Church History


New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church History


On August 6, 1933, the Pastor James Samuel Davis and a group of interested persons out of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church met to formalize plans for a new church in the city of Peoria.  This new congregation officially adopted the name “Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church” upon the suggestion of the late Mother Maria Young.  The church’s first location was in a store front building on the corner of Jefferson and Pecan Street, with Pastor Davis serving in the official capacity of pastor.  There were 36 charter members consisting of the following persons:


Anna Bedford                 Maggie Bradley                        Annanias Brown

Ella Brown                     Quickevious (Dillie) Camp       Amanda Carter

Charlene Davis               Anna Dillard                            William Gray

Spezzie Gulley               Julie Houston                           Dorena Hughes

Rev. James Davis           Bernice Jameson                      Leroy Jones

Emma Lou Jones            Lonnie Jones                           Elvia Keys

Frank Keys                     Lee Kyle                                  Mary Lou Keys

Thena Mae Kyle             Pinkie McDowell                      Rev. Munch McDowell

Louise McGhee              Virginia McGhee                      Lizzie McGowan

Jessie Stevenson             Wesley Stevenson                    Ruby Swain

Luegenia Whitelow        Edna Williams                         Mattie Williams

Maria Young                  Robert Young                          Rosie Young


After coming to a consensus in regards to the Jefferson and Pecan site, the church was on its way.  Pastor James Samuel Davis immediately went about the business of selecting the officials who would serve the church, as well as the naming of the auxiliaries that would help support the church.


Brothers Robert Young and William Gray, who were already ordained deacons from another church, together with J. T. Page and Norman Dillard were chosen by Pastor Davis to make up the first Deacon Board.  At later dates, Brother Wesley Stevenson and Charlie Moore were added to the board.  The first women appointed to the Mother’s Board were Pinkie McDowell, Mattie Ballard, Ella Costic, and Maggie Caraway.  Other persons who were first to hold various positions were: Spezzie Gulley, Superintendent of Sunday School; Rosie Jones, Treasurer of the Sunday School; Anna Dillard, Church Clerk; Mattie Ballard, Building Fund Treasurer, Jessie Stevenson, Organizer & Director of the Junior Choir and Mary Watson, the Church Pianist.


Under the leadership of Pastor Davis, the first Missionary Society was organized on August 24, 1933, with Mother Maria Young serving as the President and Rosie Jones serving

as Secretary.  The young people were involved in the Sunshine Band, directed by Mother Maggie Caraway and the Bud of Promise directed by Rosie Jones.


Mr. Sam Watson organized and served as president of the first Usher Board.  The “Penny Offering Girls” were: Mildred (Keys) Holcomb, Lillie Mae (Page) Stokes, Helen (McDonald) Walker, Lucille (McDonald) Jackson, Molly (McDonald) Hosea, Carter Lee Perry and Sedalia (Perry) Weathers.


The Music Department of the church consisted of two (2) choirs.  The Junior Choir, organized by Jessie Stevenson, and the Senior Choir.  The first pianist was Mr. James (Mary) Watson.


After the departure of Reverend Davis in 1940, Pastor M. D. Sharp was asked to serve as the interim pastor.  Pastor Sharp served in this capacity until Pastor P. H. Horace was elected pastor in February 1942.  Unfortunately, Pastor Horace’s tenure was brief; therefore Pastor Sharp was again as interim pastor.  A ten night revival service was conducted by Reverend J. H. Rodgers of Chicago, Illinois.  At the close of the meeting, the church extended a call to him to become the pastor in the fall of 1943.  Pastor Rodgers accepted.


Under the leadership of Pastor Rodgers, the church purchased the property on Jefferson and Pecan Streets for the sum of $6,150.  Later, the building was sold and a church building with a parsonage at 418 and 422 Southwest Reed Street was purchased for the sum of $22,500.  The church move to this location on March 31, 1946, with a membership of over 300 persons.  Pastor Rodgers served as pastor until July of 1955, after which the church was without a pastor for five (5) months.


On December 16, 1955, a special meeting chaired by The Late Reverend M. D. Dickson, was held for the purpose of electing a pastor.  At this meeting, the Pastor Calvin Hightower, an associate minister and member of the church, was extended the call to become the pastor of the New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.  Reverend Hightower accepted, with the understanding that he would be allowed to attend seminary in order to become more educated in the field of ministering and pastoring.


Under the leadership of Pastor Hightower, the following men answered the call to the ministry:

Minister Ron Bartlett – Pastor  of  Zion Gates Baptist Church in Kankakee

Minister Larry Davis                                           Minister Sylvester Ford (deceased)

Minister Bobby Foster                                        Minister Joseph Graves (deceased)

Minister Larry Hamilton (deceased)               Minister Herman Hanson (deceased)

Minister Johnny Hightower(deceased)           Minister Paul Hightower

Minister Carl Hill – Pastor of Good News M. B. Church, Peoria

Minister Joseph Johnson – Pastor of Star of Hope Full Gospel Church, Peoria

Minister  Michael Kyle                                     Minister Cleophis Lewis

Minister Roy Mason (deceased)                    Minister Fred McAfee

Minister Frank Moore                                     Minister McKinley Moton

Minister Wes Pollard (deceased)                  Minister George Rudd (deceased)

Minister Craig Smith – Pastor of Freedom Church, Chicago

Minister Bobby Williams (deceased)               Minister Nathaniel Williams (deceased)

Minister Willie Williams, Sr. (deceased)           Minister Ralph Wrightner(deceased)

Minister Wesley Zimmerman (deceased)


On September 13, 1979, Reverend Hightower crowned eleven new deacons who had been chosen and gone through a series of studies.  They were:

Bro. Robert Costic                             Bro. John Davis

Bro. Robert Hale                                Bro. Waymon Heard (deceased)

Bro. Calvin Hightower, Jr.                           Bro. Percy Neal, Sr. (deceased)

Bro. J. W. Randle, Sr. (deceased)                 Bro. R. W. Randle

Bro. George Terrell (deceased)           Bro. Nathaniel Williams

Bro. Wesley Zimmerman (deceased)


Sis. Luegenia Whitelow organized a new circle to the Missionary Society on March 19, 1979, known as the “Esther Circle.”  Sis. Whitelow also organized, at the request of the late Dea. Frank Freeman, three communion teams in 1981.  Team #1 administered communion at the local hospitals while Team #2 visited individuals at home, and Team #3 administered communion in the local nursing homes.  This was tremendous assets to our sick and shut-in members.  Sis. Whitelow also organized the “Professional and Business Women’s Circle” and the “Deborah Circle.”

Under the leadership of Pastor Hightower, the Music Department of the church grew.  The late Mrs. Ludie Mae Parish and the late Mrs. Ann Williams led a committee in the purchasing of a new Hammond organ.  Throughout the years, we have had many musicians help the Music Department.

Pianist/Organist:    Mrs. Leona Jenkins Lyons, Mr. Carter Lee Perry, Mrs. Ruth Hall, Mrs. Thelma Triplett Brown, Mr. Samuel Rose, Mr. Billy Purham, Mr. Charles Linwood, Mr. Darnell Turner, Mrs. Patricia Britton, Mrs. Sally Lowery Howard, Mr. Donald Trammell, Minister Ron Bartlett, Minister Eddie Warren, Mrs. Delores Williams, Mr. Joseph McKinley, Pastor Marvin Hightower, Mr. Bob Robinson, Jr., Mr. Milton Thornton, Mr. Harlan Mason and Mr. Byron Davis.  Our current pianist is Mrs. Delores Williams and Mr. Ron Spicer is currently our organist.

Drummers:    Mr. Roy Farmer, Mr. Herman Wade, Mr. Steve Hopson, Mr. Marty Davis, Mr. Lamar Randle, Mr. Anthony Braggs, Mr. Michael Miller, Minister David Dunn (HTCOGIC), Bro. Josh Sterling, Bro. Terry Woods, and currently Bro. Jyair Shird-Tucker, The late Bro. Jerry Porter played the congos.

Guitarist:    Bro. Roy Walters, Minister Paul E. Hightower, the late Bro. Bobbie Lee Tucker.

During Pastor Hightower’s tenure, there were two auxiliaries created.  They were the Drama Ministry, which was organized by Mrs. Mary Young Chaney; and the Nurse’s Guild organized by Mrs. Ernestine Williams, and currently serving  is Mother Naomi Shird-Tucker.


Under the leadership of Pastor Hightower, the congregation moved from the Reed Street address to the edifice on First Street for the cost of $1.00.  With the continual growth of new membership and the rapid deterioration of the building at 440 West First Street, came the decision to construct a new edifice.  Plans were made to build the structure and the congregation set about fulfilling them.  On April 1, 1979, the congregation moved to the present location at 413-15 West Second Street.


After the last services were held at 440 West First Street, a procession began at the site of the very first church location at Pecan and Jefferson.  Leaving this site, they then proceeded to the site on Reed Street, back to the site at 440 First, then on to the present location 413-15 West Second.  Rev. Hightower cut the ribbon at 11:30 a.m., singing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.”


Pastor Hightower was continuously seeking God’s guidance in searching new ways in which the church could prosper.  On May 1, 1981, a special meeting was called to initiate a plan called “Operation Payoff.”  He often referred to this plan as being “the nearest thing to his heart.”  However the mortgage was paid off.


Under the leadership of Pastor Calvin Hightower, the church grew rapidly in all aspects.  Most unfortunately, on February 26, 1982, the devoted servant was called home. After Pastor Hightower’s death, the Chairman of the Deacons Board called an emergency meeting to appoint an interim pastor.  Minister Cleveland Thomas, Sr., was elected.


On April 4, 1982, a church meeting was held in which a pulpit committee was sent out to evaluate and bring back to the church recommendations for a pastor of the New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.


On Friday, August 6, 1982, a church meeting was held for the purpose of hearing the pulpit committee’s report.  The church voted to extend the call to pastor to Minster Cleveland Thomas, Sr.  A formal letter was sent to him on August 10, 1982.  On Sunday, August 15, 1982, Minister Thomas officially accepted the calling.  Minister Thomas united with New Morning Star in 1978, and served faithfully as an associate minister, under the leadership of the late Pastor Hightower.


Under the leadership of Pastor Thomas, God is continually blessing New Morning Star.   Pastor Thomas has issued gospel ministry certificates of license to:

Minister Wayne Jordan                                    Minister James Polk(deceased)

Minister Bob Hope Robinson – Pastor of New Morning Star, Syracuse, NY

Minister Cedric Shumate – Pastor of   Carpenters House Church, Peoria

Minister Keith L. Thomas, — Pastor of Mt. Olive M. B. Church, Champaign, IL

Minister Walter Wright (deceased)

On September 3, 1982, the church donated the parsonage located at 1015 West Hurlburt, to the widow of our late pastor, Sis. Marilyn J. Hightower.


In April of 1983, the Male Chorus was reorganized with Minister Wes Pollard serving as President.  The chorus continues to be active.


On September, 19, 1983, Pastor Cleveland Thomas, Sr., and Pastor Shelvin Hall, along with many of our city officials, joined in a memorial ceremony at which the Youth Center of New Morning Star was “dedicated” and renamed the “Calvin Hightower Youth Center,” in memory of our late pastor.  Also, on that date, our newly constructed nursery was dedicated for service.  The nursery was constructed by Brother Eddie Ellis.  The interior artwork was done by Mrs. Kay Ellis.  Mr. & Mrs. Ellis, along with other helpers, donated their time and talents.   We thank God for them.  The Library was dedicated in the memory of the late Mother Ada Stroud.


The following deacons were crowned on April 25, 1986: James Banks, Lafayette Johnson, Louis Motley, Terry Mulkey  Daniel Smith, Jr.,  and Willie L. Thomas.


In 1988, a “Steering Committee” was formed to raise $250,000 in order that we might pay off our church note with the bank and burn our mortgage.  As mentioned previously, this was the dream of our late pastor, Pastor Calvin Hightower.  He always said to pay off the church note was the nearest thing to his heart.  Under the leadership of Pastor Cleveland Thomas, Sr., that dream was fulfilled.  The Steering Committee consisted of Charles Burton, Chairperson; Helen Walker, Annie Evans, Elizabeth White, Helen Scott, Bessie Jackson, and Charles Beard.  Our church family of many, many wonderful workers finally fulfilled the dream of Pastor Hightower.  September 18, 1988, we burned the mortgage at our 55th Church Anniversary Celebration.


The hands of God continue to shape and mold us into what he wants us to be.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works!  We experienced turbulent times during  1990 and 1991.  This discord within the congregation culminated in December, 1991, with a church wide voting procedure which reaffirmed Pastor Cleveland Thomas, Sr., as the pastoral leader and the selection of a new slate of officers.  Truly, this was a painful process.  Some of the congregation moved on to other sites of worship.  Yet we must remember – it is easy to exhort praises and claims of love to one another when all is well.


In the past years, we have made major improvements here at the church.  We purchased a school bus to replace the “Brown Bomber,” a new stove was purchased for the kitchen for the price of $1,900; the serving trays for the Lord’s Supper were replaced; new air conditioning units were installed in the Youth center; another steam table was installed in the kitchen; a new ice maker was purchased; and ceiling fans were installed in the kitchen.  Unity Choir (adult choir) purchased robes; ceiling tiles and floor tiles were purchased for the entire building.  We installed new carpet, repaired the roof, installed outside lights – including steeple lights – installed a new PA System, installed a new telephone system (“Merlin Plus”), and fax machine, installed handicapped signs in the parking lot, painted outside trim of the building and installed a new motor in the bus.  We’ve acquired a computer for the Finance Room, and received furniture for our Conference Room.  We have acquired a Hammond Organ, a new Minolta copier (in the secretary’s office) a new lawn tractor, and three hot water heaters were installed.  Our Foreign Mission and Home Mission’s gifts have increased to the highest level in history of this church.  We have also set aside more than $10,000 for the purchase of coaches (charter buses).


We later set aside another $8,000 for the purchase of coaches; two (2) Leslie speakers were purchased; the Conference Room and a pastor’s wife Guest Lounge was completed, a conference table and twelve (12) chairs were purchased; the plumbing in the ladies restroom were updated; a commercial refrigerator and a large chest freezer was purchased; and five (5) college bound students were assisted.  The Laymen completed the outside painting of the building.  A recording system was purchased and installed by the special efforts of Sis. Mae Birtha Sargent and Mother Legertha Jackson., who are both deceased.


In March of 1995, four deacons were crowned; Bro. J. C. Carlisle(deceased), Bro. Willie Gordon(deceased), Bro. J. D. Morris and Bro. Naymond Williams(deceased).  The Mother’s Council Increased by three member; Sis. Eva Hayes, Sis. Katherine Taylor, and Mother Louise Richardson(deceased).


During the month of August 1997, Bro. James Polk(deceased), was licensed to preach the Word of God.


The ladies’ and men’s restroom and lounges were completely remodeled, including new furniture.  The Marquee was finalized.  The flower bed in front of the edifice was re-landscaped.  Our Foreign Mission report was record $5,761.00!  Two computers were donated to the Library.

During 1998 the men did extensive work in the Youth Center, including laying new tiles and installing new doors in the Sunday School classrooms.  We purchased a new computer, a color printer and color scanner for the church secretary office; and 2 college students were given financial assistance.  Due to an auto accident at the church garage damaging the vans, plans were made to purchase to new 15 passenger vans.


In November of 1998 three deacons were crowned:  Bro. E. B. Faulkner(deceased), Bro. Damon Mitchell, and Bro. Clarence Walton.  The Mothers’ Council increased with three four: Sis. Bernice Thomas(deceased), Sis. Josephine Greer(deceased), Sis. James Anna Hightower, and Sis. Alzola Hicks(deceased).  The following women were appointed as deaconess: Sis. Annie J. Gordon(deceased), Sis. Doris Gillespie, Sis. Freida Gordon, Sis. Willie M. Hopson, Sis. Helen Scott, Sis. Lee Bonds, and Sis. Annie L. Smith.


In December of 1998, we purchased 2 new 15 passenger vans.  One of the previous vans has been equipped with a wheelchair lift.


On January 17, 1999, the first edition of the New Morning Star Journal was issued to the congregation.  This ministry was established by Sis. Beverly Thomas.


To maintain the upkeep and modernization of our church the following purchases were made: new faucets in the women’s restroom; color copying machine, book binder; staff mail boxes, and 3 microphones.  Bro. Allen Winters built two new tables for communion.  New Morning Star again this year is publishing pictorial directory.  The directory lists the names of New Morning Star members along with color portraits of them and their families.


In September 1999, Sis. Helen Scott and Bro. Dwayne Banks were asked to chair a committee, to replace the entire roof of the church building.  The roof committee procured a loan of $90,000 and thanks to God as of August 2000, that loan balance is down to $17,000.


Bro. Keith L. Thomas announced his call to the ministry and in December of 1999 Pastor Thomas issued him a gospel ministry certificate of license.


Between September 1999 and August 2000, New Morning Star has given financial assistance to three college students.


While the Lord has blessed our ministry with new converts during the past year, we were especially blessed on 5/21/00 when 13 new converts came as candidates for baptism…PRAISE GOD!


In the year 2000, many things were done for the upkeep of the edifice: a new computer & printer were purchased for the finance room for the use by the Trustee; Bro. Allen Winters built a new table for the kitchen; the carpet throughout the building, as well as the pews were steam-cleaned and repaired; and the Laymen of New Morning Star were instrumental in having badly needed structural repairs done.


In November of 2000, the Youth Department built and entered a float in Peoria’s 101st Santa Parade.  The float’s theme was “Jesus: Yesterday and Today and Forever.”  While the church van pulled the float along the parade route, the Echoes Choir walked in formation behind the float singing songs of praise and inspiring many along the route to join in.  The Youth Department of New Morning Star were awarded 2nd place for their parade entry.


In 2004, New Morning Star M. B. church started the Hurricane Katrina Fund for the victims in New Orleans residents, who  lost everything.


In  2004, the following  deacons were crowned, Bro. Kevin Beavers, Bro. Charles Cook, Bro. J. D. Hardin, Bro. J. B. Little, and Bro. Terry Woods.


In 2006, New Morning Star M. B. Church started the Haiti Fund for the children in Africa to get an education and get food.


In 2007, Minister Johnny B. Johnson, Jr., joined our church and became one of the church’s associate ministers.  Minister Johnson was ordained in Gobler, Arkansas at United Missionary Baptist Church in 2004.  He was an associate minister there from 2004 until 2007, under the leadership of his father, the late Pastor Johnny B. Johnson, Sr.


While at New Morning Star, Minister Johnson has held the position of Director of the Men’s Chorus since 2007, Sunday Church School Adult Superintendent (2009-2012) and now Assistant Adult Superintendent, Assistant Senior Sunday Church School Teacher, and Vacation Bible Volunteer.


Our church has been blessed with playwriter and director, Sis. Tabitha Beavers.  She has brought several plays, both inspirational and entertaining,.  Written and directed by Sis. Tabitha Beavers, they included “Nobody Knows…But Jesus,” August 2010, “Time to Believe,” August  2011, “In The Middle of  It,” August 2012, “You Are The Reason…Jesus,” August 2013, and  “Save Me Jesus From Myself,” July 2014.


In 2012 The New Morning Star “Superstars” walked in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure until the present.


In 2013, one of our own minister, Minister Keith L. Thomas, was ordained to be the Pastor of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church Champaign, Illinois.  Also, in 2013 a major, ongoing financial project began to replace carpeting throughout the church.  At the same time we were collecting for carpeting, the church’s furnace had to be replaced.  Members agreed to use these funds for the furnace emergency.  Pledges will be collected until the project is completed.


In 2014, Sis. Ethel Gaines, Sis. Louise Hill and Sis. Margarie Winters were appointed to the Deaconess Ministry, and  Sis. Delores Williams, Sis. Ruth McFadden, Sis. Naomi Shird Tucker and Sis. Freida Gordon were appointed to the Mother’s Ministry.


In 2015 Minister Donald Cummings joined New Morning Star Church Family, as a Minister.


In 2016 three deacons were crowned: Bro. Joe Banks, Bro. Abraham Hill, Bro. Esau Smith, and their wives were added to the Deacon’s Ministry, Sis. Rose Banks, Sis. Louise Hill and Sis. Felicia Smith.


New Morning Star Church organizes and sponsors  Annual Church “We Care – Give – Away.”  The event has been active for the past 17 years.


New Morning Star Church Family prepares and delivers New Year’s Day Meals to the elderly and disabled, annually.  This is sponsored by the Central Illinois Agency on Aging.


In 2016 Minister Calvin McLemore sent by God to minister on Sunday, October 30, 2016.


This year 2017, we have been blessed with Pastor Cleveland Thomas, Sr., for 35 years  as Pastor of New Morning Star M. B. Church and his famous quote, “If the Love of Jesus is in you, say AMEN!”  Through it all, we truly learned the in-depth meaning to “GOD IS GOOD ALL OF THE TIME!”


In December 2016, Pastor Thomas faced some medical challenges.  But through the Grace of God, he is recovering and has an amazing testimony!  We take this opportunity to thank Pastor Patrick Pollard, of New Bethel Baptist Church for his service, and thanks to Minister Johnnie Johnson, Minister Donald Cumming, and Minister Calvin McLemore.


In 2017, New Morning Star resumed the Prison Ministry, led by Minister Donald Cummings.  “Praise the Lord!”  Also, Sis. Geraldine Johnson is our new producer and playwriter of Drama Ministry has produced of “Eye on the Cross.”  May God continue to bless our leaders of ministries?



“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him I Peter 4:13-14




Sis. Anna Bedford                             Sis. Maggie Bradley

Sis. Annanias Brown                          Sis. Ella Brown

Sis. Quickevious Camp                      Sis. Amanda Carter

Sis. Ella Costic                                   Rev. & Mrs. J. S. Davis

Rev. & Mrs. Bus Dillard                     Sis. Adell Ellis

Bro. William Gray                               Sis. Spezzie Gulley

Sis. Julia Houston                                   Sis. Dorena Hughes

Sis. Bernice Jameson                         Bro. Frank Jones

Bro. Leroy Jones                               Bro. Lonnie Jones

Sis. Elvia Keys                                  Sis. Mary Keys

Sis. Lucille Kilgore                            Bro. & Sis. Lee Kyle

Sis. Bernice Lewis                             Rev. & Mrs. Munch McDowell

Sis. Louise McGhee                           Sis. Lizzie McGowan

Deacon Charlie Moore                       Sis. Mary Neal

Bro. J. T. Page                                   Deacon Wesley Stevenson

Sis. Jessie Stevenson                          Sis. Ruth Swain

Sis. Lillian Thompson                        Sis. Sallie Walker

Sis. Luegenia Whitelow                     Sis. Edna Williams

Sis. Mattie Williams                          Sis. Maria Young

Bro. Robert Young                                    Sis. Rosie Young



Minister Donald Cummings

Minister Johnnie Johnson

Minister Calvin McLemore



Sis. Carolyn Johnson



          Dea. Joe Banks                                        Dea. Kevin Beavers

          Dea. J. D. Hardin                                     Dea. Abraham Hill

          Dea. Lafayette Johnson                           Dea. J. B. Little

          Dea. J. D. Morris                                      Dea. Daniel Smith

Dea. Esau Smith


          Sis. Rose Banks               Sis. Tabitha Beavers

Sis. Lillie M. Faulkner               Sis. Joyce Hardin

Sis. Louise Hill               Sis. Carolyn Johnson

Sis. Pamela Johnson               Sis. Carolyn Little

Sis. Willie M. Morris               Sis. Denise Smith

          Sis. Felicia Smith               Sis. Margarie Winters


Mother Nana Banks                       Mother Irene Faulkner

Mother Ethel Gaines                      Mother Doris Gillespie

Mother Freida Gordon                   Mother Eva Hayes

Mother James A. Hightower    Mother Willie M. Hopson

Mother Lillie M. Little                   Mother Ruth McFadden

Mother Katherine McGehee    Mother Estella Nichelson

Mother Rochelle Ross                    Mother Juanita Russell(Texas)

Mother Helen Scott                         Mother Naomi Shird-Tucker

   Mother Delores Williams                   Mother Fannie M. Williams

Mother Mattie Williams