MILWAUKEE SHARON SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH HISTORY
The Lord in His great mercy had His hand on a small group of African Americans in the metro Milwaukee area in 1920. The Holy Spirit moved upon this group of believers that was led by Brother Lamas James Kinner. Six chartered members formed the nucleus, Brother and Sister Kinner, Sola Bracy, Shellie & Marie Samuels – Jenkins and Daniel W. Raynor, who worshiped in the home of Shellie and Marie-Samuels-Jenkins Sr.
This small group quickly expanded into an organized negro sabbath school within the Wisconsin Conference of Seventh Day Adventist with a membership of 12. By May 5, 1920, this sabbath school had eighteen plus members. As it continued to grow it drew the attention of the Conference. The Conference saw the need to support this rapidly rising negro congregation that would soon become Milwaukee’s first Lake Region Conference church.
Ministers who served between the years of 1920 – 1945 were: Elder W. H. Maynor, Elder J. E. Jervis, Elder V. A. Joseph, Elder Miller, Elder E. A. Jarreau, Elder Walter J. Kissack, and Elder J. Parker Laurence.
Elder William H. Maynor attended the 1911 colored ministerial institute held at Oakwood Manual Training School, later to be known as Oakwood University. Unknowingly he was being prepared to be Milwaukee’s first ordained African American Seventh-Day Adventist pastor. Elder Maynor was quoted as saying “I desire to express my sincere gratitude for the privilege of attending the ministers institute, to better prepare myself to do an efficient work for the Lord. I am very much interested in the work for my people. I want them to be saved in the kingdom of God. The third angels’ message is the only message by which they can be saved.”
On June 13, 1920, Elder Maynor and his wife Helen (Washington) Maynor faithfully accepted the call to go to Milwaukee and entered upon their work with the prospect of developing what would eventually become known as Milwaukee Sharon S.D.A. Church.
This newly organized church was not the first English S.D.A church in Milwaukee. In the 1880’s the first Milwaukee congregation was formed, and services were offered in both English and German. By June 13, 1920, the Wisconsin Conference of S.D.A. recognized the newly organized Milwaukee church as Milwaukee No 2.
Milwaukee No. 2 was under the direction of Elder Maynor as they endured many struggles. There was a dire need to maintain a respectful place in which they could worship. In June of 1921, the Wisconsin Conference recognized the need for this fledgling church to have a church building. The Conference stated, “a plan should be devised to assist them.”
Milwaukee No. 2 had at least four places where they worshipped before securing their first church building in 1955. On numerous occasions, Shellie and Marie Jenkins opened their home for the church to worship, 1926 -1930. The Jenkins resided at 499 Fifth Street in which the church enjoyed fellowship. They later moved to 1525 N. 5th Street sometime shortly after 1930. They lived above the church where worship was held.
In 1935, Milwaukee No. 2 was the first church in the city of Milwaukee to hold an open-air evangelistic tent meeting under the direction of Elder Jarreau. At that time, the city of Milwaukee did not permit tents to be erected within city limits. Elder Jarreau secured permission from the city authorities.
The Lord continued to bless and provide for His church as He poured out His spirt and furnished shelter for them. Mr. Daniel W. Raynor and his wife, Nellie B. Raynor, succeeded in establishing a thriving funeral business at 414 W. Cherry Street. Mr. Raynor allowed the newly formed church to use his funeral home as a place of worship.
In spite of the challenges, the church faced in its adolescent years, Jehovah Jireh always provided. Financial assistance and the struggle to maintain a place of worship remained at the top of the list. Elder Walter J. Kissack was called to pastor the church in 1941 -1944. Upon his calling, he recognized the prevailing situation that the church was in. He immediately made plans to acquire a new edifice. The members rallied to the occasion and funds were raised. It was during this period that the church received its name. With a membership of about 25 -30, the name was called Sharon Chapel. However, when the membership grew, it would become known as Sharon S.D.A. Church.
The face of Adventism was changing. Regional Conferences did not begin as a request from African Americans. In 1944, black S.D.A. members across the nation were stirred to outrage at the embarrassing situation that involved the death of a Seventh-day Adventist named Lucille Byard in Washington D.C. Segregation practices within the S.D.A. hospital where she sought care denied her admittance and treatment. Black S.D.A. members around the nation insisted that a total integration be followed by the S.D.A church. Instead of granting this request, and as a result of this hope being categorically denied, African Americans moved with haste to form separate Black Conferences.
The Lake Region Conference was the first Black Conference to be formed within the S.D.A. Church in 1945. Regional officers were elected and Elder Kissack was elected Missionary Volunteer and Secretary – Treasurer. In Elder Kissack’s absence, from Sharon S.D.A. Church, Elder J. Parker Laurence accepted his call to Milwaukee and pastored the church for three years, 1945 – 1948, as the first Lake Region Conference pastor for Sharon S. D. A. Church.
The following are ministers who pastored Sharon Church:
Pastor C. Higgs, 1945-1950, Pastor Thomas Bass, 1950-1951, Pastor L.B. Baker, 1951-1952, Pastor C. E. Howell, 1952-1955, Pastor W.G. Mills, 1955-1962.
A building was purchased at 1830 W. Hadley Street, under the leadership of
Elder W.G. Mills. In less than a year, $5,000 was raised by faithful members and friends during an evangelistic effort. Mrs. Ethel Pembelton was invited to work as the Church’s Bible Instructor. The missionary leader, Mrs. Melnod Grant, organized the laymen.
Elder C. E. Moseley baptized 11 souls under Pastor Mills. Having retired the mortgage, the building was dedicated and presented to the Lord debt free October 25 through November 2, 1958.
Under the leadership of Pastor Eric Dillett, 1962-1968, an evangelistic crusade was conducted by Elder Malcom Phipps and church members in which one hundred and eighty-five souls were baptized. In 1964, Elder Phipps conducted another crusade with Elder Hill, that was again a tremendous success.
Pastor Franklin Hill, 1968-1975, was the pastor when a new day dawned for Sharon. Elder Franklin Hill engineered the purchase of the present church and school for $275,000 in August 1973. The new church is the former Immanuel Lutheran Church which has a seating capacity of nearly one thousand in the main auditorium. The stained-glass windows are beautiful. The basement of the church houses a number of meeting rooms and a large dining room and kitchen.
At the rear of the church is a school building with a gym attached. The school has a blacktop playground that serves as a parking lot on Sabbath. The property was purchased for $275,000. It was miraculous the way Sharon members raised the required down payment. The old church was sold and in three weeks, the congregation of 450 members raised over $30,000 cash to meet the requirements of 50 percent cash in hand before the purchase.
In August 1973, Elder Hill led his church officers and members through the city down Teutonia Ave. to the new church to enter a new era of worship for Sharon Church.
F.L. Jones, secretary of the Lake Union, cut the ribbon as the congregation entered their new edifice. Elder J. R. Wagner, president of Lake Region Conference, was the worship speaker. Elder R.C. Brown, the secretary of the Lake Region Conference and other officials from Milwaukee and many other cities were present. Open House services continued all week with local and out-of-town speakers each night. Bruce Babienco, pastor of the Milwaukee Central Church, presented a message on Friday night, August 31. F.W. Wernick, president of the Lake Union Conference, closed the week of services on September 1.
Mrs. William H. Maynor, widow of the Sharon Church’s first pastor, was present for the consecration services.
Elder J.W. Wagner later pastored Sharon from 1975 – 1976. Then Evangelist Conner, with the assistance of Elder Leroy Logan, conducted a crusade in the church and many souls were baptized. During Elder Brown’s ministry,1976 – 1979, many souls were won under a bubble tent. Elder A. Humphrey, 1979-1984, with the assistance of his wife, Adele and Sister A. Mitchell conducted “Sharon Bible Institute” for three consecutive years in which more then one hundred souls gave their life to Christ.
Elder Ronald H. Bell,1984-1989, conducted a tent crusade in 1986, which proved to be very fruitful. Fourteen years after the purchase of Sharon, the mortgage was retired on March 15, 1986, under the strong leadership of Ronald Bell. The membership increased from six hundred to nine hundred and twelve.
Pastor Alfonzo Greene, III, 1990-1996, and Evangelist Bernard C. Williams, the Wisconsin Conference evangelist, conducted an evangelistic meeting on 60th and Douglas Street in July 1993. From this effort, a new day dawned as a company of 53 people made up of newly baptized and Charter members from the Sharon Church became a reality, In September 1993 this soon to be new church took the name “Hosanna”. Hosanna was installed as a Lake Region Conference Church on February 16, 1994, under the conference leadership of President/Pastor R.C. Brown and was accepted into the sisterhood of churches in
Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventist during the June 1994 LRC camp meeting.
Pastor Mack W. Wilson, 1996-2003, conducted many evangelistic meetings and published several religious books that were a blessing to the spiritual life of many. In addition, the school and church membership continued to grow as he and his wife Geraldine supported the church school and conducted many family seminars. During his leadership,
Evangelist Joyce Smith began working as the Bible worker in 2001. She conducted many evangelist meetings where many souls came to Christ. Throughout the years, students in the school were given Bible studies in preparation for baptism. In addition to the Bible ministry, she conducts annual visits to several prisons singing and preaching the word of God. Because of her dedication and ministries, many souls have come to Christ. She continues to be a blessing in the work of the Lord.
While a new pastor was being sought through a few months search, Pastor Jerome Davis, Lake Region Conference president, served as interim pastor, until the installation of our new pastor in February 2004.
Pastor Eric Bell, Sr., 2004-2013, conducted many evangelistic meetings. He encouraged community relations through fellowship with other community churches and their events. As a supporter of Christian education, his children attended the school and his wife Cheryl was the health counselor and school nurse. He was the first pastor to ordain female elders at Sharon. Regular visits were made during his leadership to the prisons with the Prison Ministries and to homes, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Pastor Dr. Richard Sylvester, 2013 – present, supports Sharon Church as its spiritual leader and guide working with the Church’s members to move its service to the community and its members forward. In addition to his under-shepherd responsibilities, Pastor Sylvester also actively engages in Prison Ministry as a speaker in several prisons and has given several messages at the local Convocation sessions. He and his wife, Laticia, also actively participate in and support Women’s and several other ministries in the church.
God has tremendously blessed Sharon through the years because of the spiritual dedication of the members and leadership of the church. “To God Be the Glory.”