Humble Begginnings | Progressive's Development | The Music Ministry | The Passing of the Mantle | Faith in Action
From the home of Mr. and Mrs. Solomon Street – in 1924, a small group met to pray. In 1925, Bishop William Roberts (who was affiliated with the Church of God in Christ) helped to organize Maywood's first Church of God in Christ. The church's first location was 110 South 10th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois in the garage of Sister Frances Autrey. Mother Linner Grace (who was a convert under Bishop C. H. Mason) proved to be a great pillar of the church. Whenever the church was without heat, she would pull coal and wood from her home in a small wagon. As they grew they moved to several locations within Maywood including the rear building of the Jewish Synagogue at 431 South 13th Avenue, 117 South 12th Avenue and 611 South 13th Avenue.
The church's first Pastor, Elder W. J. Greenlee, was appointed in 1927. Pastors Edmund, Littlejohn (nicknamed "God's Little Boy") and Diggs, subsequently served as Pastors. The church purchased a new home at 640 South 13th Avenue while Elder Diggs was Pastor.
When the church was without a pastor, many Evangelists such as Elder Paul, Elder Silas, the Gray Brothers, Elder Van Stant, Elder D.C. Williams, Elder Rimson, Elder Ore, Elder Bowmen, Elder White, Elder Home and Elder L. H. Ford (who went on to become Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ) came to run revivals, tent meetings and to oversee the church's weekly services. Some of whom stayed 1 to 2 days — others up to 2 years.
In 1941, Pastor Diggs introduced a young man and his family to the membership. The congregation embraced Elder James B. Alford, his wife Minnie and daughter Beatrice. In 1941, Elder James B. Alford was appointed Pastor of Maywood Church of God In Christ by Bishop William Roberts. Affectionately referred to as "Papa Alford", Elder Alford's assistants included Elder A.H. Montgomery, Elder Theodore Hillery, Elder Wilmon Grace and Elder Ernest Grace.
Many knew the hardships and obstacles of pastoring Maywood's church. Pastor Alford was given 90 days or less to stay. It was the consensus that he would be too discouraged to stay. Pastor Alford indeed intended to leave with his wife Sister Minnie Alford and family after the 90-day period. But God intervened and renewed his strength. Often times, Pastor Alford's burdens would be so heavy that he would shed a tear while delivering a message of encouragement to the congregation. Then Church Mothers - Mother Linner Grace, Mother Mary Grace, Mother Bertha Reynolds, Mother E.M. Vann, Mother Emily Boulware Foster and Mother June Hillery — prayed this ministry through. In addition to these Church Mothers, Papa Alford also leaned on Deacon Grant Wright and Sister Elizabeth Boyd. After one of Pastor Alford's 21 day fasts, God put a Revival on his heart and more souls were saved. Many happy days followed as God added to the membership.
Under Pastor James B. Alford's leadership, the church was incorporated in 1947. When Papa Alford saw that the church building was leaning, God gave him a vision of "progress" – thus the church name became Progressive Church of God in Christ. During renovations, the members added a basement to the structure, and propped the building up so that it stood straight.
The year 1962 brought a desire for a better place to worship. Mother E.M. Vann aided in bringing this desire to fruition by assisting with the purchase of the Jewish Synagogue at 431-33 South 13th Avenue in Maywood. On April 1, 1962, the members marched like a mighty army from 640 South 13th to 433 South 13th singing "Onward Christian Soldiers". We certainly felt the testimony of Mother Linner Grace saying "Chillun, I'm glad all in a glad!" The church was able to burn the mortgage for this facility on August 27, 1972.
Papa Alford was a master Bible teacher who had the unique ability to explain scripture in the simplest of terms, so that all could understand. Many of Progressive's old-time members share fond memories of Papa sitting on the communion table on Tuesday nights, making plain the mysteries of God's word. The congregation saw the sincerity with which Papa sought after God, shutting in at the church alone in prayer and fasting sometimes twenty-one days at a time. The community also recognized Papa's relationship with the Lord as he walked the halls of Proviso East High School during the riots of the 1960s, giving comfort and reassurance that God was still in control.
Papa was joined in ministry by his youngest son Donald, who was "called at the water fountain" in 1975. Donald grew up working in the church after accepting the Lord at age 12. He served as church drummer, organist, minister of music and assistant pastor.
While assisting his father in 1982, Donald helped to implement such ministries as the 344-HOPE 24-hour telephone line (with Missionary Ann Bosley, faithfully counseling the hurting until her death in 1990). Visions of a structured Bible study led to the development of Progressive's Christian Life Enhancement Program (P.C.L.E.P.) where Elder Jacqueline Hendry served as Dean and Madam Beatrice Alford-Clency served as Administrator. Elder James Williams served as the very first orientation instructor for Progressive.
Later the Hope and Rescue Ministry (renamed Celebrate Your Recovery) was formed to help those struggling with addictions and placed in the hands of Elder Horace Parker. Later, Elder Robert Jackson was placed over this ministry.
The Music Ministry ▲▼
As Papa Alford stayed before the Lord fasting and praying, God continued to add to Progressive. The Senior Choir was organized in 1948 with Sister Vera Grace as president, beginning a rich musical heritage that still flourishes today. The Youth Choral Ensemble was later formed in 1967 by Renard Johnson and Loyce Abbey to include the church's growing number of young people in the music ministry.
Progressive had its first live radio broadcast in 1948, and began its Sunday Night broadcast on station WMAQ in the 1950's. It was the benevolence of a wealthy Caucasian family who sponsored the on-air time for the live broadcast. The broadcast then moved to station WOPA from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. and finally to WYCA 92.3 FM. The ministry also had a daily broadcast called "The Life-Giving Word" carried on radio stations WYCA and KSTL in St. Louis, Missouri.
Earning accolades for their versatility in performing anthems, hymns and inspirational gospel songs, the Senior Choir began Progressive's recording tradition with the single "Shake Me" in 1969. In the early 1970s, the senior choir and youth choral ensemble emerged to form Progressive's Radio Choir. The Radio Choir released the second single "I Enjoy Jesus" in 1974 and "The Choice Is Yours" in 1979, written by Minister Donald Alford. The award-winning choir has numerous recordings to its credit and has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. Thousands have been blessed by the melodious voices of Madame Beatrice Alford Clency, Rueben (Mickey) Hash, Ronia Bosley, Shirley Murphy and others as the choir ministered under the anointing. The choir's annual concert and drama in 1969 became "an event to witness" by gospel lovers everywhere, with original plays written by Sister Vera Grace.
Minister Donald Alford became the Minister of Music in 1975. God granted Minister Donald Alford the gift to write songs—making him the first ever song writer from the ministry. The Radio Choir recorded several records, on which the majority of the songs were written by Minister Alford. During his tenure as Minister of Music (which ended in 1992), Progressive's Radio Choir released the following projects: "He Promised A New Life!" (1982); "Rain On Us" (1988), and "Break Forth Into Praise" in 1990. Elder DeAndre Patterson became the Minister of Music in 1992 and assisted in developing the Music & Fine Arts Department, which consisted of the Radio Choir, Celebration of Praise Choir, Voices of Progressive, Praise and Worship Team, Children of Destiny I and Children of Destiny II, Drama Guild, Revelation of Praise and The Spirit of Praise Dancers and Progressive Drill Team.
Progressive's rich music history continued well after with the release of its 2003 project "The Gathering Of The Worshipers", featuring the single "All I Want To Do Is Bless Your Name" and "I Shall Recover" in 2012.
Through the years, Progressive has been blessed with such notable ministers of music as Pastor Marie Moody James, Charles Clency, Nash Schaffer, Apostle Donald Alford, Floyd Wikinson, Elder DeAndre Patterson and Donald Alford II.
The Passing of the Mantle ▲▼
On Sunday, August 28, 1983, Papa Alford's work was completed and God called him home at 4:53 PM. God in His infinite wisdom had a plan. Papa Alford's youngest son, Elder Donald L. Alford, was appointed interim Pastor of Progressive Church of God in Christ by Bishop William Haven Bonner, Jurisdictional Prelate of the 6th Jurisdiction of Illinois of the Church of God In Christ, on September 4, 1983 at 4:53 PM. Elder Alford was subsequently installed as Pastor on October 30, 1983.
The saints banded together and rallied behind their new leader. God called four women to become intercessors to help undergird Pastor Alford during his early years of Ministry. Such as Missionaries Evelyn Crawford, Hazel Douglas, Martha Michels and Sandra Jean Grace who labored to pray the church through. Friends such as Dr. Walter Bates, Pastor Darrell Hines and Apostle Janice Agnew came to minister to the young pastor and undergird the ministry during the transition.
Understanding the role that the church would play in Kingdom advancement, the name Progressive Ministries was adopted in 1989 as an alternate name for the ministry, and the church withdrew from the Church of God in Christ organization on July 18, 1989. Pastor continued to seek the Lord to obtain directions for the church. In January, 1990 the Lord spoke and directed the church to be renamed "Progressive Life-Giving Word Cathedral". The scripture foundation being John 6:63 "…for the words I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Building on the foundation of prayer and fasting laid before him, Pastor Donald Alford continued with shut-ins and revivals - while introducing new ideas for 20th and 21st Century ministry. First Lady Gloria Alford, Elder DeAndre Patterson, Minister Wanda J. Sharp, Deacons Robert Porter, Joe Lampkin, Carl Hale, Reuben Locke and Grant Wright Jr. along with Sisters Sharon Pinnock, Marilyn Wilson, Brenda Edwards, Michelle Massey, Denise Hendry, Doreen Gillespie, Elaine Meaux, Isabel Wright and Corina Thomas served as Pastor Alford's administrative support team. Elder Willie Dukes was appointed to administrate the church's business, freeing Pastor Alford to seek God's direction for the growing congregation.
With an eye towards worldwide outreach ministry, the outreach ministry expanded into television going from Maywood's cable access channel to TV-38 (WCFC) and (WJYS-TV). Evangelistic outreach programs such as the "God Squad", "Jesus Rally", "17 Days of Manifested Power- Tent Revival", "Travail For the Birth", "The Joshua Gathering", and the "Kingdom Empowerment Summit", not to mention dramatic presentations written by Pastor Donald Alford such as "The Seven Last Words of Jesus", caused Progressive's weekly broadcast to draw many people to the church. As a major evangelistic thrust to the community, Progressive engaged in a three month evangelistic endeavor which included telephone banks, street witnessing and major media exposure. As a result, Progressive became a beacon "of eternal light" in the Village of Maywood in a greater way.
In addition, in cooperation with the Chicago Food Depository, Progressive assisted in the feeding and clothing of approximately 20,000 individuals annually for many years.
As the ministry expanded, a balcony was added, followed by a second service. Once expansion at the current location was not longer possible, the church's services were then held at Proviso East High School, with the weekly broadcast service taking place every Sunday night at Progressive's Church.
On, March 9, 1994 at 5:45 AM, the Lord spoke that Elder Alford should begin to walk in the Office of Apostle. Later that year, now Apostle Donald L. Alford began to restructure the ministry. He appointed Elder DeAndre Patterson as his Assistant Pastor and ordained the ministry's first female Elders: Elder Hazel Douglas, Elder Jacqueline Hendry and Elder Evelyn Crawford. The Ruling Elders Council (later known as the Governing Elders and now Associate Pastors Council) was established to help discern and judge doctrinal truths. The ministry also licensed its very first female Ministers.
Even with the restructuring, Progressive held true to its outreach mandate. The God Squad street witnessing team continued going door to door, standing on street corners, having services in parks and parking lots in an effort to reach the lost. It was during this time that the Prison Ministry (serving adult men/women and juvenile) was spearheaded by Elder Martha Michels, Elder Michael Allen, and Elder James Blair. Under the Project REACH Program, Progressive would host homeless men and women during our worship services. They were given spiritual food, natural food and clothing.
Using a nationally known evangelistic tool, Progressive presented the production "Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames" to the Maywood community. Hundreds gave their lives to the Lord after witnessing a depiction of what judgment day could be like. Progressive held many crusades throughout the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, as well as in Atlanta, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri. Later in 1995, Apostle Alford appointed Elder Ricky Harris, Evangelist Lorraine Grace and Elder Karl Rand to oversee a church-wide evangelistic thrust called "Light In The Night".
In 1997, Progressive sponsored Evangelist Lorraine Grace to travel to Africa for International missionary work continuing to "go ye therefore and teach all nations…" Matthew 28:19.
Following the vision of world outreach, Progressive's Internet Ministry was birthed in 1998. Minister Pam Ross and Brother Perry Alford were instrumental in getting the ministry started. The original site www.progressiveministry.org allowed persons to access information about the ministry from all over the world.
While continuing to remain active in ministry both locally and globally, Apostle Alford and staff continued to seek an area large enough to house the 1,500-plus membership to fulfill the vision of world outreach. During this time, Wanda J. Sharp was integral in leading the charge as the ministry considered several potential locations for the new place of worship. Meanwhile, services were held in various venues, including Proviso East High School; Holiday Inn Hillside; Maywood's Joyeaux Community Center, Miracle Revival Center and Winfield Scott Park.
Faith In Action ▲
In 1998, Progressive purchased the Joyeaux Community Center from the Village of Maywood, hoping to remodel it as a sanctuary. There was great celebration at the 1998 Watch Meeting service, with everyone looking forward to 1999 as "the year God was going to bless Progressive". No one was ready for the way God was about to move.
January 1999, brought a record snowfall to the area. In anticipation of the closing date, Church Administrator Pastor Willie Dukes, secured property insurance on January 11th and the building's sale was completed on January 12th. However, due to the record snowfall, the roof to the newly-acquired building collapsed. Church members came together to the site to pray and thank God that service was not scheduled at the time of the collapse. Believing that all things work together for the good, Apostle Alford and Progressive continued to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. As plans were made to demolish the remaining structure and build a new edifice on the site, God had other plans and a financial windfall of over $700,000 was released.
The year 2000 was the 75th anniversary of the ministry. As the new year approached, God dealt with Apostle Alford about doing more than just preaching the message of God's love. Economic conditions caused many to be out of work, and families were struggling to survive. At the New Year's Eve service held in Walther Lutheran High School's gymnasium, hundreds came out to pray and hear a word from the Lord. The multitude was amazed as the ministry gave away over $10,000.00 to needy families. Word spread of the ministry's spirit of sharing, and the news media came to observe and interview pastor and members alike. Two days later, during Sunday's service at the Holiday Inn Hotel, a donation of $15,000 was made to the ministry by a visitor moved by the compassion Progressive showed to each other. On subsequent Sundays, Apostle Alford was led to encourage the congregation to give to one another. Different groups were singled out during the services and the members responded, giving what they had to bless those who had not. Just as in the early church, the attitude was that everyone would have "all things common" (Acts 2:44-46).
Apostle Alford felt impressed to change the church's motto to reflect the ministry's priority in the earth. I Corinthians 13:13 proclaims love as "the greatest of these" and Progressive's mission is to spread God's love. Therefore, Apostle Alford proclaimed Progressive as "Love Capital of the World", and its members "Repairers of the breach".
He appointed Evangelist Tracy DeVolt as Progressive's first Youth Pastor and established the Home Missions Outreach (HMO) to provide temporary assistance to members who are sick and disabled. Minister Ada Lewis was chosen to help birth this ministry.
In April 2001, the Lowes Theatre at 4500 Frontage Road in Hillside was placed for sale. The six-acre property would meet the ministry's needs. After extensive negotiations and several NO's, God gave Apostle Alford the assurance that the land belonged to Progressive. As the United States was under siege on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, God turned the NO into a YES! And on July 7, 2002, Progressive went in and possessed the land. This monumental accomplishment could not have been done without the tireless efforts of faithful members such as Apostle Donald L. Alford, First Lady Gloria Alford, Pastor Willie Dukes, Pastor DeAndre Patterson, Deacon Robert Porter, Deacon Ruben Locke, Sister Elaine Meaux, Sister Denise Hendry and Minister Wanda J. Sharp.
A horse and carriage led a motorcade of over 300 vehicles from Proviso East High School – Progressive's Sunday morning worship center for over nine years. The victory parade spanned three townships and took over an hour to reach Progressive's new home.
The Lord blessed Progressive with many administrative persons to assist the ministry during pivotal transitional times – including: Minister Timothy Rodgers, Elder Floyd Wilkinson; Minister Karen Jackson and Elder Cornelius Williams.
Standing on the shoulders of Papa Alford's legacy as a Bible Scholar, Apostle Alford was impressed to continue the need for continuous Christian Education programs by implementing the Progressive School of Ministry (PSOM). The James Benjamin Alford Bible Institute "JBABI", was inaugurated in 2009, with Apostle Donald L. Alford and Pastor Gloria Alford serving as Chancellors, and Pastor Cornelius Williams serving as Dean.
2010 would begin several years of consistent progress in the area of National and International missions work. In 2010, Progressive raised and donated a significant amount of funding to the Samaritan's Purse organization to aid in the relief efforts for Haiti after a devastating earthquake. Later, a Jewish family of 5 was relocated back to Israel from Russia. Donations were also raised to purchase lambs and goats for destitute widows in Africa. Water wells were dug and support given to two orphanages in Africa during this time. Progressive also sponsors yearly visits to a Women's shelter in Racine, Wisconsin.
Progressive continued to develop its leadership ecclesiastically by expanding its Council of Associate Pastors. As of 2010, Apostle Donald L. Alford was aided by Associate Pastors Gloria Alford, Anthony Brown, Evelyn Crawford, Hazel Douglas, Dollie Sherman, Carl Smith and Alfred Windom.
Under Apostle's Leadership, the Executive Board of Directors and Finance Committees consisted of Pastor Gloria Alford, Deacon Robert Williams, Minister Wanda J. Sharp, Pastor Carl Smith, Brother Stephon Alford, and Minister Niyokie Crosby. Responsible for the oversight of the day-to-day operations of the ministry, the Executive Management Team was developed and consisted of Apostle Donald L. Alford, Pastor Gloria Alford, Brother Stephon Alford (Business Operations Manager), Sister LeKeisha Bell (Office Manager), Elder Adrienne Crawford, Minister David Dickerson, Sister Candra Marshall, Sister Tina Miller and Evangelist LeKetha Wade.
In 2012, under the leadership of Apostle Alford and the direction and efforts of Evangelist Lorraine Grace, through generous contributions Progressive raised $18,000 and a church was built in the Village of Humure Rwanda. This would be the finale mission endeavor for Evangelist Grace, who went home to be with the Lord shortly after the completion of this project.
In 2013 the Lord allowed us to launch and complete Phase I of the Sanctuary 2 Renovation project (S2RP)! With the completion of Phase 1, a total of over $95,000 was raised to develop a Multi-Purpose Facility Area. This area is currently being used for our Youth Church; Dining Facility; classroom space for Christian Education Department and so much more.
2013 continued to be a year of significant milestones for our leaders and the ministry. During this time, Progressive was blessed to celebrate Apostle Donald and Pastor Gloria's 30 years of ministry as well as Apostle Alford's 60th birthday. Among the events, an elegant red carpet Gala was hosted to celebrate the leadership of our ministry. This event was held in the newly-renovated Multi-Purpose Room (formerly called Sanctuary 2). This 30/60 celebration included anointed worship services, an old school musical and a fabulous dinner at the Westin in Lombard Yorktown to celebrate the birthday of our Shepherd.
As God gives grace, Apostle Donald L. Alford and Pastor Gloria along with the Progressive Family continue the legacy that "Papa" left - to be a Soul-Saving Station for Sin-Sick Souls. Our motto was adjusted to reflect the love we share for God's people, dedicating our mission "Love You To Life". Therefore, adopting the motto "Raising Conquerors for Victorious Living!" in 2013.
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