Historic black church in Boston to be sold after nearly 150 years of worship

Historic black church to be sold after nearly 150 years of worship

BOSTON — A church that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War and remained one of the most historically significant black congregations in Boston since 1871 held its final service Sunday.

People have been worshiping for nearly 150 years at the Ebenezer Baptist Church located in the south end of Boston. The iconic institution will be listed on the market and parishioners are processing the news.

One pastor told WFXT-TV that it wasn’t an easy decision.

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“There’s people here who are hurting because they’ve been attached to this building,” said the Rev. Carl Thompson of Ebenezer Baptist Church. “[For] 148 years people have been coming to this one spot worshiping.”

It’s a surviving landmark in a neighborhood that was once a hub for Boston’s black community. After staying in place through many generations of change, the Ebenezer Baptist Church is saying goodbye to its home on West Springfield Street.

“The congregation has gotten older and declined because of gentrification, also because age of membership,” Thompson said, adding that the cost of maintaining the iconic house of worship has caught up.

The reverend also said that only about 20% of the church’s membership currently lives in the neighborhood.

On the very last Sunday service to happen there, the church announced it will temporarily hold services at Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury.

Former pastor Kirk Byron Jones was called on to help preach and guide parishioners through the emotional journey.

“Today was tough. When I got up it was tough to gather my emotions,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a while. There’s going to be some grieving.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also offered some comfort, revealing a proclamation of ‘Ebenezer Baptist Church Day.’

“So many life experiences took place here,” said Barbara Hamilton, a parishioner.

“This church changed my whole life,” added Harvey Lee Horsley Jr., another parishioner.

With so much history being left there, the future of the property that’s recognized as an official Black Heritage Site is still unknown. Many speculate that luxury condos are a likely possibility based on residential development of other area churches sold in recent years.

“We don’t consider it a death or a closure, we just consider it a transition,” said Thompson.

Thompson expects to have the property listed on the market in about a month. He said the congregation is still in the process of figuring out where they’ll be relocating, but he hopes it’ll be somewhere in the city of Boston.

A parishioner takes a photo with her phone while attending The Ebenezer Baptist Church for their final service held in the over 100-year-old building in the South End of Boston on Feb. 23, 2020. Built in 1864, the building has become too expensive to maintain and the congregation is getting pushed out and is forced to move locations. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A parishioner takes a photo with her phone while attending The Ebenezer Baptist Church for their final service held in the over 100-year-old building in the South End of Boston on Feb. 23, 2020. Built in 1864, the building has become too expensive to maintain and the congregation is getting pushed out and is forced to move locations. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) (Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images)