Tabernacle's Ninety-Year Journey
Organized in 1922 under the name of Saint Paul Baptist Church, Tabernacle has been a citadel of hope for Milwaukee and its people. We were formed by a band of believers to bear witness of the gospel in their time. They were led by the vision of the organizing minister, Reverend Hooks, who laid the foundation for the nascent assembly. He was succeeded by Reverend Johnson in 1926, and the Reverend R. H. Foy assumed the pastorate at the conclusion of Reverend Johnson's ministry in 1932. It was during this period that the congregation changed its name to Tabernacle Baptist Church.
In 1936, with fifty-five members, the congregation called the Reverend Jewell Lawrence Williams to be its fourth minister. He would prove to be an iconic figure in the church as the membership increased immensely under his leadership. The church added 'Community' to its name to differentiate it from another congregation with a similar name. But, in many other ways, the name change also indicated the church's affirming consciousness toward the community it served.
During the pastorate of Reverend Williams, the congregation purchased its first edifice at 1632 N. 10th Street, which it vacated a few years later due to a city urban development project in 1960. When the church moved to its current location in 1961, an edifice purchased from the former Immanuel Baptist Church congregation, a renewal of our identity and purpose occurred. Pastor Williams presided over a tremendous expansion of ministry and served faithfully until his retirement in 1977.
In that year Tabernacle called the Reverend Robert L. Harris to the pastorate. During his tenure several new ministries and programs were initiated, namely, the Board of Christian Education, the establishment of the Reverend Jewell L. Williams Library, a Food Pantry and Prison Ministry, and the Coalition of Aging which is chartered by the State of Wisconsin. The church’s facilities were renovated and upgraded for the support of the ministry and the work continued to flourish. Committed to the work of missions, Reverend Harris led the congregation to support foreign missions ministries in Monrovia, Liberia, and organize a local neighborhood outreach in the community which continues today.
Reverend Harris died in May 2008, after thirty-one years of meritorious service. His death left a void in the congregation, but its work continued. In September 2009, the congregation called the Reverend Don Darius Butler as its sixth pastor, to continue the legacy bequeathed to us by those who served before. Since his coming, Tabernacle has experienced a renewal of its promise, with member-families returning to their spiritual-home and ministries being revived and reformed.
Under the leadership of six pastors, Tabernacle has responded to the call of God to be the light of the world. Successive generations of disciple-members have held up this light for the illumination of hearts and minds to the glory of God. In this milestone year, we recommit ourselves to the faith that brought our church into being, and strive to build a greater Tabernacle for God and humanity.