Historic Black Churches Get a Boost for Ministry


Scott’s Chapel was organized in 1887 and has worshipped in six locations, but their home has been the stone church that resembles a castle since the congregation bought the building in 1917. It’s known as the church on the corner with a big heart.   

The Historically Black Church has the kind of unique, historic architecture that makes Hannibal a special place. It is also challenging to maintain. 

Almost everyone is welcome at Scott’s Chapel, apart from one recent visitor. A pigeon was hiding out in the church, at first behind the pipes of a pipe organ, then pacing back and forth on the woodwork high on the wall in the back of the sanctuary. When he was chased and disappeared, it was discovered that the one very clean-looking window way up on the back wall was missing. 

That was repaired, but pigeon incursions still exist in another, harder-to-address location. They have been nesting in the long-dormant chimney. 

There are also issues with moisture getting in through the ancient stone walls, causing interior plaster to flake off in places. The church did
recently put on a new roof but now needs new gutters to address additional rainwater problems. 

The church has remained faithful to its mission throughout the challenges of having its ministry live out of an iconic, historic structure. It recently revived its neighborhood block party, an annual tradition that had been paused during the pandemic. 

“I’m not sure how many people were here, but we served 200 hot dogs,” said Rev. Helen McFarland. 

Linda Spaun, who was pastor there for 14 years and is a member there now, said Scott’s Chapel is the only inner-city congregation in Northwest Missouri. Although some might say Hannibal isn’t exactly a city, the neighborhood around the church has the challenges of endemic poverty, addiction and violent crime. The stone church on the corner stands as a community cornerstone, holding things up through hard times. 

James Riding, age 88, had been asked to fill in as an interim piano player at the church and had been doing so for many years. His brother was in the Jazz Hall of Fame. When Riding died recently, the church hosted his funeral dinner and had more than 75 people in attendance. 
Scott’s Chapel is just one example of the Missouri Conference’s 27 Historically Black Churches. The Missouri Conference values Historically Black Churches and seeks to provide support to enhance ministry efforts in their current contexts. This summer, the Center for Congregational Excellence created one-time boost grants of up to $25,000 per church for Historically Black Churches that demonstrate new ministry initiatives or new life over the past three years.

This funding has no restrictions. The goal is to assist in areas that have the greatest need, be it staffing, program cost, building maintenance, or however the local church deems the money is best used to enhance their ministry. The recommendations for grant funding were made by a sub-committee comprised of Rev. Tracey Wolff, sub-committee chair, Dr. Collette Cummings, Rev. David Hartfield, Ivan James, Rev. Wendy Minshall and Rev. Brittany Radford. 

It was announced on October 13 that all eligible applicants would be fully funded. Those receiving funding are as follows: 
  1. Scott’s Chapel (Hannibal): Outreach and building renovations. 
  2. St. James (Kansas City): Enhance digital and social media. 
  3. St. Andrew (Kansas City): Upgrade AV and building maintenance.
  4. St. James (Fulton): New piano/organ, upgrade AV, repair basement drainage, peace pole, stipend for college interns. 
  5. St. Paul (New Bloomfield): Building repairs and upgrading technology to make live streaming possible. 
  6. Centennial (Elsberry): Accessibility improvements to the building. 
  7. Unity (Webster Groves): Accessibility improvements to building, start children’s Sunday school, Mozambique partner.
  8. Centennial (Kansas City): Create a website and expand social media presence. 
  9. Mt. Zion (Butler): Restart a church that has not been meeting. It will be the only black church in the community. 
  10. Wesley Smith-Chapel (Wright City): Health care ministry, youth pastor, facility improvements to help with youth ministry. 
  11. Trinity (Joplin): Take care of deferred maintenance. 
  12. Pitts Chapel (Springfield): Finish major facility renovation. 
  13. Samaritan (St. Louis): Facility maintenance and audio system upgrades. 
  14. Asbury (St. Louis): Prepare the building for sale, as the church has merged and become New Horizons.
  15. Christ Community (Jennings): Youth coordinator, connections coordinator and summer camp. 
  16. Wesley (Troy): Facility Maintenance, add recovery ministry.
  17. Taylor Chapel (Sedalia): Facility maintenance, security system, internet and computer.
  18. North Park (St. Louis): Expand music ministry, which offers music lessons to children and youth.
  19. New Awakening (St. Louis): Bible at the Bistro – music and meal-based singles ministry.
  20. Union Memorial (St. Louis): Facility repairs to church-owned school building so it can be better used for ministry.
  21. St. Luke (Mexico): Take care of deferred maintenance and renovate the room for the youth center.
  22. St. Luke (Columbia): Improve technology for online streaming, develop youth Sunday service with paid staff, enhance tutoring program, and replace HVAC units. 
  23. North St. (Marshall): Repair building and improve worship space. 
  24. St. Paul (Fayette): Address deferred maintenance on the building and install video monitors.