A Summary History of
Second Baptist Church
Second Baptist Church is the first black Baptist church organized in Evanston, Illinois. It was established on November 17, 1882, with twenty charter members in a room over the post office, which was located east of the alley on Davis Street between Chicago and Orrington Avenues. This group of former slaves consisted of ten members of the predominantly white First Baptist Church (Nathan and Ellen Branch, Daniel and Mary Garnett, George and Maria Robinson, Andrew and Susan Scott, Richard Day and William Enders) and ten other Village residents. Many were well-respected members of the community, and several owned their own businesses. The organizing pastor was the Reverend S. T. Clanton, a student at the Baptist Union Theological Seminary in Morgan Park, Illinois.
The church began construction of its current brick building in late 1912, which was dedicated in December 1915 as the congregation commemorated its 33rd anniversary. In 1920, the church burned its mortgage, and by 1922, Second Baptist had built an attached parsonage and purchased a pipe organ. A church-wide fundraising effort in 1942 concluded with another mortgage burning celebration. In 1951, the church purchased the property at 2312 Church Street for future expansion. That lot was dedicated in 2013 as the church’s community garden.
In September 1883, the church acquired the former Dempster Street Schoolhouse (at the northeast corner of Hinman Avenue and Dempster Street). The structure was moved to a lot leased from Northwestern University (NU) on Benson Avenue, north of Church Street.
After a fire destroyed that building in September 1889, the members purchased the former Second Methodist Episcopal Church edifice in North Evanston (on West Railroad Avenue at Lincoln Street) in 1890. A land swap with NU, facilitated by founding member Nathan Branch, allowed the congregation to buy the Benson lot and move the building there.
Second Baptist Church, 1717 Benson Avenue
Since its establishment, Second Baptist’s 23 pastors have provided stellar leadership. More than 100 ministers have been trained, ordained and sent to serve in venues across the United States and globally. Numerous church members have been trailblazers in business, medicine, education, politics, and entrepreneurship. Known for its powerful preaching, excellent music ministry and wide-ranging missions work, a revitalized congregation became even more progressive and community-minded in the 1970s. New ministries made room for the giftedness of many members. Women were ordained for ministry and the diaconate for the first time.
Under the leadership of the Reverend Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors, the current Pastor, Second Baptist’s impact continues to expand as the church affirms its mission: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed us to care for souls; experience the joy of celebrating God’s goodness; and work collaboratively to accomplish much to the glory of God.” Second Baptist also continues to embody its commitment to be “a beacon of light – a Christ-centered church celebrating faith, freedom, fellowship, stewardship and the social responsibility of caring for souls.”
Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven