About Russell Woods Church of Christ
Russell Woods Church of Christ began as an idea of late Brother Ellis J. Bonner in the early 1960's. At the time, only five African American churches of Christ existed in the city of Detroit; Joseph Campau which met on the eastside, Westside, Conant Gardens which met on the northeast side, Ford Avenue which met near the Highland Park/Detroit boundary line and Cameron Avenue, which met about midtown. Taking into consideration the population shifts of African Americans in the late 1950's the northwest side of Detroit seemed ideal for an evangelistic mission.
The First Gathering
In 1962, under the guidance of Brother Alonzo Carter and the late Brethren Coy Burgess, Grandville Holt and Scott French, Brother Bonner assembled the first gathering of the Russell Woods congregation. About fifteen or twenty members met at the Fisher Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) located at the corner of West Grand Boulevard and Dexter Avenue.
"Ark of the Covenant"
Many of the members were former chorus members who had sung under the direction of Brother Bonner. After several months at the YMCA, worship services became a challenge as nothing could be left on site. Everything used for worship had to be brought to each service every Sunday. As the attendance increased so did the need for such items as bibles, songbooks, etc. Brother Bonner's car became affectionately known as the "Rollin' church" or the "Ark of the Covenant".
Positive Response from the Community
By the fall of 1962, a contract was signed with the Detroit Board of Education to use the auditorium of McKerrow School; located on Collingwood and Cascade. Although the rent was steep, the surprising side effect of this location was the positive response from the community. On some Sundays, there were more children than could adequately be accommodated. McKerrow School was also the site of the first Gospel Revival held by Russell Woods with the late Brother G. P. Holt of Indianapolis , Indiana doing the preaching, the success of this meeting almost doubled the existing membership. At the end of the school year, the lease had expired and another location had to be found.
In order to establish a sense of permanency in this Northwest locale, a house on Broadstreet near the corner of Burlingame was rented. This home was converted into a chapel and used for several years as a place of worship. The elders and deacons of the Westside church of Christ sanctioned and supported the Russell Woods mission. Westside, along with Northwest, provided songbooks, furniture, the use of their baptismal facilities and financial assistance during these formative years.
Expansion and Renovation
During the spring of 1965, a building on the southwest corner of Broadstreet and Burlingame was purchased. Under the leadership of two expert building and tradesmen, Brother James Holt and Brother John Wyatt, plans were underway to renovate this property. The actual completion of the building spanned several years for it was a huge undertaking. It is important to note that during this time a full range of church activities continued.
In 1971, Russell Woods issued bonds in order to complete the major portion of the construction. Once again the membership found themselves worshipping in a temporary facility. This time it was the Don Bosco Home for Boys. While providing a place to worship, this setting gave Russell Woods an opportunity to impact the lives of young boys between the ages of seven and eighteen. Finally in 1975, the Russell Woods congregation was able to return to their new church building on Broadstreet.
The Legacy Continues
Many great preachers and teachers have labored at this congregation with more zeal than the most humble of them all; the late Brother Ellis Bonner, Brother James Snow, Brother Gregory Freeman, Brother Clarence Locke, Brother David McFalls, the late Brother Cecil Bullock and Brother Robert Holt. In 1995, Brother Edward Cribbs became the eighth minister to the fifty-member congregation. Brother Cribbs is the husband of Rosalind Cribbs and the father of one son, Jason. His previous position of service was with the Conant Gardens church of Christ as the assistant Minister. In both places, he has brought honor to the name of Jesus.
Attaining New Milestones
In 1998, Russell Woods reached another milestone as the church witnessed the ordination of two deacons; Brother Willie Sledge and Brother Alfred Parks. In April 2000, under the guidance of God, Russell Woods made history again by ordaining Brothers Tommie Slaughter, Harold Sledge, and Willie Sledge as elders. With thoughts clearly focused on the future of the church, this creative leadership of the Russell Woods congregation introduced several new programs; nursing home visitation, radio ministry, narcotics anonymous, to name a few.
Several outside organizations have approached the leadership to provide space for other worthwhile programs and activities. In additions, the bible study classes have begun to increase and classroom size and space has become a challenge. Atlas the need to expand the current facilities is evident. Russell Woods is once again involved in a building project. After much research and discussion, it was decided that the need for the congregation to stay in the same area was important. The project is still in infancy stages, as certain land to be purchased is owned by the city of Detroit.
This is an incredibly exciting time for Russell Woods. We are a well established church with approximately 150 members who have made great strides as a growing caring congregation. We are proud of where we have been and where we are going. We have not stood still satisfied with our accomplishments, for we know greater challenges lie ahead. We are thrilled to share our history with you. Your support helps us make everything we do possible. Continue to pray for us as we embark upon new and exciting adventures in the life of the church. Thank God for you and your "specialness" and thank God for a growing church -- past, present and future.
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