By John Rice
In response to a column we published concerning the removal of a historic organ from Mt. Moriah Baptist Church (formerly St. Peter's), Pastor Maurice Streeter contacted the Review requesting a sit-down. I met with him in the sanctuary at 500 Hannah and we discussed his ministry, the mission of Mt. Moriah and the missing organ.
Pastor Streeter is a native of Mississippi, where he received his education. He moved to Bellwood in 1987. He became pastor of Mt. Moriah on May 7, 2009. The church was located at 1454 S. Kolin in Chicago but had outgrown the facility. They purchased the former St. Peter Lutheran Church for its larger space and the fact that many of the church's 250 members have relocated to the suburbs. Pastor Streeter made it clear that he does not personally own the church. He is one of the church's guarantors and he answers to the church board.
Since their move to Forest Park, Mt. Moriah has attracted new members from the village. Pastor Streeter has reached out to other minsters in the community, including Bill Winston at Living Word. His visit to the church prompted Pastor Streeter to have a drum cage built, because residents were complaining about noise during church services. He also had the sanctuary air-conditioned, so they can close the windows during services.
Pastor Streeter stated their intention was to keep the building "as original as possible." He paid to have the existing pews padded, because he wanted to preserve the character of the sanctuary. But he did have some pews removed at the front of the sanctuary to accommodate the choir. He stated that he was not at the church the day the organ was removed.
The organ, built by the A.B. Felgemaker Co. of Erie, Pennsylvania, was removed, the pastor said, by Deacon Robert Griffin and loaded onto Griffin's Dodge pick-up. He said the organ was not sold for scrap or to another party and it was not shipped to a landfill. He denied knowing the organ's whereabouts but said he would follow-up with Deacon Griffin. He knows that members of the Historical Society and other residents are upset about the missing organ. He promised to call the village in the future, before replacing anything else.
The Historical Society used to be housed on the lower level of the church but it has relocated. The other organizations that used to meet at the church no longer meet there. The lower level was converted to an after-school program but they plan to close down this program on June 1. Pastor Streeter made it clear that the church is "not a place of business."
He indicated the church has had its share of problems since it moved to Forest Park. The sanctuary microphones were stolen. Someone removed the electrical panel and cut telephone lines, so the church temporarily had no power or phone service.
Pastor Streeter reported the thefts to the Forest Park Police Department but did not file a report. He wants to continue to "grow along and get along" with local residents. He said his congregation has a crew of handymen, who help seniors with moving and small repairs. He would like to survey the Historical Society's facility at 1000 Elgin, to see if they could help with repairs.
Pastor Streeter doesn't see Forest Park as having the extreme problems of other communities. That is why they've focused on helping the less fortunate in other neighborhoods. At Christmas time, they "clothed and fed" the homeless on Wacker Drive and distributed baby wipes and passes for the homeless to take showers at the YMCA. He said his 9-year-old grandson was moved to tears and asked, "Can we do anything else?"
"The needs in Forest Park are not as prevalent," he said but they feel a commitment to the community. He would welcome requests for assistance and they are, "Open to constructive projects that need some manpower."
In the meantime, I will follow-up with Pastor Streeter to see if the organ can be located and recovered.
This is a constructive project that needs some manpower.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.