‘There’s Going to be Some Grieving’: Historic Black Church in Boston Up for Sale Amid Dwindling Congregation, Gentrification

After nearly 150 years of worship, an iconic Boston church is closing its doors.

Ebenezer Baptist Church in South End held its final service Sunday following the difficult decision to put the historic building up for sale. The house of worship, founded by formerly enslaved Blacks after the Civil War, is an official Black Heritage landmark and has remained one of the city’s most historically significant Black congregations, Boston 25 News reports.

Ebenezer Baptist Church Boston
The church’s pastor said an aging congregation and gentrification played a role in the decision to sell the iconic house of worship. (Photo: Boston 25 News/video screenshot)

Several parishioners said they’re sad to see it go.

“This church changed my whole life,” Harvey Lee Horsley Jr. told the station.

Fellow worshiper Barbara Hamilton recalled special memories of her time there, noting the “many life experiences.”

The church’s head pastor, Rev. Carl Thompson, said the news is especially painful because “[for] 148 years, people have been coming to this one spot worshipping” and are not ready to say goodbye. The building has survived many generations of change in this area that was once a hub for the Blacks in Boston. An aging flock and fast-gentrifying neighborhood have made things tough, however.

“The congregation has gotten older and declined because of gentrification, also because age of membership,” Thompson said, adding that only about 20 percent of the church’s members live in the community.

Moreover, the reverend said the cost of maintaining the historic church has also caught up.

“I think it’s going to be a while,” said former pastor Kirk Byron Jones, who was called on to preach and help worshipers through the tough transition. “There’s going to be some grieving.”

It’s unclear what will happen to the property once it’s listed on the market next month. Local residents say luxury condos will likely go up in its place, based on residential development of other churches that have been sold in  recent years, according to the outlet.

The change is a difficult one, but Rev. Thompson said he remains optimistic. 

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

Church leaders said services will be held at Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury until they find a permanent home.

Watch more in the video below.

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