Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years

Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years

Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years

Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years

Synopsis

Black Church Beginnings provides an intimate look at the struggles of African Americans to establish spiritual communities in the harsh world of slavery in the American colonies. Written by one of today's foremost experts on African American religion, this book traces the growth of the black church from its start in the mid-1700s to the end of the nineteenth century.As Henry Mitchell shows, the first African American churches didn't just organize; they labored hard, long, and sacrificially to form a meaningful, independent faith. Mitchell insightfully takes readers inside this process of development. He candidly examines the challenge of finding adequately trained pastors for new local congregations, confrontations resulting from internal class structure in big city churches, and obstacles posed by emerging denominationalism.Original in its subject matter and singular in its analysis, Mitchell's Black Church Beginnings makes a major contribution to the study of American church history.

Excerpt

In the introductory course in African American church history at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1973, I, the instructor, was accused thus: “You teach Black Church history like it’s your own family album.” I had mentioned from time to time such data as my growing up in one of the first black Baptist associations (in Ohio); my grandfather’s presidency of the Virginia Baptists in 1895 (so that he signed the charter when the National Baptist Convention was organized); and my close personal ties with an early figure at Wilberforce. My answer was, “You’re absolutely right, and that’s how every one of you should view it. It’s not abstract data required to pass a course. It’s the spiritual history of our family. Until you see it this way, you won’t even know who you are. Among other handicaps, you’ll be the helpless victim of widespread misinformation about our family’s faith, as having come from the slave masters.”

When students of other races get perfect grades in traditional history courses, they are very likely seeing the material as the spiritual and social history of their families, a tale with which they have personal ties. African American students desperately need to see Black Church history the same way. When African American church history gets personal, deficits in ethnic self-esteem are healed, to say nothing of the accurate information and the spiritual growth that are made possible.

African American church history has been approached from many valid angles. Denominational growth, great preachers and lead-

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