Celebrating 100 Years 1923-2023
This is our story, by God's grace and for His glory.
A Missions Plant
Brown Street's story begins around 1908 in a small building off Milton Rd, a by-product of the Upper Alton Methodist Church dedicated toward reaching the community, and at first, only Sunday School services were held. Around the same time, a group of friends met together at the local general store, discussing plans and desires and ideas. At some point, they all agreed that they needed to start a church. As Carolyn Lloyd, a third-generation member of Brown Street, had said, “They were not theologians. They simply knew that they needed a church.” The group offered $100 to Upper Alton Methodist Church for the mission church building on Mayfield Ave.
Pastor Wright served as the first minister, followed by Pastor Schill. From 1919-1921, the group volunteered their building to be used as a school for 40-50 children. This service to the community increased attendance on Sundays. The need to organize the work into an actual church was recognized and met on February 18, 1923. Charter members were established, the church was recognized as a Baptist organization, and church officers were elected into position. Finally, the church covenant and articles of faith were presented and adopted, giving the church a solid and succinct purpose for being. In these words, we see the true meaning of our church. “We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.” Milton Heights Baptist Church was finally recognized for what it was – a church.
Attendance grew, and we sought for a way to allow the building to hold more people. A basement was constructed, the work started earnestly by the young people and then joined by the older membership. Several pastors came and went, including Rev. J.A. Wilson, Pastor Wakeland, Rev. C.W. Webb, and Rev. Aubrey White. In 1930, another addition was built as extra space was greatly needed. Su`nday School had reached a record high of 254 with an average of 190. Several women’s and missions associations were developed, such as Ladies Aid, World Wide Guild, and the Women’s Missionary Society, which continues today as the Ladies’ Mission Circle.
Rev. Carl Jensen came in 1933. Prior to his pastorate, the members were selling doughnuts to support the church. Rev. Jensen put an end to this practice and required the church to support themselves through offerings. Additionally, Jensen brought with him a love for missions which quickly spread throughout the church. Under his leadership, the church began sending money to missionaries in the field, starting with a $100 donation. Today, Brown Street supports missionaries all over the world, all resulting from the work God was doing in Milton Heights Baptist Church at this time.
In 1941, under the pastorate of Rev. Robert Mayer, the church started a building fund as a way to begin planning and preparing for the new building that they knew they would soon need. Also during this time, new ministries were developed and old ones continued to grow. Youth ministries began to take priority as Sunday School activities and Vacation Bible School were implemented. The men in the church also began visiting the local prisons, and the women’s missionary group continued to thrive.
3125 Brown St.
In early 1946, Rev. Arthur Annette was called as pastor. During the same year, land was purchased on Brown St. for the new church building and par-sonage. Two years later in March, 1948, they broke ground, and construction began.
The sacrifices these church members gave to see their new building through completion is almost unthinkable. They gave of their time and energy as they worked alongside each other to build their vision. They also gave of their money. It is said that several members mortgaged their own homes to help pay for the new church building. Rev. Annette was not only the overseer of the building project, but he also labored with the other men. Ida Wiseman wrote, “These past months with our men working hard on any task they could do about the church only refreshed our memories of the days of 1923, as previously stated, when the boys and young men labored digging out for a basement under our small building on Mayfield Avenue.” They had come full circle, and they worked frantically, eager to see the fruits of their labor.
On November 17, 1948, a resolution was adopted, giving the church a new name – Brown Street Baptist Church. The building was dedicated on April, 3, 1949.
The church saw exciting things happening in the lives of their young people as many of them entered into service for the Lord. Some of them entered into full time ministry, serving as pastors and missionaries across the globe. These people included Clinton and Dotty Bonnell and Joyce Moody.
Rev. Annette continued his work at the church until his sudden death in 1951. He passed away shortly after a Sunday morning service. It is said that he was listening to a recording of that morning’s service on the church’s radio program. He bowed his head in prayer at the bidding of the speaker, but he never again raised his head back up. One minute he was talking to the Savior, and the next he was seeing Him face-to-face.
The next Pastor at Brown Street was Howard Miller. He served from 1951 to 1959. During this time, the wings were added onto the church auditorium, expanding the seating capacity to 634 and offering extra space for classrooms. Sunday School soon reached another record attendance with over 800 people attending on Easter Sunday.
Growth and Change
The next sixteen years saw four different pastors – Pastor Arthur Woolsey, Pastor Gaylord Hamilton, Dr. Hugh Hall, and Pastor Thomas Burke. During Pastor Burke’s ministry from 1969 to 1975, the Educational Wing and Gymnasium were added on, providing additional room for Sunday School classes and space for church activities.
Pastor Lawrence Rowland and Pastor Marvin DePenning served next. Pastor DePenning, who served from 1979-187, was known for his work ethic and kindness toward children. He was promoted to heaven following an evening service,
In 1988, Pastor Ted Ertle came to Brown Street, bringing with him a strong theological background. It was a time of spiritual growth for the church as they were challenged by his deep and spiritually sound messages. Focused on outreach, his ministry grew the membership of the church.
Pastor David Burman was called in 1999, and during his pastorate, Brown Street worked on several renovation projects, including putting in a new gym floor and remodeling many sections of the church basement and education wings. The results were wonderful, providing the church family a comfortable facility for learning, fellowshipping, and community events. Two additional pastors followed from 2014-2021, Pastor Love and Pastor Linscott. The sanctuary's hardware, technology, and look had not been seriously updated since it's construction in 1948; many parts needed repair or improvement. These pastors oversaw building fund love offerings, drawing up plans, and then implementation and completion, bringing our facilities into the 21st century. Remodeled during the year of covid in 2020, the three entrances, bathrooms, and sanctuary were a beautiful breath of fresh air when we were able to come back together and worship in the building.
In February 2023, while celebrating our official 100th birthday, Brown Street called Pastor Daniel Sternquist to lead the ministry. God’s timing was again proven perfect as He spiritually grew both the church and Pastor Daniel in preparation of bringing them together. This next chapter for the church places us in a perfect position for continued growth and outreach to the community over the next century.