Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church History Founded: 1918

Mercy Seat Baptist Church is located in the heart of the Central West End of St. Louis, Missouri. It stands as a beacon light in the community, signaling men, women, boys, and girls to the safety of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Mercy Seat is the Holy Temple of God where God meets His people, where God’s Spirit indwells the sanctuary and falls upon those who herein assembled with open minds and hearts, willing to accept Him. At Mercy Seat, Jesus Christ—God’s only Son—is always the center attraction. The sole purpose of this church is to project Jesus Christ through its three-fold ministry of mission, evangelism, and education.

Mercy Seat is a holy house—a refuge from the storms of life, an asylum from the burdens of the world, a sanctum sanctorum! It is a house of peace where one can find unspeakable joy! It is a sacred house for God’s Holy Spirit dwells herein. It is a house dedicated to God solely for His purpose to work in, work through, work among His people. Here He speaks personally to His people through a song, prayer, testimony, the declared Word. It is a blessed house where God’s children come for reproof, repentance, revival, reconciliation, rededication, recommitment, and are received by a loving, merciful, forgiving God.

Mercy Seat is a strange house where saint and sinner both meet on common ground. It is a mysterious house, for here one learns that in order to have, he must give his all; to be happy, he must be willing to suffer; to live, he must die; to be free, he must become a slave for Jesus Christ. The doors of this house open wide, welcoming people of all ages from every walk of life to new life in Christ through His eternal salvation. It stands to remind the world that even in the midst of our present chaotic society, there IS an answer to every problem and there IS a better, more abundant way of life.

This church was organized in 1918 by the late Rev. Starks. The church received its name, MERCY SEAT, from the late Mother Nancy Lewis who had belonged to a church in the south bearing that name. At its inception, Mercy Seat was located in a little frame building in the 3500 block of Bernard Street.

The Rev. Starks pastored for a very short period of time. Rev. R.E. Poole was called to the pastorate and served from 1918-1925. The church prospered under his leadership and began making plans for expansion. Rev. Poole suffered a stroke and was unable to continue to serve. He offered his resignation due to his physical impairment and asked the church to pray for a new pastor.

Rev. M. J. Jackson was elected pastor in 1925. In 1926, the church marched to 3444 Walnut Street —a more excellent location with an upstairs apartment which generated additional church income. The church membership greatly increased.

In 1927, Rev. Elcue Laws was called to pastor. Rev. Laws left his home in Hamilton, Ohio to accept the call and served for two years. Rev. L.O. Gyce succeeded him, serving for two years. Rev. J.W. Phillips followed him in 1931.

Rev. Phillips was succeeded by Rev. A.F. Smith who was pastoring a small congregation. Upon acceptance of Mercy Seat, his small congregation merged with the Mercy Seat Family.

At the end of his pastorate, Rev. Elcue Laws was called again for a second term. After serving this time, he was followed by Rev. F. Shephard.

At this time in its history, Mercy Seat was on the decline. The membership had decreased. There was a foreclosure on the church mortgage which caused the church to move in 1934 to a small location on the corner of Leonard & Market Streets. Rev. Shepard resigned. A few dedicated members were determined to work and pray, to stay and hold on, to rebuild the church both physically and spiritually.

In 1936, the church moved to 2650 Clark Avenue. Hearing of a dynamic young minister with great potential, the church invited him to come to preach. There was an immediate bond and the church voted unanimously to elect Rev. Roosevelt Brown as pastor. The church had only eighteen members.

The church began to grow and take on new life. The membership increased greatly, outgrowing the place of worship. The only remedy was to secure a larger place, so the church moved a few doors away to 2758 Clark Avenue.

Four years later, on the second Sunday in July 1940, the church marched to 2730 Bernard Street. God was richly blessing Mercy Seat. While the church was still rejoicing in its prosperity, the building suffered two fires which did extensive damage. But that did not hamper its growth. The Mercy Seat Family bonded itself closer together, repaired the damages, redecorated the church, and expanded a little more.

With the changing times came changing neighborhoods and the urban renewal project. This caused Mercy Seat to look for a new site. We purchased a lot at 4424 Washington Boulevard and broke ground to erect a new edifice. On February 28, 1960, we marched to our present location. We later purchased a house next door, to the east of the church.

Rev. Roosevelt Brown, with the help of God, made great accomplishments at Mercy Seat. We purchased new pews, a baby grand piano, a Hammond organ, kitchen appliances and utensils, and dining furnishings. The church purchased two additional buildings to the east of the church. On Sunday, February 28, 1965, the church held its mortgage burning ceremony---having paid off the mortgage on the building and all its contents and other properties---being debt free. Rev. Roosevelt Brown continued to preach the gospel of our Christ and the church grew spiritually.

On July 6, 1984, after giving service to Mercy Seat Baptist Church for forty-eight years, Rev. Roosevelt Brown went home to be with the Lord. God had truly blessed him with wisdom and understanding whereby through his efforts under the direction of God, he laid the strong foundation whereupon we shall continue to build.

In August 1985, Rev. Dr. James Brown, Sr. was elected as pastor. On Sunday, September 12, 1985, he accepted the call and assumed the responsibility as the eleventh pastor of the church. Under the direction of God, Pastor James Brown, Sr., presented a proposal to the church at the time of his election. He has earned the respect, support, and fellowship of the Mercy Seat Family and is endeavoring to fulfill every phase of that proposal. His primary goal is that Mercy Seat be effective in her three-fold ministry of mission, evangelism, and education.

To aid in advancing the ministry of this church, he led the church in the purchase of two fifteen-passenger vans, one paralift equipped for our handicapped and non-ambulatory members. The vans were replaced with a twenty-four passenger bus in 2002. The church program is designed for total membership involvement and participation from our little tots to our Golden Agers. Not only does he strive to provide for the spiritual enrichment and fulfillment of the membership, but also for the economic, social, recreational, and Christian education of each member. Member participation is offered for all members—tots through seniors—through twenty-three ministries, auxiliaries, groups, and organizations.

Our Tuesday Evening 6:00 P.M. Prayer Service undergirds our weekly Bible Class. Here fervent prayers transcend earth carried on the wings of faith to be laid at the feet of God to be interpreted and translated by Holy Spirit petitioning blessings upon Mercy Seat and this world, resulting in rich blessings upon each of us!

The Bible Class provides for ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16-116. Through the declaration of God’s Word being studied, researched, and presented on each age level, many souls have been added to the Mercy Seat Family, making our total membership over twelve hundred. Many of these persons came as a result of the Bible Class teachings.

Our Children’s Church offers a learning/worship experience for children ages 3-9. Plans are underway to increase the age limit to eleven (3-11) years. The Children’s Church was organized in April 1996. They have their own worship service each Sunday and on First & Second Sundays they come to the main sanctuary for communion and for baptism.

Under the leadership of Pastor James Brown, Sr., growth and worship attendance demanded that we expand our sanctuary. Being a staunch advocate of Christian Education, under divine direction, he led us not only into a program to expand and remodel our sanctuary, but also to erect an educational facility with needed classrooms and assembly room. The focal point of our ministry of mission, evangelism, and education is that we may glorify God.

Growth also necessitated additional parking which led to the purchase of two lots directly in the rear of the church at 4423-4431 Olive and the demolition of the house east of the church at 4418 Washington Boulevard to provide parking space, the purchase of lots west of the church, 4448-4452 Washington Boulevard, the purchase of the apartment building west of the church at 4432 Washington Boulevard, and the purchase of lots across the street at 4433-4437 Washington Boulevard.

Concerned for the total welfare of man, he was divinely inspired to lead us in the construction of housing for our senior citizens. This 43 unit senior apartment complex is located on the west lot at 4452 Washington Boulevard. The old apartment building at 4432 has been demolished and the site is now a parking lot for the church. All of the other listed lots are used for church parking with the exception of 4433-4437 Washington Boulevard which will be used as a mini-picnic/recreational area.

In 1999, we purchased lots in the rear of the church at 4433-4437 Olive. These lots are also being used for church parking with other future possibilities.

In 2005, the installation of an elevator that travels from the Lower Level, the Sanctuary Level, up to the upper level (Choir Room & Offices) was completed on the southeast side of the church. Future plans are for the erection of a facility that will provide additional classroom space, a child development center, a recreational center, and a banquet hall, all under one roof.

On December 23, 2010, because of his dedication, commitment and service to Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church and the community, Alderman Terry Kennedy introduced an ordinance authorizing and directing the Street Commissioner to take all actions to honorary designate the 4400 block of Washington Avenue as “Rev. JAMES BROWN, SR. AVENUE."

In January 2014, during an annual business meeting, Rev. Dr. James Brown, Sr. announced his retirement from Mercy Seat Baptist Church, becoming effective December 31, 2015, completing his 30-year tenure as the 11th pastor of Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church.  As we began our Pastoral Search process, Pastor Brown was unanimously bestowed with the office of Pastor Emeritus and volunteered to remain as the Interim Pastor until the church was blessed with a new pastor.  Mercy Seat has been a blessed congregation of baptized believers for having had only 2 pastors in 80 years.  Rev. Roosevelt Brown served us faithfully for 48 years and Rev. Dr. James Brown, Sr., his successor, servced us faithfully, lovingly, and steadfastly for 32 years.  Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations!

On November 18, 2017, to continue the legacy of these great men, Mercy Seat called as its 12th pastor, Rev. Robert Earl Houston, Sr., of Portland, Oregon, by way of Frankfurt, Ky.  Rev. Houston had a rich pastoral and ministerial background extending over 40 years.  Shortly after his arrival, on January 20, 2018, Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Dr. James Brown, Sr. was called home from his labor to his reward.

With excitement and enthusiasm, Pastor Houston "hit the ground running" and became quickly known for pastoral care, preaching, teaching, singing, and utilizing all of His gifts to the Glory of God. In just a few short months he has led us in the eradication of our indebtedness on the roof, reimplemented a financial support system for our Scholarship Fund, accepted donations to create two additional Scholarship Funds, and accepted donations to create two additional scholarships. Rev. Houston implemented a Young Adult Sunday School Class, created a Noon-Day Bible Study, an Angels Children's Choir and Voices of Praise Choir, Ministerial Classes, and a Marriage Seminar.

We praised God for the growth in the congregation - spiritually, biblically and numerically under the leadership of Robert Earl Houston.  He reminded us, "he did not come to reinvent the wheel, but rather to build upon the legacy of the past, while seeking to serve this present age."  Under the guidance of Pastor Houston, we began the year 2020 with our focus being: "The Year of Trusting in God."

On February 12, 2020, after giving his all to the spiritual growth and development of our church, Pastor Houston was called home from his labor to his reward.  He will forever be remembered for the declaration of his testimony, "The Lord is Kind."

Mercy Seat came together in prayer and unity to petition God for courage, strength, and to send us another Pastor to lead His people.

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations!  We are ever mindful of the fact that we are "linked with the past," "involved with present," and "building for the future."


  October 2020  
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