History of Parklawn Assembly of God Church
In the early 1900s, the Pentecostal revival swept through the United States. The Gospel message was being spread with great zeal and many received salvation, miraculous healings, and witnessed the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit including speaking tongues and prophecy.
Milwaukee was not left out of this historic revival. Reverend Cyrus B. Fockler, an early leader in the Pentecostal Movement received an invitation from Evangelist John G. Lake to come to Milwaukee to conduct religious services. These services were held on Sunday, April 7, 1907. The following day, he and a few other brothers in Christ visited the home of an ill young woman. The supernatural events that occurred during this visit were the catalyst for the formation of the Milwaukee Gospel Tabernacle church. Alice Baumbach, a young woman crippled for four years with tuberculosis and curvature of the spine including decay of her bones was healed through the prayers of Reverend Fockler. Following this healing, she and her mother gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ and received salvation.
In the late 1890s, Pastor Fockler became associated with John A. Dowie of Zion, Illinois and led one of his churches in Ohio. Dowie and Fockler believed in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and miraculous healing. Pastor Fockler was noted to have said that “I’m not going to preach until I have an experience like that” (the baptism in the Holy Spirit). Fockler was one of the early founders of our denomination, the Assemblies of God, which began in Hot Springs, Arkansas in April 1914. He was one of eight men elected to the first Executive Presbytery. Reverend Fockler returned to Milwaukee on February 14, 1909 where the first Public Assembly Services were held in a free Methodist Church located on 20th and Vine.
The Tabernacle, as the church was called at that time, grew rapidly and a building project was undertaken. The Milwaukee Gospel Tabernacle was built in 1910 at 720 West Meinecke Avenue. Fockler pastored this church until his death in 1933. The congregation like their pastor was deeply committed to the Lord and embraced the gifts of the Spirit. The church grew through tent meetings, street evangelism, prayer meetings, regular weekly services, conferences, and youth ministry in impoverished areas of the city. The church fed the poor, visited those in prison, and prayed for the sick. This history of prayer, outreaches that engaged the community, and commitment to reaching people with the Gospel has marked our church from the beginning. After thirty years of ministry, Pastor Fockler died suddenly of a heart attack on March 9, 1933. A mission-minded minister he traveled around the world in 1926 and 1927.
During his absence from the church, Brother Edward A. Eggert was appointed as interim pastor. The church expanded under his leadership. Upon Fockler’s return, Brother Eggert along with a group of believers left the congregation in 1929 to form the Milwaukee Gospel Center at Fourth and Center Street. Among those who accompanied Reverend Eggert were the Laukermanns, the Bronns, the Erdmanns, the Pagels, the Riedys, and the Egelseers.
After incorporating, the Milwaukee Gospel Tabernacle church board called Roy Dunbar, a 35 year old minister to pastor the church. He graduated from Northwestern University and held a doctorate of Divinity degree. He was also the president of the International Pentecostal Assemblies for ten years, served as Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and as President of the Black Hills Bible Institute. Dunbar pastored from 1933 until 1951. Members remembered him as a man deeply committed to the Word of God who emphasized miraculous healing. He was said to have been “a tremendous preacher and scholar.”
Pastor Dunbar was small in stature, but a tiger in the pulpit. Long-term Kenya missionary Betty Kapp Turton who was encouraged by Pastor Dunbar to pursue biblical education stated in 1947 that she was “impressed by his humility and knowledge of the Word of God.” Under the leadership of Pastor Dunbar the church experienced a persistent non-spiritual problem, a lack of parking spaces. Many members had begun to drive cars instead of walking to services. As a result, the congregation was forced to begin looking for a new building site. However, before the problem could be solved, Pastor Dunbar relocated to Pasadena, California to become the Dean of the California Open Bible Institute. Unfortunately, due to ill health he returned to Milwaukee two years later. Shortly thereafter, he died of cancer at the age of 63.
Another part of the original congregation left in 1937 to form another fellowship. Most of these families were members or relatives of founding members. The new congregation held its first services on January 16, 1938 at a rented union hall located on 1012 North Third Street under the leadership of Phillip Megna. This fellowship purchased and remodeled a theater building and dedicated it on June 19, 1938 as Glad Tidings Temple. The building owned by Glad Tidings Temple in Milwaukee on North 22nd and West Center Street was sold in 1948 and the new congregation worshipped in a building located on North Fourth and Center Street.
The decision was made in 1957 while in the process of building a new facility to rename the fellowship. It became known as Parklawn Assembly of God because of its new location in the Parklawn subdivision. The new location was in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood with some German families. Under the leadership of Senior Pastor Paul Baldwin in the late 1960s and early 1970s the congregation purchased a van and began its bus ministry. As the bus ministry expanded, a 66-passenger bus was purchased to allow the ministry to pick up congregants of all races from nearby housing projects and the East side.
The embracing leadership of Pastor H. Ray Collver would see continued racial diversification and reconciliation within the membership of Parklawn. Pastor Collver is a native of Canada and and was involved in the Pentecostal movement in this country. He came to Milwaukee in 1971 from a pastoral position in Madison, Wisconsin to become the pastor at Parklawn. He served in this role until 1986. He married his wife Blanche prior to his service as a Canadian bomber pilot in the Canadian military. Under Pastor Collver’s leadership, African-Americans began regularly attending and working in the ministries of Parklawn Assembly of God.
In December of 1974, the congregation received its first African-American member into the fellowship, Mary Dawson. At its 1975 Annual Business Meeting, the congregation elected its first African-American deacon, Lawrence A. Drake. Several years after completing his studies, Reverend Drake joined the pastoral staff of Parklawn. The first African-American Senior Pastor of Parklawn was Michael T. Dudley. He served in this capacity for six years prior to our current pastor’s election to this role in October 1993.
Senior Pastor Walter Harvey is an ordained minister under the Assemblies of God. He is a graduate of Marquette University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Counseling. A gifted visionary, he has facilitated the growth of Parklawn as it has become one of the fastest growing churches in Wisconsin and within the Assemblies of God. He is a deeply humble and caring leader who is devoted to the Word of God and the people God he has been called to serve. He can be heard daily over the radio waves through the “Light for the World” program. He has served as the Executive Director of City on a Hill ministry and is currently on the Board of Directors for this ministry and for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Additionally, he founded Parklawn Christian Leadership Academy, a church sponsored Christian school for children K4-8th grade.
He has traveled the world including trips to Japan, China, Columbia, Africa, and Israel. He has spoken for Promise Keepers Men’s Conferences, Honor Bound, and No Regrets Men’s Conference. An avid golfer, he established the annual Pastors Masters Golf Classic, currently in its seventh year. This golf classic brings together business and civic leaders with church leaders and functions as a fundraiser for various ministries.
Pastor Harvey is the devoted husband to Pastor Judy Harvey, father to his and Pastor Judy’s only son Nicholas, and their granddaughter Autumn Marie Harvey. Pastor Judy Harvey is the wife of Pastor Walter Harvey, and Parklawn’s First Lady. A graduate of John Marshall High School; she also attended Milwaukee Area Technical College studying Computer Science, and is a licensed real estate agent. She is the leader of the Women of Virtue Women’s Network, one of her many ministerial responsibilities at Parklawn. She is a passionate and gifted speaker.
Pastor Judy is known for leading the charge for purity and holiness in life, sincerity, and service to the Lord and His people. A survivor of breast cancer, her on-going commitment to the health of women is a testament to her perseverance and use of personal struggle in a positive and productive manner. She has ministered to women, youth, children, and senior citizens. She is certainly a Proverbs 31 woman. She and the Senior Pastor have been married for 25 years.
Parklawn completed a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion in 2008. Choosing to remain at our current location on Sherman Boulevard, this expansion allows us to accommodate and better serve our growing fellowship and the community with a new state of the art Children’s ministry, Cup of Life Café, prayer room, music wing, administrative offices, River of Life Bookstore, renovated sanctuary, and allow more space for the needs of the Parklawn Leadership Academy.
Parklawn Assembly of God is committed to spreading the Gospel and ministering to the holistic needs of all people through the Holy Spirit. From its support of city and international missions and missionaries to its many ministries that outreach to the community, including prison ministry and addiction recovery we seek to make disciples for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Additionally, we are a fellowship passionately committed to small groups where people can find enriching relationships of accountability as they grow in faith and deal with the issues of life. Throughout its history, Parklawn Assembly of God has been a spiritual oasis where thousands of souls have come in need and gone out refreshed, delivered, restored, and healed. Parklawn Assembly of God is truly a place of worship for all people, all races, and all nationalities to unite in one accord to the glory of God. In the heritage of the Pentecostal Movement, Parklawn Assembly of God understands that it is one of the vehicles God is using to spread the Gospel, minister to those in need, raise up biblically solid and spiritually transformed believers in Christ, and bring revival to the world.
Our church is uniquely positioned because we believe in the supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit to empower the believer to a life of exaltation to God, edification to the church, and evangelism to the world. Today, we stand on the brink of a new season looking back over a glorious 100 years. Yet, the people of the 21st century demand a church that is relevant to its time. Parklawn Assembly of God is just that. The New Testament church met both inside and outside the temple. Today, people cry out for the touch of Christ from real people. We, as a church will go out to them, meeting in their homes and ours. The saints will then come back in with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.
Our current, as well as future methods of ministry are built upon a strong church tradition. May God help us to be like the men of Issachar: "men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." We are committed to Building Strong Families, Servant Leader Development, Missions, Prayer, and Racial Reconciliation. The key to this vision is a church that is equipped to minister to God, the world, and the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11, 12 says that God gave pastor-teachers to train the laity to minister. His strategy is to take "lambs" and turn them into "lions." God has chosen the foolish and weak thing to confound the wise and strong. Our city and world are ready for revival and we are preparing followers for His service and leaders for this work.