The inception of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church began as Semple Avenue Baptist Church, in 1902. God has given the Christian congregation the stamina to stand for 110 years. It has been a growing process, both physically and spiritually. There have been some ups and downs; however the blessings outweigh the problems. New Northside studies God’s Word, celebrates its history and works to carry out God’s purpose – spreading His truths.
New Northside Missionary Baptist Church began as Semple Avenue Baptist Church. A tent was pitched by Rev. George W. Clemons in the 2900 block of Semple Avenue, in 1902. This was the first Baptist church for Blacks west of Kingshighway. Later, Deacon Robert Redman donated land at 3033 Semple Avenue for the construction of the church. The community worked together inclusive of the pastor, deacons and neighbors to lay the foundation. The laborers, purpose driven, persevered with determination, equipped with the tools and materials built a House of worship.
The church steeple housed a bell that was rung each Sunday morning to alert the neighbors of the start of Sunday school. The bell echoed throughout the neighborhood when a member made life transition. Candidates were baptized, in a concrete pool, in the rear of the church. The edifice was heated with wood burning stoves in the winter. Attendees used hand fans during the summer to keep cooler and sometimes services were held on the lawn.
After Rev. Clemons, there were nine other pastors before the calling of Rev. Samuel F. Rabun on June 25, 1955; namely, Reverends Moten, Hayes, Lewis, Wagstaff, Turpin, Harris, Farley, Hellums and D.W. Titus. Under the leadership of Rev. Rabun the name Semple Avenue Baptist Church was changed to Northside Baptist Church. God’s Word went forth leading new families to the church and congregation growth.
The membership voted to start a rebuilding program, in December 1957. Deacon Willie Brown serving as chairman of the rebuilding project that started on February 1, 1958. Members had planned to march into the basement of the Church on August 3, 1958, but unfortunately, on June 25, 1958, the north side of the building fell during construction, because of an error by the contractor, then the structure was torn down. William Monroe Coker broke ground for the rebuilding project and it was completed in April 1959. During the rebuilding period, members worshipped at 5444 St. Louis Avenue. The first Fellowship Day chaired by Deacon Warren was held on March 16, 1959. He served as chairman for ten years. It was a feast for the soul and body that brought together families and friends! With the guidance of Pastor Rabun the name of the newly built church was changed to New Northside Baptist Church. Two other special days were established, Men & Women Day, in July and the Church anniversary, in September. The three annual days are still being celebrates by the Church, and the funds support the building and maintenance projects.
Pastor Rabun resigned in 1963 leaving the church without an earthly leader for two months. On January 13, 1964, Rev. Willie James Ellis, Jr. was called as pastor of New Northside Baptist Church and served as pastor for 47 years. He was willing to stand with the congregation through its financial burdens and spiritual upheavals. In 1964, Mother Modia Ellis, the pastor’s mother, initiated an annual coronation to help the church meet its financial obligations. The coronation allowed auxiliaries to work together to support one another in a friendly competition. Mother Ellis served as chairperson for many years before she relinquished the responsibility to First Lady Beverly Ellis. The coronation was principal fundraisers, which concluded in 2011.
The building funds were used for ongoing maintenance, improvements, replacements and purchases which provided comfort and beauty to God’s people in God’s House, on a regular basis. These blessings opened doors of opportunity that others would hear the truth. A few of the blessings this congregation received are listed:
The deed for the Semple Avenue location was cancelled in 1966.
The acquisition of a different Place of worship at 8645 Goodfellow Boulevard. Pastor Ellis led the congregation to their new home with a gala march and ribbon-cutting ceremony, culminating with a spirit-filled service, on August 10, 1975. The congregation marched into the edifice singing "We've Come this far by Faith Leaning on the Lord."
During the 75th Church Anniversary celebration, a cornerstone was laid by the order of Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F&AM of Missouri and jurisdiction, in 1977.
The $350,000 building/renovation included a new wing, Pettis Hall (named for Thomas, a former trustee and Pearl Pettis, a former church clerk), the kitchen and dining area, a choir room, janitorial facilities, new paved parking lot, Pastor's study, secretarial and financial offices, in 1985.
The purchase of the lot south of the former Hill Behan store.
The purchase of the old Shell gas station on the southeast corner of Goodfellow and Switzer, in November 1990. It was converted to a child development center and multi-purpose facility. The center provided forty children, 2-5 years of age with a Christian education and family atmosphere.
The mortgage on the renovations and expansions done before 1996 was burned on August 4, 1996.
Pastor Ellis was known as a visionary leader throughout the St. Louis community and led the New Northside congregation to implement programs and receive recognitions. A few of those include:
The introduction of additional church auxiliaries, substance abuse programs, family therapy, career fairs, etc.;
Two Sunday morning services, 8 a.m. and 11a.m., were instituted because the membership had really increased;
During the 80’s, Rev. Richard Menifield started a food pantry. A container that bears his name was placed in the vestibule to collect can goods for the needy and it is still being used for this purpose. Late in 2001, Brother Roderick Bell revamped and reorganized the food ministry. He and volunteers gave out food twice a month at the multipurpose building. After one year they were serving over 100 families a day.
The drum and bugle corps began as an auxiliary to the Youth Summit Task Force in November, 1997. Youth of the church and community, ages 6-13, come together in this unit and formed a number one Drum and Bugle Corp, locally and nationally. Their theme is "Youth Submitting to Christ in Unity and Strength."
During the early twenty-first century services were broadcasted on Charter Cable television each Monday and Wednesday to viewers in St. Louis city and county.
A community based service to provide free health screenings and education on living a healthy lifestyle funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health was implemented, in 2004. The program was called BREATH (Building Resources Education and Assistance for Tomorrow's Health).
The origination of the Jesus First Program was to emphasize the giving of “not equal gifts, but equal sacrifices.” These gifts made it possible for the Family Life Center to become a reality. The ground breaking ceremony took place the 5th Sunday in March 1998 and the dedication ceremony was held October 11, 1998. The center was to provide a venue in the community that would focus on the whole person - emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially. The center was constructed in two phases, the first being the opening of the Child Development Center in 1998. Construction on Phase II of the Family Life Center began in 2005 and on January 21, 2006, the grand opening for the final phase was held. A dedication and celebration was enjoyed giving thanks to God for this blessing.
In June 2001, Pastor Ellis was elevated to Bishop by the Philadelphia Full Gospel Assemblies. His family and some church members accompanied him to Pasadena, California for the bestowing of this honor.
There have been many hardworking talented members serving God in this church. There are really too many special ones to be list. Sister Mary Coker Watkins retired after sixty-six years as church clerk in August and Deacon Eddie Warren retired as Sunday School Superintendent in September after forty-one years. In 2004, Sister Karen Harvey was appointed as church clerk.
A special meeting of New Northside membership to discuss the financial situation of the church was called in December 2008. It became clear to all in attendance that both the church and the center were in extreme financial trouble. Many members made pledges to help meet the immediate need of the church and center. This pledge program became known as the Glasper Plan, in January 2009. The members were leaving and it was necessary to return to one Sunday morning service. Hence, on the first Sunday in September 2009, the church combined the 8 a.m. and the 11 a.m. services to one 9 a.m. service.
In December 2012, Bishop Ellis became ill. The deacons were the governing body and the ministers of the church were in charge of the services, rotating the duties of the pulpit and delivery of sermons. The ministers carrying out these duties were Reverend Bernice Crenshaw, Minister Reginald Chandler, Minister Carol Russell, Minister Patricia McCarty, Reverend Karl McCarty, Minister Janice Dean, Minister William Martin, Minister Audrey Martin, Minister Jaron Eggleston (2008), and Reverend Rodrick Burton. They kept the membership fed with the Word of God. In August 2011, Rev. Burton was named interim pastor. This humble and inspirational leader delivered God’s Word through the teaching and preaching from the Holy Bible.
The pulpit committee brought three names before the deacons and trustee board; each of the three candidates preached an official sermon and taught Bible study. The congregation gave their feedback. The committee used that information to present a ballot with one name for selection. Rev. Rodrick K. Burton was the first name presented for vote. He received 77% favorable votes to be called as the thirteenth pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, on December 9, 2012. The installation service of Reverend Rodrick K. Burton as pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church was held Sunday, March 3, 2013. He is willing to stand with the congregation through its financial burdens and spiritual upheavals. In fact, the membership has already begun to grow.
These accomplishments have come to reality, because God has been working through the members of New Northside continuously to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, who saves souls. Throughout these years there have been ups and downs, failures and successes, setbacks and progressions, but we will continue in the name of Jesus to be a light and beacon, in hopes of setting a good example for our future church, our children and grandchildren so they can carry on and be proud to call New Northside Missionary Baptist Church their spiritual home. The glory belongs to God and God alone.
An additional Midweek Bible Study session began the first Wednesday in April 2013. New Northside now has two Midweek Bible Study sessions at Noon and 7:00 P.M.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, I Peter 1:3.