The history of Baker Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a very beautiful and colorful one. Since its humble inception in 1908, this congregation and its founders have overcome myriad obstacles; they could not have envisioned the modern day Baker Chapel as a leading congregation in African Methodism.
The Reverend Henry Baker and seven other persons met at 301 East Rosedale Street in south Fort Worth, Texas (present site of Baker Funeral Home), setting in motion a fledgling organization that would in time be recognized and accepted into the Northeast Texas Conference. Reverend Henry Baker was a local preacher at Allen Chapel AME Church when the church began; he and others left in a protest over assessments. He served as its initial pastor for three years before moving on. Because of his courage and spiritual perseverance, the young congregation selected the name “Baker Mission” to honor their leader.
Reverend Gault succeeded him as Pastor; he inspired the membership as the spirit of God continued to prevail during his three years of service. Under the leadership of the Reverend J.P. Lynn, whose tenure covered a period of five years, property at location 1050 East Humbolt Street was purchased. Also during this period, was recognized as a Station Charge under the name of Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church, an everlasting credit to Reverend Henry Baker and his descendants. Shortly thereafter, a tabernacle (a temporary structure situated in the peach orchard) was erected as a place of worship.
With the coming of the Reverend N.W. Whitmire, the growing congregation needed to secure a lodging of its own for its pastoral family. In keeping with the Discipline of African Methodist Church, these loyal members under the leadership of their progressive Pastor purchased their first parsonage in the 1400 block of Dreiss Street.
The tabernacle soon outlived its usefulness. This growing congregation began to plan for building an edifice that would be credit to the denomination, the community, and above all God whom they served. This building was to reflect the dignity and pride of a congregation bent on setting examples of Christian benevolence for those who must take up the cross after them. Dr. Richmond C. Walker led the congregation in the building the first unit and also in relocating to a larger Parsonage at Pulaski and Illinois.
In order to add a second floor to the church, sizeable mortgage indebtedness had to be liquidated. This task was tackled by the newly assigned pastor: Reverend A. R. Nelson was given the charge by Bishop George B. Young. His tenure extended over a period of ten years. He paid off the mortgage indebtedness, built the second unit and completely furnished it. The entrance ceremony was held September 19, 1949. The following pastors succeeded him for short tenures: Reverends Thomas L. Clement, Louis Calvin Browning, and W.E. Greene.
The Reverend L.C. Young succeeded Rev. Greene. During his pastorate the congregation began negotiating for relocation of the parsonage to 1037 E. Morningside Drive. Under the leadership of the Rev. L. D. Bennett, Baker Chapel realized this dream. Reverend L. D. Bennett passed on to his reward from the Manse.
In August 1964, Reverend A.C. Johnson was appointed to serve the remainder of the conference year. The congregation joined hands with their new pastor and entertained the North Texas Annual Conference. At the close of that meeting, the Reverend Johnson was re-appointed to the Baker Chapel Church as its Pastor. His administration covered a period of eleven the years and three months. He led the church in improving its financial system, burning the mortgage and renovation of the Sanctuary which was completed in 1970. Rev. Johnson retired in 1975.
Following the superannuating of Reverend A.C. Johnson, Rev. A.W. Harvey, a veteran of many years, was assigned as Pastor in 1975. During the nineteen months of his administration, the church progressed and became a part of the community activities with the emphasis on “self-improvement.” Pastor Harvey died in 1977, leaving the congregation without a shepherd. For six months the Rev. I.G. Greene, Presiding Elder of Fort Worth District, assisted by the Rev. A.H. Forbes, Sr. gave the church supervision.
At the 1977 North Texas Conference, which met at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Dallas, the Rev. B.L. McCormick, a veteran Pastor, was assigned to Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church. This Connectional Pastor began immediately assessing the needs of the congregation, which emphasis placed on “Progress.” From October 1977 to 2002, many physical changes were made at the church; each enhanced the church structure. Other improvements in the interior, such as new pews, floor coverings and other ‘housekeeping’ measures added to a warm spiritual atmosphere. The major addition of an elevator equipped the building for accessibility by all.
During the McCormick administration of twenty-five years, an investment program was established for the church, and ten parcels of property were purchased. This greatly improved the financial position of the church.
Others who served as Pastor of Baker Chapel AME Church include Reverends A.R. Starks, J.E. Edwards, C.L. Morgan, J.B. Butler, G.L. Simpson, A.W. Williams, and G.H.W. Walker.
In 1983, Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church celebrated its “Diamond Jubilee” and commemorated the 75th year of service in the community of Fort Worth, Texas. The theme: “We have come this far by faith” was followed throughout the celebration. The church entered a new era of progress in 1991 with plans for building improvements. A new annex to the church was built housing an elevator, men and women rest room, lounge area and office.
The B.L. McCormick Christian Life Center was constructed at a cost of one half million dollars in 1999. A building dedicated to the cause of Christian Education and the young people, long a dream of the late Mrs. Izean F. Davidson and many of the congregation finally became a reality. God saw fit to remove her from among us March 19, 1999) before completion of the building. The “Izean F. Davidson Room” (Christian Education Office) was dedicated to the sacred memory of this wonderful woman. The Dedication service for the Building was held October 17, 1999. Likewise, the Theodore E. Bass Music Hall and Sherman Wilson Library honored the lives of our dedicated Minister of Music and former Trustee.
A house at 1608 East Humbolt was donated to the church by the Ferguson family. This property was completely refurbished as a hall for small meetings and group activities. The project was undertaken in memory of the late first lady, Mrs. Lillie Mae McCormick and spearheaded by Pastor McCormick; renovations were financed entirely through donations from friends of the McCormicks
throughout African Methodism. Several AME congregations formerly pastored by Reverend McCormick contributed to this work: Sealy Circuit-Reverend Doctor Sarah F. Davis, Pastor; Saint John Brenham-Reverend Doctor Alvin Larkin, Pastor; and Saint Paul Dallas - Reverend Doctor W. Raymond Bryant, Pastor. The house was remodeled at a cost in excess of $40,000.00 at no expense to the Church. Dedication for the Lillie Mae McCormick House and Cornerstone laying for the B.L. McCormick Christian Life Center were both held November 22, 1998 .
Following the death of Reverend McCormick, the church was led by a ministerial team consisting of Reverends Marshall Hobbs, III. Pauline Lauderdale, Sandra Smith, and Bruce Whitted. Bishop McKinley Young appointed a dynamic young Pastor for the twenty-first Century, Reverend Walter McDonald. This energetic servant of God began an assessment of church administration, organized ministry work in the Commission model, and initiated many avenues for spiritual formation within the congregation. His ministry is focused on equipping all members to engage in outreach, evangelism and stewardship. More than twenty ministries have been established and are currently working inside and outside the walls of Baker Chapel AME Church.
In January 2008, Baker Church began the celebration its 100th Year Anniversary under the leadership of Pastor McDonald. Our theme: “Expanding Minds, Developing Faith, and Inspiring Service” was highlighted in every activity throughout the celebration year. Historical presentations and events included the Opening Worship Service preached by Reverend Melinda Veatch, Executive Director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches;, Founders Day Celebration highlighted by a dynamic sermon from our Bishop, Right Reverend Gregory G. M. Ingram; Neighborhood Family Picnic where we shared fellowship with neighbors and sister congregations from our community; Friends and Family Day, preached by Reverend Michael Waters; and the Centennial Gala Celebration, a splendid evening of entertainment and fellowship honoring more than forty of our senior members ; and the Closing Worship Service, ably led by retired Bishop John Hurst Adams. The Centennial highlighted the Goodness of God, his work of ministry and the eternal charge to Lift Jesus. To God be the Glory for His Mighty Works among us!