Sunday, February 14, 2010

I LOVE NY 14 of 28 Places to Visit

Abyssinian Baptist Church

In 1808, a few African-Americans, armed with their faith in Jesus and strengthened by mercies already seen, left the worship service of the First Baptist Church of New York City and withdrew forever their membership. These African-Americans, accompanied by a group of Ethiopian merchants, were unwilling to accept racially segregated seating in God's house and determined that they would organize their own church. During June, they established themselves in a building on Anthony Street (later Worth Street) calling themselves the Abyssinian Baptist Church - a name inspired by the ancient name of the nation from which the merchants of Ethiopia had come, Abyssinia. The Rev. Thomas Paul, a minister from Boston, aided the new congregation in becoming organized as the First African-American Baptist Church in the state of New York. Abyssinian called as its first pastor the Rev. Vanvelser.

In 1908,
Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became pastor of the church. In 1920, the church purchased property in Harlem for a new Gothic and Tudor style church featuring stained glass windows and marble furnishings. The congregation's tithing and offerings covered the expenses, and in 1923 the church moved to its current location on West 138th Street in Harlem. By the time Powell handed the reins of the church to his son Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1937, the Abyssinian Baptist Church was the largest Protestant congregation in the United States, with more than 4,000 members.

Today, under the direction of Rev. Calvin O. Butts, the church has continued to be a vital political, social, and religious institution in New York. In 1989 Butts founded the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), creating a non-profit arm of the church to work on community development and social services. It has created $500 million in development, including the first new high school in Harlem in 50 years, the first large supermarket, a retail center, and housing.

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