Historical Sketch of the Burnett Avenue Missionary Baptist Church
The Burnett Avenue Missionary Baptist Church began from prayer meetings held at the home of Sister Clark, 1434 Bland Street, Louisville, Kentucky. The prayer meetings grew until a mission was organized by the Lampton Baptist Church in 1889. A lot was later purchased and an edifice built at 1425 Bland Street under the leadership of Rev. Wakefield Hart, a member of Lampton, who became the first pastor. The mission eventually became the Bland Street Baptist Church. Some of the early pastors of this growing congregation were Rev. Samuel Coleman, Rev. Jackson Riley, Rev. William Brent, Rev. Loving, Rev. Strow and Rev. H. W. Jones. Under the pastoral guidance of Rev. T. J. Talley, the church purchased a lot at 511 East Burnett Avenue and broke ground in the spring of 1921. Rev. Talley passed away before a building could be erected.
After much prayer and patience, God provided the church a leader in Rev. James A. Baker. It was through his direction that the building was constructed at the new site. The congregation entered the new edifice November 11, 1923 by marching from the old church on Bland Street to the new church on Burnett Avenue—and the church became known as the Burnett Avenue Missionary Baptist Church. The building suffered severe damage from the 1937 flood but rebounded and by the grace of God continued to serve as a means of spiritual support for the surrounding neighborhood known as Fort Hill. Rev. Baker served faithfully for 38 years (1921- 1959) and assisted several young preachers in their early development.
Rev. William M. Coleman, a member of the congregation, was called as interim pastor. The church building was marred by fire in November 1960. Rev. Coleman led the congregation in rebuilding and we re-entered the refurbished facility on the second Sunday in February 1961. Rev. Coleman served through July 1961.
In June 1961, the church extended a call to Rev. John O. Crittenden, Sr. who assumed the pastorate on August 6, and was installed on October 22, 1961. He revived our evening worship services and reinstated our B. T. U. (Baptist Training Union). The church membership continued to increase spiritually and numerically under his leadership, but on Saturday, January 29, 1966 the building was demolished by another fire. The extremely cold temperature hampered the firefighter’s attempts to save the building, as the water froze almost immediately from the hoses. During reconstruction after both fires, our services were held at Star Lodge Hall and Miles Memorial C. M. E. Church. Rev. Crittenden led the congregation to build a new edifice at the same location and we joyously entered our new church building on November 6, 1966. Rev. Crittenden faithfully served our congregation for 18 years and accepted a call to another church in September 1979.
The Lord led the church in calling Rev. Christopher L. Hagan as pastor. Rev. Hagan had served as an association minister under Pastor Crittenden. He began his pastorate on November 25, 1979. During his seven years of leadership, the church increased financially through tithes and offerings. Pastor Hagan began a bus ministry, basketball and volley ball teams and college scholarships were provided. He also led the church to purchase additional properties along East Burnett Avenue. Rev. Hagan served dutifully until 1986.
On August 20, 1988 the church called Rev. Gerald L. Thomas to fill its near two-year pastoral vacancy. He began on September 4, 1988. Pastor Thomas’ powerful preaching and teaching brought growth to both Sunday School and mid-week Bible Study. He led the Church into her Centennial Anniversary, celebrating with a banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. During his tenure many souls were won to Christ and various programs and ministries were implemented, including New Member Orientation. After 5 years of dedicated service, Rev. Thomas accepted the call to another church in August 1993.
On September 3, 1993 Rev. Johnnie D. Clark was called to serve as interim pastor. On June 1, 1994 Rev. Clark accepted the call to become pastor. Under his leadership the church grew spiritually and numerically through his teachings of God’s word, Christian Leadership Training, college level bible classes, organized evangelism, and increased ministry and mission. Two portable classrooms and two additional properties were purchased, developing a Church Campus with increased discipleship space for us to carry out The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Rev. Clark announced his retirement effective June 28, 2009, but at the church body’s request, postponed his retirement until January 31, 2010 while the church conducted its pastoral search. Rev. Jordan L. Thompson, an associate minister of Greater Galilee Baptist Church, served as interim pastor from February 1 to April 26, 2010.
Through much prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit, on May 24, 2010 the church called Rev. Daniel Corrie Shull to be the next pastor. He graciously accepted the call and preached his first sermon as pastor of the Burnett Avenue Baptist Church on June 27, 2010 and was installed on August 22, 2010. Under his leadership and vision the church adopted the mantra “Taking the Next S.T.E.P.”, and through Stewardship, Tools, Evangelism, and Proclamation, launched into 21st century technology, developed new ministries, and grew to three Sunday morning worship services. Burnett Avenue soon took on the nickname “The Net”, and in May 2012 the church began the process to purchase and renovate a vacant property at 6800 South Hurstbourne Parkway, sitting on 7.7 acres. When the renovations of the entrance, offices and sanctuary were completed, the congregation, “Taking the Next S.T.E.P... in Victory,” held final services at the Burnett Avenue location on June 9, 2013. A Ribbon Cutting & Dedication Service was held on Saturday, June 15th and three worship services at the new Hurstbourne location began on Sunday, June 16, 2013. The sale of the property at 511 E. Burnett Avenue was completed on October 31, 2013.
The year of 2014 marked the 125th Church Anniversary – “Taking the Next S.T.E.P….Imagining the Possibilities”. Special weekends were celebrated throughout the year, focusing on various age groups and relationships. The congregation continued growing and a fourth worship service was added on Saturday nights beginning October 4th. We paid off the loan for the front parking lot, and work was begun to pave additional parking space on the east side of the building. This area was included in the original purchase. In November the Church celebrated her Quasquicentennial in grand fashion with an Anniversary Gala at The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville and one combined worship celebration held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni Chapel.
We walked boldly into 2015 “The Year of Equipping” with faith and focus to equip believers for victory and wholeness in every aspect of life. In January the Education Wing was completed with ten (10) new classrooms. The Multipurpose Room was completed in July, in time to host our expanded Vacation Bible School. Our ministerial staff wrote the curriculum: “Empire: Cultivating a Kingdom State of Mind”. We held our first pre-marriage seminar, hosted two (2) stage plays, a community baby shower and an Advent study for married couples written by Pastor Shull. The church donated $10,000 to Simmons College of Kentucky, Louisville’s only HBCU.
Growth and space continued to be “a good problem to have”, as we launched into 2016: “The Year of Adventure”. With the purchase of a Portable Church, a Trailer and rented space in the Cinemark Tinseltown Theater we became a two-location church, adding a 9:15 a.m. worship each Sunday. This initiative was successful but ended after five months. We continued four services and began live-streaming our 10:00 a.m. service. In the last quarter of 2016 we launched a “Back to Sunday School” initiative with classes for every age group. The renovation of the kitchen was completed, and a state-of-the-art lighting system was installed in the sanctuary.
“Recalibrate” was the theme for 2017. Our ministry and special weekends ran as scheduled, but we stopped creating events in order to assess and strategize a more efficient way forward. “Elevate the Essential” was the goal of 2018. Our events and special emphasis days became more congregation-driven and less staff-driven. Special Project Teams were formed for security, emergency response, infrastructure development, community corporation development, and a relaunch of the young adult ministry.
We were challenged to “Embrace the Now” in 2019; to look for the potential and God’s providence, and fully immerse ourselves into the present moments that God gives us. All of our special events and emphasis weekends were stepped up to the next-level: our children and youth presented spectacular performances at Christmas and Easter, and during our Women’s Week celebration, we donated $25,000 to the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex building project. We purchased another 7.5 acres of land on the far east side of the parking lot bringing our total acreage to 15.2. In November, we celebrated the 130th Church Anniversary with an awesome gala at the Louisville Marriott Downtown Ballroom; and our Church Choir recorded its first CD with two-time Dove Award winner and Gospel Hall of Famer, Mr. V. Michael McKay.
2020: “The Year of Refined Focus” allowed us to focus on being our best selves as we combatted the novel coronavirus pandemic which shut down in-person worship services in mid-March. We regrouped for Lent via online video platforms, and planned and hosted our weekly studies, and special emphasis days online. We used this time to update our facility with fiberoptic cable to enhance livestream, touchless faucets and soap dispensers in restrooms, to prevent the spread of germs. We paved the front parking lot and conducted industrial cleaning of the facility. We are working to update our sanctuary, as well as our website. We also donated $10,000 to the Louisville Bail Project to facilitate the release of twelve mothers for Mother’s Day. We have provided space for weddings; for bereaved families, even outside our membership; as well as space for Lincoln Foundation and Census Bureau training and social organization meetings. We also provided financial help to college students, and families impacted by lay-offs due to COVID-19.