BOSTON — A historic black church held a final service Sunday at its South End location where people have been worshipping for nearly 150 years. The iconic institution will soon be listed on the market.
The Ebenezer Baptist Church was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War and has remained one of the most historically significant black congregations in Boston since 1871. Parishioners are now processing the difficult news that it’s going up for sale.
One pastor told Boston 25 News that it wasn’t an easy decision.
“There’s people here who are hurting because they’ve been attached to this building,” said Reverend Carl Thompson of Ebenezer Baptist Church. “[For] 148 years people have been coming to this one spot worshipping.”
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,” Rev. 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.
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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 ab 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 Rev. Thompson.
Thompson expects to have the property listed on the market in about a month. He says 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.