As we approach the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church of Champaign, we list the sixteen pastoral leaders of our congregation, grouped by decade.
Elder Nikolai X. Greaves
Elder Greaves was installed as the sixteenth pastor in the history of Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath, July 1, 2017, by Dr. Timothy Nixon of the Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (LRC). Elder Greaves is a native of Barbados, and is a graduate of both Washington Adventist University and Andrews University. He also serves as pastor of Mt. Sinai SDA Church in Peoria, Illinois and the Lebanon SDA Church of Decatur, Illinois.
Pastor Charles E. Brooks
(June 2010-March 2017)
Pastor Brooks served the second longest pastoral tenure in the history of Park Avenue SDA Church. A native of Alabama, Pastor Brooks had served in the South Central and Central States conferences prior to becoming our pastor. He is a U.S. Miltary veteran and former police officer as well. During his time here, he was also the pastor of the Lebanon and Mt. Sinai churches; it was at this time that this long-established district gained the title of the "Mid-Illinois Regional SDA District." Elder Brooks loved to reach-out to the communities where his congregations were, and conducted many evangelistic efforts in order to bring to them the saving message of the Gospel during his time as district pastor.
Pastor Jason C. North, Sr.
Pastor North proved to be an influential leader despite his brief time as the pastor of the Mid-Illinois Regional SDA District churches. He was called away from the District by the LRC in order to pastor two churches in Indianapolis, and followed that by serving as leader of the LRC Youth & Young Adult, and Pathfinder ministries.
("The New Millenium")
Pastor Darnell Parham
Pastor Parham was a native of the state of Alabama and served in the United States military during his early adult years. He became an ordained elder in the SDA Church in his home state prior to receiving the call to full-time ministry. Pastor Parham was a graduate of both Oakwood College and Andrews University. He came to the Mid-Illinois Regional SDA District in 2006, after serving as the youth minister for the Mizpah SDA Church in Gary, Indiana. Pastor Parham emphasized the preaching of the Three Angels message in the district and held evangelistic campaigns in each city.
During his time at Park Avenue, the church was able to burn the mortgage of its current edifice in Summer 2007.
He was called away from the district in 2008, as he and his family were assigned by the Lake Region Conference to pastor the Bethel SDA Church in Lansing, Michigan and the Summit SDA Church in Jackson, Michigan. While there he also served as a volunteer hospital chaplain. Early in his tenure there God spared he and his family, as they survived a horrific car crash while travelling on the interstate highway from their home in Champaign to a speaking engagement in Michigan. Members of his former district showed much care for them as they recovered from their injuries.
Following a lengthy illness, Pastor Parham passed away in February 2011.
Elder Harold M. Allison, Jr.
The rather brief pastorate of Harold Allison ushered transformational changes to the worship experience of the churches in the Mid-Illinois Regional SDA District. He and his wife, an accomplished pianist and medical doctor, helped initiate a different format and style for Sabbath worship service by adding more contemporary praise and worship songs to the repertoire. Pastor Allison and his wife lived in the Bloomington-Normal area during their pastorate of the district, as it served as a central location. Pastor Allison served the Lord in many ways prior to his work in the district, including serving as a chaplain in the United States military, as well as a prison chaplain. He was eventually assigned by the Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to pastor the Maywood (Illinois) Community SDA Church, and during that time he also served as the Adventist Community Services leader for the conference.
Pastor Allison is currently serving as the pastor of multiple churches within the Centrals States Conference of Seventh-day Adventists: Cornerstone (Atchison, KS) SDA Church, Emmanuel (St. Joseph, MO) SDA Church, Highland Crest (Topeka, KS) SDA Church, and the Shiloh (Leavenworth, KS) SDA Church.
("Moving Forward in Purpose")
Dr. Ronald H. Bell
(August 16, 1997-2002)
During his pastorate at Park Avenue SDA Church, Elder Bell concurrently served as the pastor of the Philadelphia SDA Church in Muncie, Indiana, and he and his family lived in the Indianapolis area during that time. Prior to his leadership at Park Avenue, Elder Bell had spent many years pastoring throughout the Lake Region Conference, starting with both the Maywood and Evanston, Illinois churches, followed by the Sharon SDA Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then the Capital City SDA Church of Indianapolis, being some of his previous churches. He also was a doctor of psychology and behavioral health.
Dr. Bell was dedicated to preaching the Gospel, and was excited to share and the Bible's prophetic messages and how they are to give us hope in Jesus.
Elder Bell passed away in late December 2006.
Elder Charles R. Graham
Momentous changes occurred at Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church during the pastorate of Elder C.R. Graham. Plans to obtain or construct a new church edifice had been in discussion for many years during the previous decade, as the congregation's initial building was in constant need of repair and was deemed insufficient to the needs of its ministries. Elder Graham was charged with the task of leading Park Avenue into a new church building. His tireless effort and dedication helped lead a rather small congregation into its new building in Spring 1996.
Elder Graham was also dedicated to proclaiming the everlasting Gospel to the community, and was active in sharing Jesus both personally and through the Bible study correspondence school. His wife was also active in ministry and shared her amazing talent as a pianist during worship services.
Elder Graham retired from active ministry in the Lake Region Conference after leading Park Avenue SDA Church into its new edifice. In the late 1990s Elder Graham passed to his rest to await the Resurrection.
("Pressing Towards the Mark")
Elder Morris L. Wren
Elder Wren has the distinction of being the longest-serving pastor in the history of Park Avenue SDA Church. During his time, plans were made to construct a new edifice for the congregation. A native Texan, Eld. Wren graduated from Oakwood College (now University). Prior to starting his ministerial career, Eld. Wren served in the U.S. Military and worked in the medical field.
Eld. Wren's work within the SDA denomination started when he was appointed as pricipal of the Berean SDA Academy in Houston, Texas. He continued to work in education during his theological studies at Andrews University. Eld. Wren began his ministerial intership under Elder C.E. Bradford in 1968, and from that would pastor throughout the Lake Region Conference, serving various churches in Michigan and Illinois. As a pastor he actively promoted the healthful living principles that are found in the Bible and also established the Metro Health & Bible Study ministry, using self-illustrated and published graphic novels to spread the word about various health principles.
Elder Samuel Thomas, Jr.
Elder Thomas also pastored the Mt. Sinai SDA Church in Peoria during his pastorate of Park Avenue. During his tenure the interior work of Mt. Sinai's current edifice was finished. He departed the district when he was assigned by the Lake Region Conference to lead the congregation that was then called Reid Memorial SDA Church (now called New Jerusalem SDA Church in 1986.
Elder Charles Willis
Elder Charles Willis, a Chicago native and the brother of Eld. Philip C. Willis, pastored Park Avenue SDA Church in the early 1980s. Elder Charles Willis concurrently pastored the Peoria Mt. Sinai SDA Church during his time at Park Avenue. Prior to pastoring the district he pastored in the Detroit area and the Evansville-Jeffersonville district of the Lake Region Conference from 1980 to 1983. He departed the district when he was appointed as pastor of the churches in Jackson and Lansing in Michigan, and while assigned there he recieved his ordination in July 1985.
Elder Hosea "Hosie" Hatchett
Prior to engaging in full-time ministry, Eld. Hatchett was a dedicated lay evangelist in the Chicagoland area, leading many to choose Jesus Christ as their Savior. Elder Hatchett was instrumental in the initial construction of the current edifice of Mt. Sinai SDA Church. Following his tenure here, Elder Hatchett pastored the LRC district containing both the Ephesus SDA Church in Marion, Indiana and the Philadelphia SDA Church in Muncie, Indiana. Eld. Hatchett was finally ordained as a pastor at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Lake Region Conference held Labor Day Weekend 1985. Eld. Hatchett then pastored the Berean SDA Church in Battle Creek, Michigan starting in Summer 1986.
Elder Philip C. Willis, Sr.
Elder "P.C." Willis accepted the call to pastor the Champaign-Peoria District of the Lake Region Conference in 1979. During his pastorate, the church was able to dedicate its edifice and burn the mortgage for it in July 1980. And the following day, Dr. Willis began "Pavilion of Hope" evangelistic meetings in Peoria where numerous persons would take a stand for Christ and be baptized as a result.
In the following decades, Dr. Willis served in various areas and capacities within the LRC, having the distinction of pastoring churches in all four major federation districts (Illiana, Michiana, Chicagoland, and Motor City) of the conference. Dr. Willis passed away in July 2018.
Elder Claude Shaw, Jr.
Elder Shaw pastored the Champaign-Peoria District for a brief period during the late 1970s. Eld. Shaw went on to serve as minister throughout the Lake Region Conference, pastoring churches in the Chicago area and in Michigan.
Elder Jerome L. Davis
Elder Jerome Davis began his pastoral career within the Lake Region Conference in 1976, after working in the Allegheny West Conference. During his time as pastor of the Champaign-Peoria District he was able to reach out to many, leading them to baptism.
After transitioning from the Champaign-Peoria District, Elder Davis pastored various churches, including Berean SDA Church of South Bend, Indiana and the Capitol City SDA Church of Indianapolis. Elder Davis later became the tenth president to lead the Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, serving from 2005 to 2014.
Elder David L. McCottry
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Elder D. L. McCottry was appointed to the Champaign-Peoria District of the Lake Region Conference in the Summer of 1973. Eld. McCottry, affectionately known as "Big Mac," was an evangelism-oriented leader, laboring for the Master every summer in this mode while in the district.
He was also briefly appointed pastor or the fledgling Gethsemane SDA Church in Danville, IL in 1976. That same year he was appointed to the South Bend-Elkhart District in Indiana. Later in his ministerial career he pastored churches within the Allegheny East Conference and the Bermuda Conference, where he passed away in 1988.
Elder T.S. Barber
Elder T. Samuel Barber was the first pastor of Park Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church. Under his leadership, the. Elder Barber was also the Publishing (Literature Evangelism) Secretary of the Lake Region Conference during his time as pastor at Park Avenue. As the story goes, Elder Barber wrote to Mrs. Willie A. Jackson, a literature evangelist who had moved to Champaign years prior, stating "it may be that through you the Lord will raise up a church there."
Elder Barber visited Champaign in late December 1972, learning of the eagerness of the fledgling congregation to establish a physical church. He helped the members acquire a building in February 1973, which was renovated in time by Friday, April 27th to hold a special vespers service to kick-off an momentous weekend that saw the Park Avenue congregation become a company within the Lake Region Conference.
Throughout his ministerial career, Elder Barber was instrumental in establishing many churches in North America, mostly through his work as a literature evangelist. Elder Barber passed away in December 1987.