Who said children don’t go to church anymore? They do if the church is Miller Memorial Baptist Church at 1518 N. 22nd St., where you’ll find a congregation filled with youth and young adults who serve and worship alongside older adults — and enjoy it!
With more than 100 years in ministry, Miller Memorial has established itself as a place where people of all ages can not only go but also can find activities suitable to their age set and interests.
“Miller Memorial is unique in several ways. One, it is a multi-generational church, so we are very fortunate to have four generations here, so it is not uncommon for there to be a grandmother, a mother, the daughter, then the great-granddaughter,” said Rev. Damaris Walker, Miller Memorial pastor.
Just that morning, Walker said he had spoken to a member of the church whose family had attended for some 60 years.
“While some churches have lost that third or fourth generation, or even the second generation, our church is very proud that we have retained four generations,” he said.
“I think the way we do it is by having a church that is singularly focused on being relevant and relatable,” said Walker when asked how Miller Memorial managed to attract and maintain people of diverse ages and generations.
Drawn by the rich history and the 125-year legacy of the church, Walker was installed as pastor of Miller Memorial in September.
“It has a very rich history of education and young people and that’s something I think is critically important in order for our churches to survive into the second half of the 21st century, so I was attracted to its past as well as its future,” said Walker.
Whereas the changing communities around the church might deter some people, that wasn’t the case with Walker.
“With the new housing and development that is happening right outside the church doors, I thought this was a great opportunity to make a good church even better,” he said.
Helen Pauline Wilkerson, with over 30 years at Miller, said the church serves as a close-knit family unit.
“They have a lot of people here that act as uncles, aunts and sometimes mothers,” she said.
Wilkerson said the members of the church actively give guidance to her granddaughter.
“They give a lot of guidance, and she learns a lot. They help her with her schoolwork, they keep in touch with her mother and help guide her along the way. Young people need guidance and they give that a lot here.”
London Louise Sadie Rose Clements Reagan, 12, not only has a long name but despite her young age has longevity as a member of Miller Memorial, which she said she has attended since she was a baby.
“I love the choir, I love how the people preach and my family and friends are here and its really fun,” said Reagan.
So, what makes Miller Memorial fun?
“Like, we have dancing and singing and sometimes we have rehearsals,” she said.
Jeshauna Best, 11, is another tender-aged youth with time in at Miller Memorial.
“Since I was little. I think since I was 1 year old,” said Best when asked how long she has attended Miller.
“I think [the church] helps people with their lives and how they live, and it helps with their problems and stuff,” she said.
And what does she think about her pastor?
“That he’s a good preacher and stuff, like he tells us stuff about life and what’s happening, and I think he’s a good pastor,” she said.
Then there’s Jessica Wilkerson, who also says she was “born into the church” and has attended now for over 37 years.
“The pastor is really good, and the pastor is really interactive with the community as well as the church community,” said Wilkerson.
“He opens up the church to the youth and he just makes everybody else feel welcome and he doesn’t pass judgment on anyone. He opens his heart to everyone,” she said.
As for programs, services and ministries at the church, Wilkerson said there’s no shortage of activities for people of all ages.
“We have Bible study, plays for the children, Sunday School and they just make it open for everybody to come in and enjoy,” she said.
Along with tutoring services for both youth and adults, there are also external community activities such as feeding the homeless and providing clothes to those in need which not only provide purposeful activities for members, but which also manifest the love of God to those outside of the church.
Other things like starting service on time and ending service on a timely basis, cutting out things like lengthy announcements during service, help make the church experience at Miller Memorial pleasant.
“For many people in their busy lives, they seek to have a church experience that is uplifting but also allows them to be involved with many other activities outside of church as well,” said Walker.