In 1916, the concept of Brown Memorial Baptist Church became the passion of seven former members of Berean Baptist Church. These seven people decided to form a church after much prayer and consultation. Brown Memorial was named in the honor of the late Reverend Leonard Joseph Brown, the former pastor of Berean Baptist Church. After a series of planning meetings, this founding group rented a store located at 1648 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York, to hold worship services for a growing number of members. The first minister to serve Brown Memorial was Rev. John T. Price. Rev. Price served for nearly three years, establishing the trustee and deacon boards and raising $1,600 toward building a new church.
From 1921 to 1923, Rev. J. D. Gordon of California served as pastor. Under his pastorate, the membership grew greatly and the church purchased property at 629-631 Herkimer Street for the sole purpose of building a larger church. On May 14, 1921, the church broke ground and the Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythians laid the cornerstone on March 22, 1922. Brown Memorial Baptist Church was dedicated on March 25, 1922, holding its first service on Sunday, April 4, 1922. After the resignation of Rev. J. D. Gordon in 1923, Rev. George Granby served as interim pastor for three years. In 1926, Rev. Porter W. Phillips was called to pastor Brown Memorial Baptist Church, and under Rev. Porter’s twelve-year leadership, the Church grew in membership and finances.
On July 5, 1938, Rev. George W. Thomas was unanimously called to the pastorate of Brown Memorial Baptist Church. It soon became apparent that much larger quarters were necessary due to the rapidly growing membership. In 1958, the Church purchased its present home at 484 Washington Avenue for a cash price of $80,000, leaving a $10.00 balance in the treasury. Under Rev. Thomas, major renovations were completed and additional property was purchased for $152,000 for the purpose of building an educational and recreational facility. The long and rewarding spiritual leadership of Rev. George W. Thomas regrettably ended with his passing on January 10, 1973.
On February 5, 1974, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Austin was called to pastor Brown Memorial Baptist Church. Rev. Austin distinguished himself by serving as President of the National Baptist Congress and President of the New York State Baptist Congress. He organized the Church’s Missionary Society, the Christian Education Department, and the Youth Department. Rev. Austin’s major plan included the construction of a community center adjacent to the church. On November 17, 1991, the church broke ground for the center but construction halted due to contractual problems. Under the pastorate of Rev. Austin, the Church moved forward spiritually while spreading its wings nationally and internationally. Rev. Austin passed away on January 23, 1998 before the center was completed.
After a yearlong mourning period and an extensive pastoral search, the Lord answered our prayers and sent us an under shepherd, the Rev. Clinton M. Miller on September 16, 2000. On October 18, 2000, Rev. Miller preached his first sermon as the newly elected pastor. On March 19, 2001, Rev. Devore Chapman, moderator of Eastern Baptist Association, duly installed Rev. Clinton M. Miller as the seventh pastor of Brown Memorial. Through the spiritual and administrative efforts of Rev. Miller, we have completed the construction of the Brown Memorial Fellowship Hall and are working toward the completion of major renovations of our main edifice, including the restoration of our unique stained glass windows.
Under Rev. Miller’s dynamic leadership, the membership is growing spiritually and exponentially. Our youth programs including the Ministry In Action athletic program and Youth Summits, have increased in number. We have also established the Clinton M. Miller Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance for our college bound students. Our Bible Study program has been expanded to include Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday evening sessions. A new sound system was installed enabling the initiation of a new tape ministry as a special outreach to our sick and homebound members. To enhance communications between the church and the community, our website (www.brownmemorialbaptist.org) was launched in October 2002.
Since 2001, Brown Memorial has made strides towards empowering new ministries to meet the needs of God’s people. Through Scholarship funds, food pantries, benevolence, The Fryday Fund, Brown has made attempts at engaging in responsible stewardship. In expanding the music ministry including liturgical dancing, drama and audio, the church has used both traditional and contemporary mediums including CD’s and social networking to express the Gospel of Jesus. In 2008, the church launched The Brown Community Development Corporation (BCDC) to further assist families and pursue fair and just policies in New York and beyond. The MLK After school program, Community Organizing, Job development and community wellness are all integral parts of BCDC’s mission and purpose. In addition to leading individuals to salvation, Brown has advocated for social justice, economic and educational equality in New York City.
– Since 2001, Brown has licensed and ordained ministers who have gone on to advance God’s kingdom. Part of Brown’s mission is to support and nurture women and men who are called to preach God’s word and serve God’s people.
– In 2009, the church engaged a Youth Minister to coordinate all of the youth activities of the church.
– On February 4th, 2012, with the leadership of an appointed construction committee, Brown Memorial completed a $4 million dollar sanctuary renovation project.
– In 2012, the trustee board was expanded and the upstairs classrooms were renovated. Brown joined Facebook and Twitter to reach out to more individuals.
– In 2013, Brown Memorial was the recipient of a $200,000 grant from Partners in Preservation, a partnership of The National Trust for Preservation and American Express, for the restoration of its Tiffany-stained glass window, The Pilgrims. BMBC was the only African-American church to compete and receive this award; Brown Memorial also received a $40,000 grant from the NY Landmarks Conservancy for the window restoration.
– In December 2014, Brown Memorial completed the full restoration of the Pilgrims Window. The window was re-dedicated on January 4, 2015.
– In November 2015, Brown Memorial completed the renewal of the pulpit mural of Jesus, Peter and Paul. The mural has been updated to reflect the historical accuracy of the complexion of Jesus and his disciples. The picture is now reflective of the community in which Brown serves.
– In 2016, the Brown Memorial website will be launched in order for the church to enhance its communication.