The history of the Church of God in Christ in the city of North Chicago began in 1936. A small group of believers came together and Elder Eugene Robinson became its first pastor. The group found a small brick building on 15th and Elizabeth Avenue. The church began as the North Chicago Junction Church of God in Christ. In 1938, Elder Robinson left the church and the leadership was in the hands of Superintendent W. D. C. Williams, Superintendent of the North Shore District of Northern Illinois of the Churches of God in Christ. The North Shore District was, at that time, the second largest district in Illinois among the Church of God in Christ. Many of the churches in the northern part of Illinois began in the North Shore District. Superintendent Williams began looking for a pastor to shepherd the small congregation. From 1938 to 1940 there were numerous ministers sent to the church, but none were able to bring growth to the work. Some left because the church was small; others left because it was extremely difficult to preach holiness in that city.
Superintendent Williams was an instructor in the Gospel Workers Institute of Northern Illinois, Church of God in Christ. He had a very dedicated student by the name of Elder James W. Markham as a part of his class. Elder James W. Markham was an anointed young man who was saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost in 1930 in Wilson Arkansas. He and his wife, Sister Jettye Markham, received Christ together and worked faithfully in Arkansas under the spiritual leadership of the late Superintendent W. T. Adams. The Lord called Elder James Markham to the ministry in 1932. During Sunday school, the Lord anointed him to speak and the saints were greatly blessed. Although he was blessed at the West Helena Church in Arkansas, Elder Markham, his wife and two children, moved to Asheville, North Carolina and united under the leadership of Elder Jesse Griffins. There he worked faithfully as an assistant pastor and played an important role in the building of a brick church on Sycamore Street in Asheville, North Carolina. After the untimely death of their only daughter in 1937, Elder and Sister Markham, with their son, moved to Chicago and join the 40th Street Church of God in Christ (now the Roberts Temple Church) under the leadership of Bishop William Roberts.
Bishop Roberts, State Bishop of Northern Illinois of the Churches of God in Christ, was a leader of leaders. He was an ardent instructor and a spiritual father to many. Many anointed men developed strong ministries under his leadership. He mandated that ministers study the word of God and be faithful to their spiritual calling. Elder Markham became one of Bishop Roberts’ faithful spiritual sons and was a tremendous help to the 40th Street Church. Bishop Roberts ordained Elder James W. Markham as an ordained elder in 1938. Superintendent W. D. C. Williams admired Elder Markham and in 1940, he asked Bishop Roberts if Elder Markham could help him at the North Chicago Church. Superintendent Williams sent Elder Markham to minister to the people on several occasions. His ministry blessed the small congregation. They enjoyed his anointed preaching and decided that he should be their pastor. A committee, which included Deacon Cleo Thompson, Mother Ethel Roberts and Deacon John Roberts, asked Bishop Roberts to allow Elder James W. Markham to be their pastor. Bishop Roberts gave his full endorsement and appointed him as pastor of the North Chicago Junction Church of God in Christ.
The North Chicago church had experienced great turmoil. On top of not having a pastor, the church was $2000.00 in debt. There was a move to take the building and turn it into a tavern. Pastor James Markham moved to pay off every debt. He and his wife gave their personal finances to help the ministry become debt free. Through sacrifices and faithful determination, the debt was paid in full in two years and the church began to move forward. It was during this time that God gave Pastor Markham to change the name of the church to the ST. JAMES TEMPLE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST. This was in honor of a spiritual mentor in his life, Bishop B. S. Lyles, State Bishop of Northern Mississippi of the Churches of God in Christ. The church that Bishop Lyles pastored in Clarksdale Mississippi is named St. James Temple Church of God in Christ, now pastored by the Bishop T. T. Scott, Jurisdictional Bishop of Northern Mississippi. Pastor Markham led the congregation to beautify the Lord’s House. There were extensive changes made both inside and outside the sanctuary. Deacon McAllister, from Evanston, IL, put a new front on the building. New restrooms, pastor’s study, and kitchen were added. The small congregation had a mind to work.
The church not only changed structurally, but the power of God began to move mightily. The church began to grow in number. Many souls began to embrace Holiness as a way of life. Sister Jettye Markham worked faithfully by her husband’s side. She began to canvass the neighborhood and invite children to be a part of the Sunshine Band. Pastor James Markham would have the church fast and pray many days at a time. He would conduct revival services and all night prayer meetings. The Lord spoke to Pastor Markham and he was led to fast and pray forty days. After this special consecration, God moved in a miraculous way. People were healed, demons were cast out and the church began to flourish in the Holy Ghost. Pastor James Markham gave great diligence to the preaching of God’s word. He preached the word of God distinctly and caused many to understand and give their lives to God.
As the church grew, the ministry of St. James Temple inspired many young men. Some of the leaders touched by this ministry: the late Bishop German Ross of Oakland, CA, Bishop William M. Bonner of Aurora, IL, Bishop Carlis L. Moody of Evanston, IL; Bishop Robert Sanders of Chicago Heights, IL; Supt. Lafeyette Whittley of Dallas, TX; Supt. Richard Daye of De Moines, IW; Supt. Remon Jackson of Markham, IL; Supt. Vernell Kipper of Waukegan, IL; the late Supt. Jesse Wallace of Zion, IL; Bishop Griffin of North Chicago, IL; Apostle Leon Cosey of Waukegan, IL; Pastor George Patterson of Zion, IL and many other pastors, elders, evangelist missionaries and laymen. In 1945, Pastor James W. Markham was made Superintendent of the North Shore District of Northern Illinois of the Church of God in Christ. St. James Temple reached out into the community of North Chicago to deliver the souls of men from the hand of the enemy. During the 50’s and 60’s, church building at 15th and Elizabeth Avenue became too small for the growing congregation. The vision for a new church building came about in 1974. After much labor and prayer, a new church was built and completed on June of 1977 at a cost of over $ 350,000.00. Superintendent James Markham and the saints marched into the GREATER ST.JAMES TEMPLE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST at 2131 Wright Avenue in North Chicago, Illinois.
The GREATER ST. JAMES TEMPLE continued to grow in the North Chicago community. In 1990, the church experienced the loss of Mother Jettye Markham, the wife of Superintendent James Markham. In that same year, Presiding Bishop L. H. Ford consecrated him to the office of Auxiliary Bishop in the Church of God in Christ. In his declining years, Bishop James Markham was determined to pay off the mortgage of the church. He was able to see this dream come true in June of 1991. After laboring in the pastoral ministry for fifty-two years, BISHOP JAMES W. MARKHAM entered the church triumphant in heaven on Friday, March 13, 1992. On Thursday, March 19, 1992, at the close of the memorial services of Bishop Markham, the Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, the late Bishop Louis Henry Ford consecrated Elder Torrance A. Markham, Bishop Markham’s grandson, as the new pastor of Greater St. James Temple Church.
Under Pastor Torrance A. Markham’s visionary leadership, the congregation embarked upon remodeling projects and land acquisitions that have totaled over $ 300,000.00. He has been committed to building upon the rich spiritual foundation of his predecessor and grandfather, the late Bishop James W. Markham, and innovatively moving the congregation forward into the 21st century. Many have come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ and numerous purposeful ministries have been established to nurture and develop the growing congregation. Through Pastor Markham’s vision to reach mankind for Jesus Christ, the congregation has been a dedicated sponsor of churches thru the Department of Missions of the Church of God in Christ in Santiago, Chile; Johannesburg, South Africa and an orphanage in the Congo, thus fulfilling the message of our Saviour, Jesus Christ; “…ye shall be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” In September 2002, Pastor Markham and the Greater St. James congregation were tremendously honored to entertain the late International Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson. This was an honor that the Lake County Community will not soon forget.
In 1997, Greater St. James Temple Church became one of the pioneering African American congregations in Lake County to partnered with PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) becoming an overnight shelter each Monday night (from October thru April) for the homeless community. The church reached out to assist in the rehabilitation of the chemically dependent through its partnership with Gateway of Lake Villa. Later a strong partnership was established with the YWCA of Lake County. Programs such as: the Summer Camp Program, The Before School Breakfast Club and the Kid’s Day-Off Program have been a needed support to families in the North Chicago community. Pastor Markham desired to impact the lives of the incarcerated and their families in the community. The church expanded its ministry at the Lake County Jail through bible studies and worship services and partnered with Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Ministry to provide hundreds of Christmas gifts for children with an incarcerated parent. Because of his sincere desire to serve, Pastor Markham was appointed as one of the original board members of the Waukegan Township Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, to receive a Certificate of Appreciation from the Office of the Governor of Illinois’ Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, to be given the Waukegan Township Special Recognition Award for helping the homeless in Lake County, to receive The People’s Voice 2007 Most Influential African American Inspiration Award, The College of Lake County 2008 Harambre Award of Excellence and was highly honored by Wal-Mart Corporation to facilitate the dedicatory prayer at the Grand Opening of the Wal-Mart Super Center (Lake Hurst) in Waukegan.
Seeing the tremendous needs of the North Chicago and Lake County communities, Pastor Markham organized a non-profit faith-based corporation named the Greater St. James Community Development Corporation (GSJCDC) of North Chicago, Illinois. The GSJCDC has awarded over $32,000.00 in financial scholarships to deserving high school and continuing college students in the Lake County community, established a capital project fund at Fifth Third Bank in behalf of the North Chicago Community High School and partnered with Alice Sample’s “Make A Child Smile” Foundation to distribute free Christmas toys to hundreds of children throughout the community. The GSJCDC united with Tabitha Community Services of Chicago to give assistance to thousands in the area of domestic violence and homelessness in the Chicago land area.