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After years of prosperity, church seeks healing

Lucille Moore hurts for her church, so she prays for it. 

That and sharing her belief in Jesus so those who visit her will live in love, hope, mercy and forgiveness is about all she feels she can do at 97, wheel-chair bound after hip and knee surgeries.

Lucille Moore
Lucille Moore

“I’ve seen many ups and I’ve seen many downs,” she said, quoting a song she often sang at church.  “The ups outweigh the downs.  I thank God for the downs to help me look up.”

Now Morningstar Baptist Church, which she has attended for 50-some years is down. 

In 2006, led by a new pastor, they followed their dream of relocating. They purchased a newer building at 3909 W. Rowan and put their building at 1829 E. Mallon up for sale.

The new building is handicap accessible, so older and disabled members like her could attend again.  They began to grow.

They paid savings of $235,000 down on $629,000, trusting the old building would sell. It has not yet sold. They sold five houses near the church to help with payments.  They expected that growth and starting a daycare would cover the monthly mortgage.

The arrest of their new pastor, the Rev. Herman Lewis, for alleged incidents on April 30 and his sudden departure to address health concerns, shattered the church, said Gerald Moore, a deacon.

Members, who had their dreams stirred, reacted in different ways to their disappointment.

Attendance has dropped from 100 to about 25, said Deacon Odis Denmon, Jr., in a recent interview with Gerald.  The child care did not develop.  They can no longer pay their mortgage.

Gerald Moore
Gerald Moore and Odis Denmon, Jr., with Gerald's grandson.

In December, the deacons sent a letter to community friends to ask for help, because they helped others when they were in need. 

They hope someone they helped with a scholarship, travel to a funeral, burial costs, or to pay a rent or utility bill is now doing well and will help them in their tough time.  They want to continue in their new location and grow.

Gerald and Odis said that the Rev. Freeman Simmons had served the church 32 years until he retired in 1999.  Then the congregation had several short-term and interim ministers.

Now three associate pastors, Aaron Davis, Abraham Cavanaugh and the Rev. Charles Welch serve the church, leading Sunday worship. 

In its heyday up to the early 1990s, the church had 600 members with 250 attending.  Now it has about 40 members, said Gerald, Lucille’s 60-year-old son. 

The Moores and the Denmons have both been in Spokane and the church since 1954.  Gerald and Odis are both retired after each worked 35 years with a national supermarket distribution center in Spokane.

Morningstar Baptist has had a strong sense of mission.

In the late 1980s, it opened Caring and Sharing, a clothing bank in the parsonage.  Members also collected, sorted, cleaned, packed and shipped boxes of clothes nationally and globally.

Serving with her contemporaries, Lucille, who taught Sunday school, was president of the Mission Society for many years. 

She served on the Union Gospel Mission board and with Church Women United, recruited for CROP Walks and organized trick-or-treating for UNICEF.

Hurt to see the church struggling today after years of prosperity, Lucille prays God will bless and heal the church—its members and its leaders. 

She also continues to pray for  the world and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, trusting that “God knows what we need.” 

For information, call 535-6347.