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Historical Perspective of Ebenezer Baptist Church
Horizon Sanctuary, and the Alberta Williams King Memorial Organ
in Atlanta, Georgia

Founded in 1886 during the Reconstruction Era in the South, Ebenezer Baptist Church enjoys it's reputation as a prominent leader in spiritual worship, social consciousness, worship music, and the finest musical instruments. In keeping with this fine musical tradition, the new Ebenezer Horizon Sanctuary, completed in the spring of 1999, now houses the largest combination (digital+pipe) organ in the southeastern part of the United States. With 3,000 pipes, this great instrument, was designed, engineered and installed by Chapel Music Company of Lithonia, Georgia. It is named in memory of the late Mrs. Alberta Christine Williams King. It is because of Mrs. King’s passion for beautiful worship music that Ebenezer has developed its legacy for great musical tradition. Mrs. King, the daughter, wife and mother of ministers, served as musical director at Ebenezer from 1932 until her death. She was slain in 1974 during a worship service, while sitting at the organ.

Mrs. King, born in 1903, was the daughter of the Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams, who was called to the pulpit on March 14 of 1894. Rev. Williams took over the leadership of the church from its first pastor, Rev. Jon A. Parker. Rev. Parker had begun the church with a band of thirteen faithful people in 1886. After Rev. Williams assumed the pastorate, one of his first achievements was to add approximately sixty-five members to the congregation in the first year. His next achievement was to buy land and build a sanctuary on McGruder Street. That church would later become known as Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. From the location on McGruder, the church moved to the corner of Bell and Gilmer Streets. It was during this time that the church purchased its first pipe organ, a John Brown Tracker Organ. From Bell Street, the membership then moved in 1912 to a storefront at 444 Edgewood Avenue. In 1914 the basement of the Heritage Sanctuary was completed, and the congregation worshiped there, until the sanctuary was completed.

In 1927, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. became Assistant Pastor to Rev. Williams. He served in this capacity until 1930, and assumed the full pastorate in 1931 following the death of Rev. Williams. Rev. King, Sr., was a motivator of people, and was an advocate for changes that were beneficial to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. He was relentless in his pursuit of justice for all people, and was an inspiration to his children who carried on his outstanding tradition. It was during this time that Rev. King met and married Rev. William’s daughter Alberta. They would later become the parents of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose leadership of the Civil Rights Movement would change the world.

Mrs. King became musical director in 1932. It was also about this time that the church saw tremendous growth. Because of the growing congregation, the musical ministry continued to develop. In 1940 the church purchased a two-manual Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. The dedication recital for this fine instrument was performed by Graham Jackson, a renowned concert artist and friend of Mrs. King. Mr. Jackson, an Atlanta native, was personal musician to President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he would travel to his Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. Perhaps one of the most famous photographs in all of history is that of Mr. Jackson, tears pouring from his eyes, playing his accordion at President Roosevelt’s funeral in April 1945.

In 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., joined his father as Co-Pastor of Ebenezer. Dr. King’s accomplishments are known throughout the world. It was through his worldwide prophetic ministry that Ebenezer developed a new ecumenical and international posture. It was during this time that the continuing growth of the musical ministry made the purchase of a new and larger organ necessary. In 1956, the church purchased a two-manual Hill Green-Lane Pipe Organ.

Following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, the Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King joined his father as Co-Pastor. He was instrumental in the revision of the order of worship, established a benevolent committee, and initiated Ebenezer’s Television Ministry. His tenure came to a close at his untimely death in July 1969. In June of 1971, Dr. Otis Moss became the third Co-Pastor of Ebenezer. This eloquent, insightful and creative preacher only served until December of that year; however, he left an indelible mark on Ebenezer by establishing the Ebenezer Credit Union and continuing the role of social activism in the church.

After the retirement of Rev. King, Sr., in 1975, Dr. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr. became Senior Pastor. Through his leadership, Ebenezer has experienced many changes which include organizing the church around six standing committees, extensive increases in the annual budget, the establishment of a 7:45 A.M. service, and the creation of an Adult Rehabilitation Center. Rev. Timothy McDonald was appointed as First Assistant Pastor, but was replaced in 1984 by Rev. Sharon G. Austin and Rev. Edward S. Reynolds, when Rev. McDonald left to assume another position. When she was appointed, Rev. Austin was the first woman to serve in this capacity. In 1992, Reverends Austin and Reynolds were appointed Associate Pastors.

Through the leadership of Dr. Roberts, the vision of the Horizon Sanctuary was born. This beautiful 32,000-square-foot sanctuary seats 2446 people. Developed with accents from the historical Ebenezer Heritage Sanctuary that stands across the street from the new sanctuary; the church’s musical triumph is the new combination (digital+pipe) organ. Designed and engineered by A. E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company and Chapel Music Company, the organ is controlled by a four-manual Rodgers digital console, its digital stops augmented with over 3,000 pipes. David Stills, a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church and an accomplished concert organist, was Dr. King’s organist. It was Mr. Stills who played at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after his assassination in Memphis in 1968. Mr. Stills was instrumental in seeking the best possible instrument for worship at Ebenezer. It was through his expertise that Chapel Music was selected to provide this organ in the New Horizon Sanctuary.

This organ is a magnificent tribute to the wonderful woman who was the daughter, wife, and mother of ministers, and who is considered to be the Mother of Musical Worship at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Over the years, Ebenezer has remained a "Church on the cutting edge of spiritual nurture and social change" and because of Mrs. King.

Click here to view the Specification for this organ.