As the existence of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church is celebrated, it becomes necessary to speak of its birth and subsequent evolvement into the “Mother Church” of the African American Baptist Churches in Cleveland, Ohio.
When the people of color began migrating to the city, they joined the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, when they became too numerous, a Mission Church was formed out of The First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, on August 14, 1849. Services were held in a converted storage barn, on Brownell Street (now East 14th Street) and it was shepherded by Rev. J. Weeks, a white minister, until 1851.
The Mission Church became Shiloh Baptist Church on August 15, 1850. Rev. William Pennington Brown migrated to Cleveland, Ohio from West Virginia in 1849 and was installed as Shiloh’s first Pastor on August 14, 1851. Rev. Brown grew the membership and the congregation, purchased a house on Central Avenue near East 22nd Street (Perry Street), and continued serving the Lord at this location.
The Mt. Zion Congregational Church was organized in 1864 out of a Shiloh Baptist Church prayer group, led by Edward Woodliff. This decision was made after much discussion, that the Congregational order best suited their religious needs. In years to come, the other churches that would grow out of Shiloh were all Baptist churches.
In 1893, Rev. Riley Wilson organized Antioch Baptist Church, Shiloh’s second child.
Shiloh’s third child, Mt. Haven Baptist Church was organized by Rev. E. D. Dandridge and some of the members moved to a storefront on Central Avenue near East 24th.
In 1926, Shiloh’s fourth child, the Messiah Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Boston J. Prince.
In 1962, Shiloh’s fifth child, the Fellowship Baptist Church was organized by Rev. A. Henson Jarmon.
In 2006, Shiloh’s sixth child, The Greater Vision Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Jewell D. Jones.
Shiloh has a rich history. Since her birth, there have been three edifices and fourteen pastors have led the congregation. With each Pastor there was significant progress. In 1851, a house was purchased on East 22nd Street (formerly Perry Street) for members to worship.
During 1863 and 1893, many ministries were established, namely The Sunday School, Baptist Young People Union, Deacon, Deaconess, Trustee and Usher Boards were formed.
In 1895, a loan secured from J. D. Rockefeller through the City Mission Society, made it possible for a new building to be erected on 30th Street. The Missionary Society was formed during this period. In 1921, the congregation raised $29,000 as a down payment for the purchase of the B’Nai Jeshurun Temple on East 55th and Scovill Avenue. The purchase price was $110,000.
On November 15, 1925, the day of the Grand March, and under the leadership of Rev. Boston Prince Shiloh members left the old church at 10.00 a.m. and proceeded north on East 30th Street to Central Avenue, then east on Central Avenue to East 55th Street arriving at the new church on the corner of East 55th and Scovill Avenue. The weather was cold and a thin drizzling rain began to fall just as the march began but the undaunted triumphant and happy members paid no attention to this slight discomfort. There were about three times as many people waiting for the march into the building as there were people marching.
During 1927-1947 there were many physical improvements made. These included the erection of the Choir loft and the purchase of a three tier manual pipe organ at the cost of $12,000. The gymnasium was remodeled, dedicated and named Boone’s Hall. The church mortgage was burned on January 30, 1944.
From 1948 through 1962, The Shiloh Herald (a quarterly magazine) and the Shiloh Credit Union (1960) were formed; The Order Of Service was revised, and the Contribution Envelope System was introduced.
One of the major renovations during this time was the dismantling of the Choir Loft and bringing the Great Organ down to the main floor. The Senior Choir was renamed The Chancel Choir and relocated to the new choir stand south of the pulpit. The Gospel Chorus was relocated to the north of the pulpit.
The Baptistery, which was in the center of the floor in the lower auditorium, was covered and a new Baptistery was built upstairs where the Great Organ had been located. Dressing rooms for men and women were built on either side of the Baptistery. Oak paneling was installed to cover the pipes of the Great Organ. The pulpit was renovated and a speaker’s stand was erected so that the speaker was elevated. The balcony benches were replaced with donated seats from the Park Movie Theater that had been located on East 102nd and Euclid prior to being demolished.
From 1963 through 1991 many firsts occurred. Under the leadership of Rev. Alfred M. Waller, Sr. there was the first Youth Pastor, Rev. Frank Igess; the first child born to a Pastor’s family, the longest serving Pastor (27 years) and Pastor Emeritus (1991). The sanctuary was renovated by rebuilding The Pulpit, rearranging the Choir Stands and installing murals which showed the two Ordinances of the Baptist Church. Other undertakings included improving the lower auditorium, building fourteen classrooms, installing a new kitchen. A house was purchased and given to a family whose home was burned to the ground during the Hough Riots. During this time, there was the establishment of a memorial fund, the educational board and food bank. In addition, Shiloh Baptist Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A significant number of members were added to the church roll. (1800).
From 1992 thru 2006, under the leadership of Rev. Jewell D. Jones, the health committee, senior day, computerization of the church office, was established. The restoration of building began to include the exterior and interior repairs and the beautification of the Sanctuary. Shiloh was designated a historical landmark by the Historical Society of Cleveland and a meeting place was provided for people with addictions.
In 2009, Shiloh called her youngest Pastor, Rev. Cory C. Jenkins, who continues to lead this congregation into the future. Under his leadership, major structural work was completed to include a new boiler, new roof, tuck-pointing, kitchen renovations and repairs to the parking lot at a cost that exceeded $175,000. Shiloh has served the Central community through strategic partnerships with the Youth for Christ program, Ohio State University Gardening Program and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. A new logo and mission statement was launched. Quarterly Leadership Training has been established to encourage the growth of leaders. Pastor Jenkins led the congregation until September, 2016.
Reverend Dr. Andrew Edwards is currently serving as the interim pastor.