The North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church has been serving its community since 1955. The church has a rich heritage of leaders who have served the church and community well throughout the years.
Elder W. A. Thompson officially organized the North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church on December 17, 1955, with 106 charter members. The Adventists had a presence in South Philadelphia and felt the need to expand into another area of the city. The congregation’s first official place of worship was the lower auditorium of the Immanuel Institutional Bible Church, pastored by William Bentley. Prayer meeting services were held at the homes of various North members. Missionary Volunteer (MV) meetings (now Adventist Youth Society – AYS) were held on Friday evenings.
Elder Thompson left to minister in another area of the Allegheny East Conference and our new pastor was Elder Wilmont Fordham. Pastor Fordham loved inviting guest choirs to worship with us, and under his direction, the church grew. Our weekly church services were joyous occasions – like mini family reunions.
In 1957, Elder Charles L. Brooks took over as church pastor. Young and musically talented, Brooks blessed our church with dynamic preaching and beautiful music. Our congregation was small enough that Elder Brooks was able to determine who was missing from church on Sabbath and pay them a visit during the week. The congregation continued to grow, and Elder Brooks began to look for another worship locations to accommodate the increasing size. Our new home became the Jones Memorial Baptist Church on Dauphin Street, but this building soon also proved too small for the rapidly growing body of members. Elder Brooks moved his congregation to the building located at 1313 West Susquehanna Avenue on October 17, 1958. This time, however, the church was not renting from another congregation – this was their very own building!
Elder Leon Cox was installed as the church’s new pastor in 1961. He saw the potential of our new edifice and utilized it. There was a large lawn on the side of the church, close to the main street and the subway. In addition, a major bus route ran right past the church’s front door. Elder Cox hosted an evangelistic series on the lawn, and the church added more to its number.
In 1964, North welcomed Elder William DeShay as their new pastor. DeShay was quiet and gentle, but had a strong manner. He and other Adventist pastors in the Philadelphia were instrumental in bringing Elder Charles D. Brooks to Philadelphia to host an evangelistic series. The Lord blessed tremendously and North’s membership reached an all-time high.
Elder J. C. Smith followed Elder DeShay. He saw the over-crowded conditions and started looking for a new place of worship. He found a large building, with Gothic architecture, built in 1892. The building’s beauty couldn’t be seen at first sight, but Elder Smith envisioned what the renovated project would look like. The church purchased the building. With Elder Smith at the helm, the members worked untiringly to sand, repaint and varnish the building’s interior. The finishing touch was the installation of a large, lighted cross at the back of the rostrum – the cross was built by none other than Elder Smith! Under Elder Smith’s direction, the church also bought their first parsonage and a community services building.
Next on the scene was Elder Paul Cantrell. Quiet and reserved, he was meticulous teacher with a blackboard and some chalk. Although he never conducted any evangelistic campaigns, his teaching style continued to bring new members to the church. When he left North, the church’s membership stood at 876. The church’s mortgage was liquidated under his leadership.
In May 1989, Elder William Hall became North’s pastor. On October 11, 1991, he received probably some of the worst news a pastor can receive: a fire had destroyed the church building! Two Philadelphia churches graciously hosted the church during their rebuilding – first the National Temple Baptist Church and then the Shiloh Apostolic Temple Church.
The church was able to purchase the Mother Divine church building across the street from the old burnt-out building. Again – pastor and members worked together to get the church repaired and painted. The congregation moved into the building in 1993. Under Elder Hall’s leadership and direction, the congregation built a new church building which they moved into on October 12, 2002. Pastor Hall served the church faithfully for sixteen years. His farewell service on September 17, 2005 was a day of both sadness and joy – sadness because of his departure, but joy at the wonderful experiences and memories shared. Then mayor John F. Street attended the ceremony and presented the Hall family with the Liberty Bowl.
On February 11, 2006, Elder Keith Goodman, Sr., became our senior pastor. Interestingly enough, Pastor Goodman was one of four associate pastors who interned at North under Pastor Hall. Pastor Goodman had a passion for social justice and under his leadership, the church participated in several outreach ministries including a mentoring program for for children of incarcerated parents. Pastor Goodman is an accomplished musician, and the church enjoyed his insightful sermons.
We joyfully welcomed Pastor Marquis D. Johns as the lead pastor at North on March 5, 2016. You can read more about him and his ministry in his bio. We are looking forward to a long and fruitful ministry with him, as we make North Philadelphia a place for those giving Jesus a chance and a last chance.