In the 1920s, a few missionary-minded Christians started Judson Memorial Baptist Church in South Lansing. Their goals were to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people and to demonstrate that love to the needy in practical ways.
Judson began as a Sunday school which first met in a small brick building at Everett School. On January 11, 1931, the church was officially incorporated and, in June of that year, the congregation broke ground.
Despite the intense economic hardship of the Great Depression, “penny suppers” were served by the church women to help finance a building program. During the 85 years that have followed, the people of Judson have maintained their original mission of reaching people with the Gospel and adorning that Gospel with works of love and compassion.
Our church is blessed with a great heritage. We offer prospective members the chance to discover our rich past and our hopes for the future in our Inquirers Class. Especially important to this congregation is the missionary vision of the American Baptist Churches, as demonstrated by Adoniram and Ann Judson, two American Baptist missionaries to Burma (among the very first foreign missionaries from America). Our church’s founders were inspired by the Judsons’ example and found it fitting to name the new church in their memory. Judson has a strong history of providing financial and prayer support for American Baptist mission efforts.
One of our core values is the American Baptist belief regarding the priesthood of all believers. Its efficacy is illustrated at Judson through lay involvement and leadership in worship, service, and community outreach. Lay leaders work closely with pastoral leadership to further the ministry of the church.
Significant Turning Points
Since its inception, Judson has been blessed with a committed, close knit-group of people who carry out the Great Commission regardless of circumstances or challenges. Our founders organized Judson and began its first building project in the midst of the Great Depression because no churches existed in South Lansing and the existing space for Sunday school participants was bursting at the seams. It says a lot for Judson’s commitment that over the last 85 years, the church has been served by only seven pastors.
In 1941, Rev. Gilbert Miles began a pastorate at Judson which spanned almost 19 years. Under his leadership, a Sunday school wing and basement for a chapel were completed by 1956 with primarily volunteer labor.
Rev. Clyde Masten pastored the church in the early 1960s. In February 1966, ground was broken for a larger sanctuary. The first service was held in it on February 5, 1967. Again, most of the labor was donated.
In June 1967, Dr. Charles Jones became Judson’s pastor. Under his leadership, Judson moved in new directions of service, especially in visiting the homebound. Mission giving reached record levels and four members of the congregation joined the ministry, including two who graduated from seminary and were called to pastorates. A multi-purpose room and a small chapel were completed.
Rev. Thomas Bayes, Jr. came to Judson in December 1983. He led the congregation in a five year strategic planning effort which inspired new programs of service, outreach and creative worship.
In 1989, the Love Clothing Center opened its doors at Judson. The Center provides complete outfits for needy school age children. Volunteers from Judson and other area churches work together to provide clothing free of charge. This need increases every year. Since its inception, the Love Clothing Center has more than 35,000 children.
In the late '80s and early '90s, accessibility became an area of concern. Judson addressed this need by installing an elevator and creating space to accommodate wheelchairs. A ramp makes the chancel accessible to everyone.
In 1997, Rev. Frank McAuley, Jr. guided Judson in an interim pastor role and accepted a permanent pastor position in 1999. Under his leadership Judson continued its strong commitment to Christian education and mission support.
During this time, Judson opened our building free of charge to Doors of Healing Tabernacle Church, a congregation whose church was destroyed by fire. The Doors congregation called Judson home for almost two years while repairs were completed and members of both congregations enjoyed several joint worship services and fellowship experiences drawing closer together in Christ.
In 2005, Judson called Rev. Zachary Bartels as their minister. He has brought a deep love for traditional Christian service and worship, as well as an energetic commitment to innovate where momentum has been lost. He has focused on expository preaching, education, visitation, and efforts to welcome more visitors and new members into our church.