Monroe Street Christian Church History
In February 1947, the Central Illinois Area Men’s Christian Fellowship, an organization which consists of men from various Illinois counties and several men and women who met on Tuesday night for Bible study, had a desire and a dream. Their dream was to establish a New Testament Christian Church on the east side of Springfield, Illinois.. Brother H.C. Poston was brought to Springfield to serve as the interim minister of the Monroe Street Church of Christ. Since its beginning, Monroe Street Church of Christ teaches to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.
In April 1947, we called Brother/Elder Joe O. Bowles to serve as the first resident minister of Monroe Street Church of Christ. Joining Brother Bowles to start the ministry of the Church were: Sister Crystal Bowles, his wife, and daughter, Margaret Bowles Brother Will R. Pleasant and his wife, Sister Tempie; Brother John H. Richardson and his wife, Sister Marie; and Brother Melvin Muldrow and his wife, Sister Edith.
We made many efforts to evangelize to the adults and children living on the east side of Springfield, and particularly, the John Hay federal housing complex for families with low and moderate incomes.
The first members of the congregation walked to preach and teach God’s word as cars and other forms of transportation were not readily available. Under Brother Bowles’s leadership, we purchased a two-story house at 1229 East Monroe Street. We converted and used the house as the first meeting place for the church’s congregation. As a result of the evangelistic efforts of the first members: Gladys White and family, Katherine White and family, Irene Preer and family, Ruth Jackson and family, and Mary Crawford and family accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior and joined the congregation.
The Church became incorporated by the State of Illinois, March 10, 1954. Brother Bowles was the Initial Registered Agent. Incorporators were: Brother John H. Richardson, Sister Tempie Pleasant and Brother Melvin Muldrow.
First Board of Directors included: Brother John H. Richardson, Sister Tempie Pleasant, Brother Melvin Muldrow and Sister Edith Muldrow.
Monroe Street Christian Church of Christ, being the only New Testament Church in the area, found it to be very difficult evangelizing the community, inasmuch as, it was looked upon as being something new and different, and people wondered what we were all about. Nonetheless, we proceeded to become officially organized and made several conscious decisions such as the selection of Missionary Projects: Winston B. Salem Bible College and College of the Scriptures. The Usher Board was organized and our first choir was formed. The membership under his pastorate increased to one hundred and nine. In “Who Who’s of 1958 in Springfield, Illinois“, the Church was designated as the fastest growing Church in Springfield.
The church was aware of the need for more adequate facilities and Brother Bowles planted the seed of building in the mind of the people. However, he was not to realize his dream. He enjoyed a long tenure serving from April 1947 to November 1962, a period of fifteen years and seven months. On December 8, 1962, God called him from labor to reward. Crystal Bowles continued to be a faithful servant as a mother of the church, until her passing.
Monroe Street was left without a minister to lead and teach the flock. Where were we to turn? On December 24, 1962, the church board appointed Brother James A. Johnson as the interim minister while the board continued to search for another permanent minister. His appointment was a milestone that mark a significant moment in Monroe Street’s spiritual journey. Although he accepted the position on a temporary basis, the Lord had other plans for him. God challenged him and with the encouragement he received from members and friends of the congregation, Brother Johnson became the resident minister, December 1962. Brother Johnson brought new life to the church along with his lovely family: his wife, Sister Ruby; his son James Johnson III; and his daughters Vicky, Deborah, Linda and Diane. Upon accepting the challenge, Brother Johnson did some intensive study and entered Lincoln Christian College.
In 1963, the name of the church was officially changed to Monroe Street Christian Church.
The dream of Brother Bowles was brought to full fruition through Brother Johnson, as an intensive building program was launched and in the sumer of 1964, the old house of worship, though filled with tender memories, was almost beyond use. The men had installed an I-beam in the ceiling and tied the two walls together with cable, hoping we would not have a heavy snow on our weak roof. The outside stairs and exits were a hazard. More room was needed, classes were meting together although designed to be separate. In effect, the old house of worship was used beyond its expected life.
With the use of the building fund and the assistance of the Area Men’s Christian Fellowship, the old house was torn down. On May 15, 1964, a $20,000 mortgage was secured for the first new church building. While we were building the church, the congregation worshiped in the basement of the Lee Medical Building at 13th and Jackson. Dedication of the new church facility was held January 17, 1965. The building was filled to capacity with members, friends, Springfield ministers from all denominations and city officials. Our dedication day speaker was Brother Jim Cook, minister of the Ashland Christian Church. In this facility, the church continued its outreach program and we saw several events take place: purchased new organ, carpeted aisles, completed the Fellowship Hall, remodeled other areas of the Sanctuary, installed central air conditioning in the building, installed a P.A. System and purchased new Church Hymnals.
In 1974, the church purchased a parsonage and a lot at 217 South 13th Street.
The church was paid in full in eleven years. On February 2, 1975, a mortgage burning ceremony was held with the Area Men’s Christian Fellowship as well as the local churches.
In 1976, a recommendation was made by the Board of Directors to the congregation to purchase the house immediately West of the church facility which passed unanimously. Later a recommendation was made and accepted, to inquire about the purchase of additional lots that were now available as a result of the Urban Renewal Program which was designed to upgrade the community to the new standards established by the City. This effort presented the church with an opportunity of further realizing its dream of expanding the church facility to better meet the needs of its people as well as the community- at-large.
The church arranged with the City of Springfield to purchase seven lots that could be used for future expansion of the church. The city’s red tape blocked the purchase of the lots for approximately six months. Once purchased, the church launched another building drive and made plans to add an educational wing and new sanctuary next to our original church building.
Under the leadership of Brother Harry Britts, Chairman of the Board of Elders and Deacons, the congregation took a gigantic step in faith by expanding the church facility. An educational wing with six classrooms, a church office, pastor’s study, fellowship hall that accommodates the seating of 300 persons for a meal and a sanctuary with the seating capacity of 500. The new facility was built under auspices of Zion Church Designers and Builders of Zion, Illinois. However, the contractor was the Monroe Street Christian Church. Various sub-contractors were used in completing this structure as licensed electrician, plumbers, heating and air conditioning and others.
On August 11. 1993, Brother James A. Johnson, his family, friends and the Monroe Street Christian Church were saddened when God called the beloved wife, mother and Ruby Johnson to eternal life. We held Home Going services August 16, 1993 for Sister Johnson who invested years of services to her Lord, her family her friends, and the congregation she and her husband served.
We at Monroe Street appreciate our history and the strong leadership and commitment our members have to the ministry of Jesus Christ. After entering the newly completed building in 1983, several new auxiliaries and ministry groups were established and/or expanded, A food pantry was stocked. We staffed and supplied a church nursery. The Busy Bees, our first ladies group, was organized. We formed another ladies group of which all of the women of Monroe Street belong, the Guiding Lights. We also organized the Senior Citizens Group, developed Tutoring Programs for students of the community and we oversaw the Family Services Center’s Teen Parent Program. The following ministries were also organized by our members to bring Christians together to share and experience God’s goodness.
In 1983, Monroe Street Christian Church became involved in the start up of the Inner City Mission and the acquisition of the first building to house the Mission. The church provided many Mission board members and staff. The Inner City Mission is an organization funded by many Springfield churches. They provide counseling services for those who need clothing, food and shelter.
Over the years, the church struggled against the wiles of the devil. There have been times of heartache and frustrations, but God has blessed our lives with love. Our God is an awesome God. Our history is clear proof that out of diversity and suffering can come strength. Today, we can rejoice in our suffering, because we know that “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we have a deeper unity rooted in the virtues of respect, love and humility” (Romans 5:3-5).
In March 2020, God blessed Monroe Street with a new Pastor, Dr. Gene B. Moore, Jr. Dr. Moore is married to Tamera Moore and they have two children, Gene B. Moore III and Rachel.
In 2020, we can truly say: “THIS FAR BY FAITH…..73 YEARS PRAISING, PRAYING AND PRESSING FORWARD.”