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About our Church

Vision Statement

The vision of Pilgrim Baptist Church is the fulfillment of God's promise of salvation through the belief in the ministry of Jesus Christ and the empowerment of excellence in all people through Christian education and community activism.


Pilgrim baptist church recognizes two ordinances: Full-immersion baptism and communion.

Church History

The Pilgrim Baptist Church was organized as Rockford's second church for Negroes on Monday August 6, 1917 under the name of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. The first ordained pastor of Pilgrim Rest was Reverend T. P. McGee, who served for seven months and twenty-seven days beginning on October 1917. Under his leadership, property was purchased at 846 Montague Street, Rockford, Illinois.

The second pastor of Pilgrim Rest was Reverend Jesse Walden, who was chosen in 1918.He was a chaplain at nearby Fort Grant, in Rockford Illinois. The third pastor was Reverend G. W. Dudley, followed by J. W. Fitts who served for two years, followed by W. R. Jackson,who was the first pastor to serve more than 10 years. Pastor Jackson served for eleven years, and was succeeded by Reverend E. H. Woods, who served as pastor for ten years.The first two pastors went on to organize two well-known local churches after their short tenure with Pilgrim Rest. Reverend Jesse Walden, organized Bethel Baptist Church in 1918, and Reverend T. P. McGee, organized New Zion Baptist Church in 1924.

In October 1944, the Reverend E. H. E. Gilbert was called to pastor, and served as senior pastor for forty-four years. Reverend Gilbert was a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary and attended Virginia Union Seminary in Richmond Virginia. He later received a degree in Humanities from Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. As Pilgrim's longest serving pastor, Reverend Gilbert is credited with initiating many of the spiritual and social ministries in the church today.

The church changed its name in 1947 from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church to Pilgrim Baptist Church. In 1958, it purchased the 3.7 acres of property that serves as the current site.Ground breaking for the new church took place in April 1960, and the building was completed in March 1961. Thirteen years after groundbreaking, the mortgage was burned.In February 1990, Reverend Steve Bland, Jr. was unanimously called by the Church to succeed Reverend Gilbert. Rev. David Seward acted as the Interim Pastor. Pastor Bland was also an educated minister, having obtained Bachelor degrees in Accounting and Music,and a Master of Divinity degree from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Bland continued the holistic ministry started by Reverend Gilbert, and served as Pastor of Pilgrim for fourteen years before leaving Rockford to become the Senior Pastor of Liberty Temple Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan in June 2004. At that time, Rev. Victor McCullum of Joliet,Illinois became Interim Pastor, and served Pilgrim well until the time the new full-time Pastor was called to Pilgrim.

The Pastor whom God called and Pilgrim prayed for is the current pastor, Rev. Dr. Kenneth R. Board, formerly of Atlanta, Georgia by way of Shreveport, Louisiana. Pastor Board assumed the Pastorate in October 2005, and was officially installed in February of 2006.God aligned Pastor Board prior to his coming, to continue His plan for Pilgrim and the Rockford community. We praise God for his faithfulness in sending visionaries to lead us to the next level, and look forward with hope and the faith in Christ that it does not yet appear what He is going to do, but we know that He will do GREAT THINGS through Pilgrim!