Morris Brown AME Church

1756 N. 25th Street Philadelphia, PA 19121 . 215-763-4707

About Us

The history of the Morris Brown A.M.E. Church reaches back to 1881, making it one of the oldest churches in the A.M.E. Connection. It is named after the second elected and consecrated Bishop of the A.M.E. Church and stands as a monument to the countless thousands who have labored there for one hundred thirty years.

Morris Brown had its humble beginning in a room over a store at Poplar and Vineyard Streets. The late Rev. Solomon Hood found it necessary, however to purchase a more suitable place in which to worship. The facility selected was at Ridge and Montgomery Avenues. This was a little red building sitting back in the yard with a white picked fence around it.

Three different pastors were appointed to shepherd the Morris Brown flock after Rev. Hood: the late Reverends John W. Norris, Byrd and John W. Harris in 1920.

In 1921, under the spiritual leadership of Rev. John Harris, a decision was made to find a larger edifice for the still growing Morris Brown congregation. The congregation was moved from the little red building into a rented hall, also on Montgomery Avenue, as temporary quarters. The little red building was soon torn down, and construction was begun on a new, and larger facility. The plans were for a two-story building, but because of financial restrictions, they had to settle for one story. The building still stands today, on the Ridge Avenue site, with a cornerstone having been laid in 1921.

Mention must be made of the late Reverends Sterret and W.R. Gullins, both of whom served after Rev. Harris. Rev. Gullins moved the Morris Brown congregation to 20th and Dauhin Streets, changed its name and withdrew it from the A.M.E. denomination. Several years later, however, under the superintendency of Bishop William H. Heard, who had been out of the country when the changing and withdrawing took place, took the necessary steps to have the church on Ridge Avenue re-opened. The congregation moved, the Morris Brown A.M.E. Church was re-opened and the late Rev. Paul P. Gaines was appointed the spiritual leader.

Other pastors who served Morris Brown with distinction were: Reverends E.L. Kinzer, E.K. Nichols, W.S. Drummond, H.H. Dixon, S.W. Hilton, G.M. Hall, and M.M. Thorton.

One of the greatest milestones in Morris Brown Church history occurred on the third Sunday in January, 1953, when during the pastorate of the late Rev. E.J. Cross, the church moved to its present location. On the heels of this accomplishment, vast contributions were made by the late Reverends Henry A. Hildebrand (1953-1958) and J.S. Mimms (1960) who passed away that year.

Then in May 1960, the late Rev. Kelsey G. Keeys was appointed to Morris Brown. Under his exceptional leadership, in May of 1966, the church was able to liquidate all indebtedness, and to completely renovate the church.

In 1970, after the passing of Rev. Keeys, Rev. Vernon R. Byrd was appointed to serve the Morris Brown congregation. Under his leadership, and powerful preaching the church grew to its largest membership ever. A new parsonage was purchased at 5301 Woodbine Avenue, and paid for. The church also mortgaged to build an addition to the church, at the cost of $215,000.00, and hosted the 160th session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference.

Bishop Richard Allen Hildebrand moved Rev. Byrd to another area of service and sent Rev. John W.P. Collier, Secretary of Missions of the A.M.E. Church, to stand in the gap and lead the congregation until a permanent pastor was appointed. Rev. Collier led the church in a most outstanding way for twelve weeks.

On Sunday, January 6, 1980, Rev. William Lamar Cody was sent to shepherd the Morris Brown flock. During his eight year stay, the church became and remained a seven day a week beehive of activity.

On June 12, 1988, at the New York Annual conference, the Rev. Jesse J. Jackson, was appointed by Bishop Frank C. Cummings to serve at Morris Brown Church. Under his administration, the work begun was accelerated and the second mortgage which was almost paid when he arrived, was paid off.

In June of 1995, to guide us into the next millennium, Bishop Phillip R. Cousin appointed the Rev. Vernal E. Simms, Sr. as its pastor. He believed that the church should make a difference in the community. Thus, in addition to the traditional pastoral ministry, he instituted many programs in the community, opening the doors of the church for greater outreach, fellowship and service.

May 27, 2001, Bishop Donald G.K. Ming appointed the Reverend Robert C. Wade as pastor. Rev. Wade's thurst was that of getting the congregation excited about Kingdom building. The congregation was very positively responsive, and did move forward in that area.

In June 2003, Bishop Zedekiah L. Grady, was led to send a bright young visionary, Rev. Joseph Cousin to shepherd the Morris Brown flock. His vision was to take Morris Brown to higher heights. His stay was brief; his impact on the church, however, still remains.

In the fall of 2004, Bishop Richard F. Norris appointed Rev. Troy I. Thomas to serve as pastor. He and his wife, Rev. Maxine L. Thomas, came with a different kind of excitement and religious zeal. The positive impact on the congregation will be long lasting.

On December 9, 2007, after Rev. Thomas had received another appointment, Bishop Richard F. Norris sent Rev. Earl R. Jefferson to lead the congregation until a permanent pastor was selected. Rev. Jefferson, in his daily dealings with people, continues to remind us that "a teaching church needs trained leaders", and that we should work on developing our entrustments from God for His service.

In the spring of 2008, Bishop Richard F. Norris appointed Rev. James P. Baker, Jr. to serve as pastor. Under the leadership and teaching Pastor Baker, the vision and focus of the church is winning souls, strengthening the family and renewing the community. The impact of this vision has been tremendous, as membership increases each week. This visionary of a man who seeks after the heart of God, teaches the people of God what a difference God will make in the lives of their family and the community they live in.

On February 23, 2014, Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram appointed Rev. Glenn Shepherd to serve as pastor. Rev. Shepherd is focused on accountability, integrity and transparency in leadership.  He believes that vibrant worship comes from having a bible knowledgeable church body that is on one accord.  He also believes that God can save anyone whose heart is open to the word and repentance.

This history of Morris Brown A.M.E. Church is indeed, a testimony to the ministers, the lay people and organizations whose energies and dedication have lifted Morris Brown to such heights. It is a tribute to the countless numbers who, over many decades, have preached, labored, loved, laughed and lived in the light of the Lord's call to be His people at Morris Brown, making it the great church that it is today.

"Great is Thy Faithfulness"

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