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October 8, 2020

Mission endures as Milwaukee Sharon Church turns 100

The first Adventist church centered around the African American community in Milwaukee is gearing up to mark its 100th anniversary with a virtual celebration subdued but not conquered by the coronavirus. 

Richard Sylvester who has pastored the Milwaukee Sharon Church since 2013, says that although the in-person celebration planned for the summer could no longer occur, the Oct. 30-31 weekend commemoration is a unique opportunity to reflect on how far they come by faith. 

“It’s so easy to forget and not have a clear sense of purpose,” he says, “but it’s important to celebrate our past and embrace the future.”  

A vessel willing to be used 

In looking back over the church’s history and its remarkable growth, longtime member and elder, Laurence Dion says the term that best describes Sharon is that it’s “a church willing to be willing.” The church has a long-standing history of having a heart of service to God’s will, and this attitude continues to be the pillars of faith of its members after 100 years.  

A church willing to move 

Services were originally held in a private home; however, as more people received and accepted God’s message, the members saw the need to have a church building. Rallying to the occasion, funds were raised; a church structure was finally purchased in 1955. During this time of physical transformation, the church received its new name, Sharon Chapel, which was later changed to Sharon Seventh-day Adventist Church upon the increase of membership.  

The final and current location of Sharon Church was acquired for $275,000 in the summer of 1973. Through the members’ earnestness and faithfulness to God that in three weeks, they raised over $30,000 to meet the requirements of 50 percent cash in hand before the purchase. According to Dion, this acquisition was a miraculous moment from God, as he researched that the building (which included a school and gymnasium and a bowling alley in the basement) was worth $1.5 million. 

A church willing to grow 

With each move, the membership grew due, according to Dion, to the members’ eagerness to share the gospel. He referred to the evangelistic efforts as major highlights for the church. In 1935, they were the first church to hold an open-air evangelistic tent meeting in the city of Milwaukee. Receiving permission to do so was a major accomplishment, as the city of Milwaukee did not permit tents to be erected within city limits at that time. This was the beginning of many evangelistic outreach programs for the church.  

 

Throughout the years God has continuously blessed Sharon Seventh-day Adventist Church because of the spiritual dedication of its members and leaders. As the church, along with the Sharon Junior Academy attached to the church, continues to be a vessel within the community and the Milwaukee region, Dion noted that, just like the first members in 1920, the church has to continue to be willing to be willing. “That is a prayer I ask all the time,” he said. “God will do the work. We just have to be willing for Him to do the work in us.” 

The centennial program begins with a vesper service on Friday, Oct. 30, and continues Sabbath, Oct. 31, with Sabbath school, Divine worship, an afternoon panel discussion and a virtual social. You can view these events on the Milwaukee Sharon Facebook page and YouTube channel. For more information on the centennial celebration, visit http://www.mkesharonsda.com 

Michelle Greene, Lake Union Communication intern