The history of the Chain Lake Church, which was built 175 years ago, was on display recently at the Underground Railroad Days in Vandalia. The church will celebrate its anniversary Sunday. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)
The history of the Chain Lake Church, which was built 175 years ago, was on display recently at the Underground Railroad Days in Vandalia. The church will celebrate its anniversary Sunday. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Archived Story

Chain Lake Missionary Baptist celebrating 175 years

Published 8:36am Thursday, August 1, 2013

A lot of things have changed in the 175 years since the Chain Lake Baptist Church was located in a cabin on the bluff overlooking Chain Lake in Calvin Township.

But come Sunday when the Chain Lake Missionary Baptist Church celebrates its 175th anniversary, those early beginnings will be lauded.

The church was formed originally because of the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves en route to Canada along the railroad decided to stop in Cass County and call it home. With the help of Quakers, who were sympathetic to the slaves, they helped organize the church in 1838, just a year after Michigan became a state and two years after the first black church, also a product of the Underground Railroad, opened in Detroit.

The original log cabin became a more permanent structure on the eve of the Civil War.

The progressive black church drew many to its doors over the next 175 years. Among those who spoke at the church were Sojourner Truth, from nearby Battle Creek and Booker T. Washington, who came to the area to visit the Studebaker wagon factory in South Bend.

Originally, prayer services were held in private homes until the log church was completed in 1850.

After its completion, the Michigan Antislavery Baptist Association was formed following a meeting at the church in 1853. That group is now known as the Chain Lake Baptist Association.

A cemetery was added three years after that thanks to the donation of an acre of land by the Rev. Turner Byrd and his wife.

For the past 30 years, the Rev. Norman Tubbs has been the church’s pastor.

The current church, which opened in 1968, seats 225. It was rebuilt following a fire that destroyed the wood-framed structure. The church building allowed for indoor baptisms where before they were held in Chain Lake.

This Sunday’s celebration will include guest speakers following a pew rally. Among those scheduled to speak are the Rev. John Hunt at 10:30 a.m. and the Rev. Michael Anderson at 3:30 p.m.

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