SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A church formed by slaves in the 1800s is getting some repairs.  This Black History Month, OzarksFirst is getting an update on the remodeling project at one of Springfield’s last remaining historically African-American churches: Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church.

OzarksFirst stopped by Pitts Chapel two years ago and saw water damage on the ceiling, and rubble on the stairs and walls. Plaster fell quite often from the sanctuary ceiling.

John Huddleston, a church member, remembers just how bad the damage was in that building.

“Huge chunks [of plaster]were falling,” Huddleston said. “There’s some of it right there. Can you imagine a piece of plaster the size of that seat falling through the ceiling?”

Huddleston says he couldn’t believe what he saw. He’s been going to Pitts Chapel since he was six years old.

“This is my home,” Huddleston said. “This is my home, yes. It sure is. My second home. This is where I’m familiar. It means a lot because like I say, the members are strong community people. The church is a strong building within the community, one of the few that is left and the people here love it. I mean we reach out to them and they reach to us, so it’s just part of the community.”

The chapel was built in 1911. Damages were 40 years in the making. Pitts Chapel is the only historically black church still in its original location. Benton Avenue Church no longer exists, Gibson Chapel isn’t in its original building and Washington Avenue changed names and moved.

Three years ago, he started helping supervise Chapel renovations. Construction crews are working to repair the sanctuary’s ceiling and walls, and put in new stairs and doors.

“To take on a project like we’ve had this project here, It takes two things,” Huddleston said. “It takes trust, a lot of ability, believing in one another and then reaching out to those that can help us. To see our church coming back like it is, and the construction that’s going on, it’s something really, really nice and good.”

The Chapel started a fundraising campaign in 2020.

“Nobody expected little Pitts Chapel to be able to raise close to $250,000 but we almost have,” Lead pastor Tracey Wolff said. “That isn’t about the money, the space, that means God has something in store for us and we’re excited about it.”

Pastor Wolff says the ongoing project hasn’t stopped services. It only moved them to the basement.

“Pitts Chapel staying alive tells Springfield that the black community is still alive,” Pastor Wolff said. “We’re still here, and as several of my members like to say, We aren’t going anywhere. We’re going to be an important part and we are an important part, always have been an important part of Springfield and that will continue.”

There are two ways you can help support Pitts Chapel’s efforts to get back to praying in their sanctuary:

  • Donate to their Givelify campaign.
  • Mail a check to the church at 600 N. Benton Ave, Springfield, MO 65806.

“What it will mean to the congregation to be back in the sanctuary, you can only imagine what it’s like to be in your church but not be in your sanctuary for a year,” Pastor Wolff said.