2nd Oldest Church in East Harlem
Chambers Memorial Baptist Church was established
in 1882 with the name Carmel Baptist Church. As the congregation
grew the church itself was built in 1890 with a four story parish
house next to it. The name was then changed to Harlem Baptist
Church. The origin of people during that period was predominantly
In 1903 the late Reverend Adam Chambers became
the Pastor where he served for 18 years. Rev. Chambers made the 1st
level of the church a gymnasium; it was the first church in the city
to have a gym. Rev. Chambers retired in 1921. In 1934 the name was
changed in memory of their beloved Pastor to Chambers Memorial
Baptist Church and has since kept the name. In the 1920’s African
Americans and Latinos began to move into Harlem and into Chambers.
In 1958 Rev. Melvin E. Schoonover became the
Pastor. He was disabled and wheel chair bound. Rev. Schoonover was
much loved among the people; he had the heart of a true servant. One
of our long time members remembers him visiting people’s homes where
there was no elevator and him with no assistance bouncing up the
steps leaving his wheel chair on the ground level just to bless a
soul. He had a ramp built on the entry of the right side of the
church which paved the way for many others with disabilities; and
has been an asset today over 50 years later where we utilize it for
our food pantry program.
In 1965 Rev. Ivy J. Cockerham became the first
African American Pastor of Chambers Memorial Baptist Church. Rev.
Cockerham also known as Doon to most people was a great Pastor,
family man, extremely intelligent, friend, dancer, and cook, Bishop
Edgerton says “he taught me how to make spaghetti”. Rev. Cockerham
served for 26 years at Chambers among his many contributions God
used him to deter gangs from violence. He is truly missed but will
always be remembered.
Bishop Lawrence E. Edgerton Sr. was recommended to
be the Assistant Pastor by Rev. Cockerham first and was so honored
because some ministers are recommended by the congregation first
then to the Pastor. In 1986 he was installed as the Assistant
Pastor. In 1991 Bishop Edgerton was ordained as Pastor of C.M.B.C. He
knew his work was cut out for him; the church and its people were in
desperate need of renovation. He came in with a love for God
spending countless hours everyday preaching and teaching salvation.
The rumor was that the church was going to be condemned and needed
to be torn down, Bishop Edgerton made that Devil a liar. Under his
leadership a chair lift was installed, new windows put in, the
leaking roof was replaced, the dark abandoned building was brought
to light with beautiful chandeliers, marble floors, and wall to wall
mirrors just to name a few, not to mention lives are being changed.
For the past 20 years Bishop Edgerton has been serving as Pastor and
continues the legacy of serving the community, especially its youth.