that things would be alright. And we’re here to say that the church has gained spiritually, as well as financially, and he’s saving souls, and he’s bringing the community involved with the church.
“He’s always for the young people, because as he says ‘They’re our church. And we’re not putting the seniors down, but if you don’t have a church of young people, you don’t have a church.’ ”
Michael Williams, 59, is head of the men’s ministry,
“I’m a steward with the steward board, and I’m the president of GAME, God’s Anointed Men of Excellence,” said Williams, a member for about 30 years.
“Pastor Baker is a true man of God, he’s a messenger of God, and he allows God to use him to deliver His message and not his own. He’s a good spiritual leader, he’s a good shepherd that cares about not just Morris Brown, but the community. We’ve never had at Morris Brown, since I’ve been going there, a better leader thus far than Pastor Baker.”
Williams credits the Lord for transforming his life from drug addiction to faithful ministry service and evangelism.
“We’re bringing souls to Christ,” he said. “We’re going out into the harvest” [into the communities sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and testimonies].
Lucille Goldsmith, 86, has been a member since February 1973.
“I like the preaching and the fellowship with the church…the singing is nice, the preaching is nice, and I enjoyed the Bible study,” she said.
Prior to suffering a leg injury, Goldsmith was active with the missionary ministry.
“I use to help with feeding the homeless.”
“I’m a Christian and I tried to do the things that are right, and I tried to teach children the right things to do,” she said. “Be obedient (to the Word of God), and honor your mother and father, and you’ll live a long life, that’s what God says.”
Thaeh Norris, 43, has been a member of Morris Brown all of her life. She enjoys the family atmosphere at Morris Brown.
“We still have that family feel,” she said. “Everyone feels like they’re among family.”
Thaeh’s son, Richard Norris III, enjoys the fellowship, too. He’s been a member since he was six-years-old.
“I really love Pastor Reverend Baker,” he said. “I remember when he first came to the church in 2008, when my grandfather appointed him to the church. At first I didn’t like him because of our previous pastor (the Rev. Troy Thomas) was leaving. [Thomas was transferred to Kentucky].”
Once Norris got to know Baker, he grew to admire and respect him.
“Since he’s come to Morris Brown, we have done nothing but prospered,” he said.