The Most Historic Church in Rhode Island

A gathering in the First Baptist Meeting House    The progression of events leading to the establishment of the African Union Meeting and Schoolhouse in Providence and eventually to the organization and construction of Congdon Street Baptist Church began on March 9, 1819 in the vestry of the First Baptist Meeting House. At this time and place a meeting was held for the purpose of discussing, and making plans to establish a place for people of color to both worship God in dignity and to obtain secular education for their children. This meeting, called at the request of a group of people of African descent, was attended by representatives of both this group and influential, sympathetic whites.        

The African Union Meeting and Schoolhouse Society is opened    As a result of the meeting a committee composed of twelve men, black and white, was appointed to meet with Moses Brown, Esq., who long had intended to do something for the people of color. He thereupon instructed the group to select a suitable lot for the desired building. The site chosen was located at the corner of Meeting and Congdon Streets. True to his word, Mr. Brown purchased it. Construction began, and in June of 1820 the schoolhouse was opened for divine worship. The large room was soon fitted with pews, and the building was completed and dedicated in 1821. It came to be called The African Union Meeting House resulting from the name of its governing body. The African Union Meeting and Schoolhouse Society.        

The Meeting Street Baptist Church is organized    This Society was composed of A.M.E., A.M.E. Zion, Free Will Baptist, Calvinist, and Missionary Baptist denomination. Eventually, desiring their own identities, various of these groups pulled out of the African Union Meeting House and established their own churches. By 1840, only the Calvinists were left in charge of the property. Therefore, in December of that year they organized the Meeting Street Baptist Church.        

Name changed to Congdon Street Baptist Church    A period of prosperity was followed by a period of devastation in dire hardship for the church. It was during this latter period, 1863 to about 1870, that hostile white neighbors had the church torn down leaving the small black congregation bereft of its place of worship. In 1869, George Hale, a neighbor whose property the church inconveniently bordered, had offered to exchange with the church a lot he owned at Congdon Street and Angel Court. Now, in 1871, the church finally agreed to make the exchange and was permitted by the Court to do so. Thereupon, the new edifice was begun. It was completed and dedicated in July, 1875. By a Legislative Act, the name was changed to Congdon Street Baptist Church.        

Celebrating 185 years of religious heritage in Rhode Island    The ensuing years brought an intermingling of influence, turmoil, and growth to Congdon Street Baptist Church. In 1874, the New England Baptist Missionary convention was organized in its vestry during a very spiritual and harmonious meeting. In 1880, however, a group having become disgruntled, pulled out and organized the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 1901, another group pulled out and founded the Olney Street Baptist church. Nevertheless, by 1897, the remaining membership was able to purchase the land and parsonage at the rear of the church. As the result of continuing and remarkable spiritual and physical growth during the following years, the church proudly celebrated its 70th anniversary on December 8, 1910. In March of 1979 it commemorated the 160th anniversary. This October 2004 we will celebrate 185 years of religious heritage in Rhode Island. Congdon Street Baptist Church located at 17 Congdon Street just a stone's throw from Prospect Terrace and is know locally as the "friendly church on the hill".


Pastoral History at Congdon Street

1840-1848 - Jeremiah Asher
1849 - William Serringdon
1853 - Chauncy Leonard
1861 - Thomas Henson
1863 - Sampson White
1867-1869 - Caleb Woonyard
1869-1870 - Nicholas Richmond
1870-1878 - William Jackson
1870-1885 - James Mitchell
1885-1886 - James Dart
1886-1887 - Henry Scott
1887-1891 - Nathaniel Drayton
1891-1896 - Joseph Johnston
1897-1901 - J.H. Presley
1902-1904 - John L. Davis
1904-1915 - Sidney W. Smith
1916-1928 - Walter J. Moss
1929-1935 - B.R. Lawson
1936-1937 - Dr. Burt
1938-1946 - W.H. Smith
1948-1959 - M. Jerome Brown
1959-1965 - Leardrew L. Johnson
1966-1973 - Dennis L. Norris
1974-1998 - Robert L. Carter
1999-2001 - Theodore Wilson
2003-2008 - David Mitchell
2009 - Glenn Leverette
2010 - Cynthia Smothers
2011-2014 - James Dove
2016 - Justin Lester

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