Concert Celebrates New Life for Historic Ebenezer Baptist Organ
When Maestro Hector Olivera sits down to the Rodgers console on Sunday, August 26, the music that fills the Horizon Sanctuary at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church will honor the memory of a woman who's often called the church's "Mother of musical worship" – Mrs. Alberta Christine Williams King.
The concert will be held at 4:00 PM in the church's Horizon Sanctuary, 407 Auburn Ave., Atlanta, GA 30312. The sanctuary was completed in the spring of 1999 and houses the largest pipe/digital organ in the southeastern part of the United States. The organ is named in memory of Mrs. King, who served as musical director at Ebenezer until her death in 1974, when she was slain while sitting at the organ during a worship service.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, founded during the Reconstruction Era in the South, has a prominent reputation as a leader in spiritual worship and social consciousness. Mrs. King's father, Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams, was called to the pulpit in 1894, taking over leadership from its first pastor, Rev. John A. Parker, who had begun the church with a band of 13 faithful people in 1886.
Rev. Williams added 65 members to the congregation in the first year, bought land and built a sanctuary on McGruder Street, which became known as Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. The church next moved to the corner of Bell and Gilmer Streets and purchased its first pipe organ, a John Brown tracker organ. From Bell Street, the membership moved in 1912 to Edgewood Avenue. In 1914 the basement of the Heritage Sanctuary was completed, and the congregation worshiped there, until the sanctuary was also finished.
In 1927, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. became Assistant Pastor to Rev. Williams. He assumed the full pastorate in 1931 following the death of Rev. Williams. Rev. King, Sr., was a motivator of people, relentless in his pursuit of justice for all people, and was an inspiration to his children, who carried on his tradition. It was during this time that Rev. King met and married Rev. Williams 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, developing the musical ministry along with the church’s tremendous growth. In 1940 the church purchased a 2-manual Wurlitzer pipe organ. Graham Jackson, renowned concert artist and friend of Mrs. King, performed the dedication recital for this instrument.
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 ministry that Ebenezer developed its ecumenical and international presence, which led to the continued growth of the music ministry and the purchase of a new and larger organ, a 2-manual Hill Green-Lane pipe organ purchased in 1956.
After the retirement of Rev. King, Sr., in 1975, Dr. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr. became Senior Pastor. Through the leadership of Dr. Roberts, the vision of the New Horizon Sanctuary was born. This beautiful 32,000 square foot sanctuary seats 1,600. With accents from the historical Ebenezer Heritage Sanctuary, which stands across the street, the church’s musical triumph is the new pipe/digital organ designed and engineered by A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company and Chapel Music Company. The organ is controlled by a Rodgers digital console with over 3,000 pipes and digital stops.
Mr. David Stills, Dr. King’s organist, lent his expertise in seeking the best possible instrument for worship at Ebenezer. This organ is a magnificent tribute to the wonderful woman who was the daughter, wife and mother of ministers.