Since 1917, Morning Star Baptist Church has been a welcoming haven for Bronzeville, with a rich history that has embedded itself into the heart of the community. Church leaders and the congregation are excited to commemoration their 105th year on Sunday, July 17.
Morning Star Baptist is a rare church on the South Side that has gone beyond its centennial anniversary, part of a group that includes the Monumental Baptist, Ebenezer Baptist, and Liberty Baptist churches.
“Personally, it shows me the church that I pastor and have been a member of for many years certainly has stability,” said the Rev. Henry A. Barlow, DTh, Morning Star’s pastor. “Stability is one of the things that I see there.”
The journey began during World War I, when 21 local organizers established the congregation on July 17, 1917. Brother William Samuels, one of the original organizers, named the church, which rented a site at 3800 S. Vincennes Ave. and purchased the property two years later.
The State of Illinois granted a charter to Morning Star Baptist in 1919. The church paid off the mortgage on the original premises in 1933, and three years later sold that property to the Federal government for housing development. The church moved to its second location at 3993 South Parkway (now King Drive) in 1937, where it remains to this day.
“Well, I’m very happy the church is still existing this long,” congregant Edward Talbot said. “I joined the church about 13 years ago.”
Morning Star Baptist thrived during the great migration era that took place from the 1910s through the 1960s, when 500,000 southern African Americans moved to Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Many residents devoted themselves to this church to escape the brutal realities of racial segregation and minimal quality of life. Morning Star Baptist was a literal sanctuary, where all Black churchgoers gravitated and could feel safe during that period.
Producing legendary singers has always been one of the church’s greatest accomplishments. Musicians such as the Barry sisters, the Rev. Charles Clency, Brandon Williams, and many others have evolved musically in their own careers after performing at Morning Star.
The church has had eight pastors in its 105-year history. Barlow has served as pastor since 2015. He first became a part of the church as its district moderator and later became an advisor.
“I learned my early training in Christian education right there at that church,” he stated. “The biggest impact that has made upon me was that I was the first one [trained there] that they have ever asked to pastor the church. So, that certainly has had a big impact on my life.”
Other churches such as Prince of Peace Baptist and Greater Omega will join with Pastor Barlow and Morning Star parishioners on July 17 to celebrate its 105th year.
Barlow also focuses on healthcare as a board member of Insight Hospital & Medical Center (formerly Mercy Hospital). He plans to open a health clinic inside Morning Star Baptist soon.
“I have a heart for the wellness of people,” Barlow said. “One of the things that Morning Star is blessed with is that many of the members have been blessed with longevity.”
The church counts several members above 80 years of age.
Barlow said he is “immensely proud” to see the house of worship reach 105 years of providing comfort and joy.
Worship services are at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays, with Sunday school at 9 a.m. and Bible study at noon. Prayer meetings are held at 6 p.m. every Wednesday.
For more information, log on to morningstarbofchicago.org or call (773) 285-8111.
—Isi Frank Ativie