Hartford Memorial Baptist Church celebrates 100 years of loving God and serving the world community. The Rev. Edgar Wendell Edwards served as founding pastor from 1917 to 1920 when he relocated to Chicago. After a diligent search, the Church called the Rev. Charles A. Hill Sr., assistant to the Rev. Robert L. Bradley Sr., of Detroit’s historic Second Baptist Church. Installed as pastor in November of 1920, he served for 48 years until his retirement on his 75th Birthday, April 28, 1968. During his progressive pastorate, Dr. Hill built new church facilities on the corner of Hartford and Milford and subsequently, a community and recreation facility. He was a strong supporter of organized labor; UAW Ford Local 600 was organized at Hartford Church. An outspoken champion of civil rights in the difficult days before the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Hill was at the forefront of the struggle for equality in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. He was one of the first Blacks to run for the Detroit City Council. Courageously, he opened the Hartford pulpit to such nonconformists as W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson.
On April 6, 1969, Hartford gleefully received its son, Charles Gilchrist Adams, as pastor of the church in which he had been reared, indoctrinated, baptized, licensed, ordained and married. At that time, Dr. Adams, an honors graduate of the University of Michigan and Harvard Divinity School, had just begun his seventh year as pastor of the historic Concord Baptist Church in Boston, New England’s largest African American congregation. Having burned the old mortgage in 1971, Dr. Adams led Hartford into the current James Couzens’ facilities on April 10, 1977; under his strong and vigorous leadership, this mortgage was burned in 1983, nine years ahead of time. With an ever increasing church family, Hartford has become one of the largest church congregations in Detroit. Widely known for its music ministry, Hartford boasts of the largest pipe organ built by a Black church. Choir loft expansions, upgraded audio/video equipment and redesigned lighting in the Sanctuary are only part of the ongoing renovations.
Dr. Adams’ vision of community outreach led to the establishment of The AGAPE (LOVE) HOUSE for charitable and community ministries. Formerly housed in properties purchased across the freeway on James Couzens, The AGAPE HOUSE, now temporarily located in the Church, continues to offer needed social services that include the Daily Senior Citizens’ Program, Hunger Task Force, Resource Center &Bookstore, Multi-Media Ministry, Scholarship and College Preparation Programs, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Hartford has purchased commercial real estate along Seven Mile Road, supporting the establishment of fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Long John Silver, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other businesses. A Super Kmart was built on church property and employed hundreds of local residents. Today, on the same church property, Home Depot continues to provide employment and a tax base for the city and state. On other church properties, Hartford has established the Head Start Agency, a Tutorial Program and the Hartford Institute for Biblical Studies.
Recently, Hartford, under the leadership of Dr. Adams, purchased 5.5 acres of land located on the former Meyers Road campus of Lewis College of Business. The design and plans are in progress for the utilization of this site for Vision ‘007, Dr. Adams’ and Hartford’s greatly expanded vision for community outreach. Vision ‘007 will host an assisted living complex, gymnasiums for seniors and youth, a performing arts auditorium, health facilities and The AGAPE HOUSE programs.
In 2007, Dr. Adams was selected as the first professor of the Practice of Ethics and of Ministry at Harvard University. His full teaching schedule at Harvard has not prevented his weekly delivery of soul-saving sermons at Hartford. Assisting him is his son, the Rev. Charles Christian Adams, who was unanimously appointed as Hartford’s first Presiding Pastor, thus continuing the Adams’ pulpit legacy. We celebrate and praise God for the ever expanding ministry of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.