The Rev. Charles Gilchrist Adams became Hartford’s 3rd Pastor in 1969 as the City of Detroit still smoldered from the 1967 Race Riots, one of the largest and longest in America. It was the worst of times, but also the best of times. City leaders came together, formed New Detroit to map out the future and Detroit elected its first Black Mayor, Coleman A. Young, to bring the city back from the brink. Hartford, the first Black Baptist Church established east of Woodward Avenue, was always a fulcrum of city-wide activity and involvement under its 2nd Pastor, Rev. Charles A. Hill. The UAW had its earliest beginnings at Hartford and Rev. Hill was a tireless fighter for social justice and human dignity in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. He became president of Detroit Chapter NAACP and ran city-wide for Detroit Common Council more than once, forging a legacy of Civil Rights Advocacy even before the Movement became recognized in the ‘60s.
Pastor Adams took up the mantle with determined commitment. As the Hartford congregation expanded beyond its original Westside Community, led by Pastor Adams, the church relocated within the City but also near suburban members. It was the largest ecclesiastical purchase at the time and forged by the strong relationship between Pastor Adams and Hartford’s membership in the American Baptist Convention. He took an active role with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the denominational home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., publishing the Baptist Progress and preaching on a regular basis for its many auxiliaries.
Even as Hartford grew to 10,000 members, Pastor Adams took on ever increasing leadership roles. Having become President of the Detroit Branch NAACP, Pastor Adams took on the challenge of the City of Dearborn’s racist policies and laws barring any but its own citizens to use the public parks. This led to the famous “Dearborn Boycott” in which Blacks refused to shop its malls and stores, adversely affecting sales at Saks and Lord & Taylor in particular. Under Pastor Adams, NAACP went to court and effectively had the law overturned. However, the Boycott is still considered the most successful in our local history.
The Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) with 3 million members elected Dr. Charles G. Adams as the first President to serve a four-year term. PNBC vigorously opposed the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and was able to influence the National Baptist Convention to do the same. Pastor Adams instituted strong ties between PNBC and the Harvard Divinity School, establishing the Harvard Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) that offered training to pastors and lay persons on church and community economic opportunity. Hartford Church had removed the blight and established commercial development along 7 Mile Road. The church acquired the property and built a Super Kmart at Meyers and 7 Mile, the largest retail for the City in over 30 years, bringing jobs and tax revenue to this community and city. Little wonder that SLI chose Hartford’s Economic Development as its study model.
Over the course of his 44-year pastorate, Dr. Charles G. Adams is first and foremost a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having preached or spoken on every continent. Ebony Magazine has recognized him as one of the “Greatest Preachers” of our times. As a national leader he traveled with President Bill Clinton for the Peace Accord signed in Jordan. He has been summoned many times to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama. Each Sunday Hartford’s 11am Service is streamed live with viewers from around the globe, worshiping with us and contributing to the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church World-wide Ministry.
- Pastor to the Mayor and the City Council President of the City of Detroit;
- Gave the Invocation for the first City Council Meeting of 2012 and 2013;
- Installed Detroit Public School Board Members, Judy Sommers and Herman Davis;
- Celebrated anniversaries and birthdays of numerous Hartford’s members;
- Celebrated the 90th Birthday Celebration for the Honorable Damon J. Keith with a historical service in his honor that included his colleagues;
- Performed many wedding ceremonies in the city and out of state;
- Blessed babies;
- Provided Scholarship funds for Hartford’s students;
- Blessed college students for Christmas;
- Eulogized members of his congregation and prominent Detroiters, Sam Logan of the Michigan Chronicle, Esther Gordy Edwards of Motown and Robbie Crump McCoy of the Michigan Chronicle, just to name a few;
- Ordained deacons and ministers;
- Instrumental in Hartford being added to the Detroit Historical Society’s list of Historical Houses of Worship;
- Hosted Brothers in Song Concert which featured the 100 voice University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, conducted by Dr. Eugene Rogers, collaborating with the Detroit School of Arts Vision Male Ensemble, 25 high school singers under the direction of Ms. Cheryl Valentine and the Hartford Male Chorus, 40 singers directed by Dr. Stanley Waldon. A first for Hartford;
- Preached two Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations. One in Benton Harbor, Michigan and the other in Southfield, Michigan;
- Preached for a Women’s Day Service at three locations for St. Stephen Church in Indiana and Kentucky;
- Preached Pastoral Anniversaries;
- Preached 3-day Revivals;
- Preached the Installation Service for the new pastor of New Light Baptist Church;
- Preached for Elder’s Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago;
- Preached for The Clontz/Harris Lecture Series in Durham, North Carolina;
- Key Note Speaker for the United Methodist Union of Great Detroit’s Annual Dinner;
- Key Note Speaker for the Commencement Exercise at Morris College;
- Prayed for the American Federation of Teachers Annual Conference at Cobo Hall;
- Saluted by the Detroit Branch NAACP for dedication and leadership to the Detroit Branch;
- Hosted a session with women titled, ‘Talk with Dr. Adams’ for the Annual Women in Ministry Conference held at New Prospect Baptist Church on ‘The Integrity of Ministry’
- Judged a Billings Preaching Prize Competition at Harvard;
- Held a session on “Suffering and Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering” at Harvard University, a first. This presentation dealt with women’s issues. The panel consisted of a doctor, a psychologist an attorney and an educator, all women.
- Completed his five year appointment at Harvard University in June of 2012;
- Honored with a special ceremony at Harvard Divinity School for his successful 5-year tenure;
- On the occasion of the conclusion of Pastor Adams’ appointment at Harvard Divinity School and his return to Detroit ministry full time, he held a lecture and discussion with Angela Dillard at Harvard University on ‘Treasured University, Trouble City: Harvard and Detroit;
- A leader in the re-election of President Obama with get out the vote campaigns, providing rides to the voting polls, feeding the voters standing in line and praying all night for the president the day before the election!;
- Personally delivered Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners;
- Preached at the Interfaith Ministerial Alliance of Key West Florida;
- Appeared in the televised Diving Prescriptions Program on WXYZ TV;
- Attended the induction of his son, Rev. Charles C. Adams, into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers in Atlanta Georgia;
- Featured in Metro Detroit Jewish Community’s commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7, 2013, at Orchestra Hall
…And the legacy continues to be written!
Be sure to visit Hartford Historical Exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Church. There are extensive artifacts highlighting the achievements of our renowned Pastor.