Jane Lampman: Boston's People's Baptist Church Celebrates 200 Years

Roundup: Talking About History

As the morning light streams gently through stained glass windows, the congregation lifts its hands and hearts in praise to God, singing "bless the Rock of my salvation." Moments later, attendees move around the pews, greeting each other with hugs and handshakes.

In this first of two Sunday services, members of the Peoples Baptist Church in Boston celebrate their faith and commitment to community. The Rev. Wesley Roberts is preaching on "Why We Need Each Other," as the church begins a new campaign of spiritual fellowship and community service.

This month also marks another celebration: the church's 200th anniversary.

In 1805, free blacks on Boston's Beacon Hill started First African Baptist Church, the first independent black Baptist church in the North, and the first free black church of any denomination in New England.

It has since had an uninterrupted history (through several name changes), symbolizing both the black church's strong cultural influence and African-Americans' exceptional devotion to spiritual matters.In almost any survey of religious attitudes or behavior in the US today, African-Americans stand out as the most religiously involved, the most prayerful, the most spiritually focused among America's faithful.

Beatrice Busby, a native Bostonian, was baptized at Peoples Baptist back in May 1925, and her spiritual journey covers almost half the church's history.

"One thing I remember very clearly from my childhood is [the pastor] always saying, 'Talk to that man upstairs. No matter what happens, talk to Him and trust Him,' " the lively octogenarian says in an interview. "There are times when your back is against the wall and you wonder if God cares. But then the door opens, and it opens wide. I could write a book about what He has done for me."

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Steven R Alvarado - 11/1/2005

I wonder, fifty years from now when London is a Muslim city which statue will they tear down first? Mandela or Nelson.