Our History

The “Approximate” History of the Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church

(This is a shortened version of the history. The full history (1930 – 2009) is contained on a
specially produced DVD which can be purchased from the Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church.)


In the early nineteen thirties there was only one Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church for Black
Christians in the City of Detroit, namely, Hartford Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church,
located at Hartford and Cobb. A small group of members, living on Detroit’s east side, attended
church each week by way of the Detroit Street Railways (DSR) street car service, the local
transportation system. Two attempts were made to splinter off from the Mother Church, Hartford
Avenue SDA Church and start an East Side Mission; one effort was on Watson Street near the
Eastern Market area and the other was the Hastings Street Mission.

1934 - 1944

The mother church requested members who had formed the East Side mission
to return to help carry certain financial burdens and so the Watson Street
mission foundered. However, a third attempt to establish a church on the
city’s east side was led by George Jordan Sr. The meetings were held in his
apartment on St. Antoine and Medbury. In September, 1934, Bro. Jordan
presented fifteen charter members’ names to the Michigan Conference of
Seventh-day Adventists (by way of Pastor L.H. Bland, who pastored the
Hartford SDA Church) which began an official church mission.

Shortly after the mission was organized, Bro. Jordan knew he could not
successfully Pastor a flock alone. He was the only conference ordained local
elder at that time. Subsequently, he made contact with Thomas Jimerson, an
evangelist, who at the time was serving in Inkster, Michigan. Thomas
Jimerson became a famous evangelist and along with Elder Jordan began to
hold tent meetings on Oakland and E. Philadelphia Streets in 1937. After
approximately two years a High Speed gas station purchased the land and
erected a place of business. Soon, the East Side mission had to move again
and rented the auditorium of the Sherrard Intermediate School on Cameron

After a while the place of worship at Oakland and Leicester was
purchased and became a Pool Hall. Another effort was made by the
East Side Mission to look for a permanent home. In 1939, a
potential venue was found, the Ahavas Achim Jewish Synagogue at
9244 Delmar and Westminster. However, this Jewish synagogue
was far beyond the mission’s ability to purchase. The Ahavas
Achim Jewish Synagogue offered the East Side Mission a school
across the street, the United Hebrew School building (9243
Delmar), which subsequently became the East Side SDA Church,
the mission’s first official place of worship.

1945 - 1957

In 1945 the Lake Region Conference was formed to organize Black Adventist Churches through
ordained ministerial leadership. From this formation came the first conference ordained minister
assigned to the East Side SDA Church, the late Pastor J. W. Allison. After approximately seven
weeks he was reassigned and sent to pastor the mother church, Hartford Avenue SDA Church.
Subsequently, Pastor James D. Dykes was sent to the East Side SDA Church as a replacement
for Pastor Allison. In 1947 Pastor Wilbert Durant Forde (a native of Barbados) was called from
retirement to pastor the East Side SDA Church that needed his experienced leadership.

After some time, it was learned that the Burns Avenue Baptist Church
was selling their building and relocating to a new structure in Grosse
Pointe. Their bargaining figure was $83,000. Under the pastorate of
W. D. Forde and through the financial sacrifice of members, the East
Side Mission purchased the Burns Avenue Baptist Church (5400
Burns Avenue and Chapin in 1954). Members were able to raise
$30,000 for a down payment and in three years the mortgage was
burned in 1957 prior to Pastor Forde’s retirement. Additional funds
were needed to purchase the parsonage, and to realize this several members remortgaged their personal properties along with others who sacrificed to eventually
purchase the parsonage. In time those who mortgaged their properties were reimbursed. Burns
Avenue SDA Church was officially dedicated on May 24 and 25, 1957. Pastor Clinton F. Warren
succeeded the retired W.D. Forde as Pastor of Burns Avenue SDA Church.

1958 - 1967

Under the leadership of Pastor C. F. Warren, in 1962 the Burns Avenue SDA
Church was able to purchase approximately 2½ acres of land with an existing
building. The building was renovated with some additions that began a
parochial school, the Davison Junior Academy. It was later renamed the
C. F. Warren Academy. The period 1964 to 1965 saw Robert F. Tolson
accepting leadership of Burns Avenue SDA Church as first elder and interim
pastor. In 1965, Franklin S. Hill, Sr., joined the Burns Avenue Church family
as pastor. Under his leadership the school debt was paid.

1968 - 1983

The renowned singer-evangelist, T. Marshall Kelly succeeded Pastor Hill in 1968 and served
faithfully until 1977. Pastor Kelly hosted a Sabbath morning radio broadcast during his tenure at
Burns. His successor was Pastor J. D. Parker who served from 1977 to 1983. Pastor Parker
encouraged the church family to secure a new church home. Once the church made its decision
to build a new edifice, Zadock Reid, Pastor and Builder, began his service at Burns in
September, 1983.

Primary contributor: Sam Dent
Other Contributors: Oliver Page, Ph.D., Shirley Tatum, Rose Jackson, Herbert Alford, Raymond
E. Cantrell Sr., and Gerald S. Cook (Jewish Historical Society of Michigan)