Black Church Community
How were these Black churches able to maintain a sense of community?
Often community is created through a sense of ownership and the understanding that we need one another for companionship and belonging. I believe that identity is needed to build a community. There needs to be a reason to join the community. For Black Churches a sense of community has been built through the leadership that they have. Having leaders who can step up and lead the way in times of strife and tribulations have allowed the Black church community to be built up. Having leaders that can adapt and create meaning for the church has been important to establish the church community. After the community has been established there needs to be some way to maintain a sense of community. What helps to maintain the Black church community especially within Northern Virginia with the constant, migration, pushout and more that happens to the population. Individuals who were once there in the community may need of have to leave but how can the Black church still create a sense of community for these individuals and families.
Historically Black churches had constraints on the ways in which they could gather or if they could even be established. Even through the control placed on the Black community within the Northern Virginia are they were still able to establish and maintain a sense of community. (Turner, 2020) McKittrick in their work Demonic Grounds argues for research and researchers to consider “the relationship between black populations and geography.” (x) In wanting to make visible the often-invisible institutional labor of Black residents in Northern Virginia through the research of Black churches in the area. I was able to understand that the institutional labor that has been performed and executed by these Black churches is perseverance and the understanding that Black people within Northern Virginia need a place to worship as well as have community. The Black churches maintained a sense of community past and present in many ways. Through the establishment of many ministries like outreach, education, childcare, and missionary work to name a few. Other ways in which these Black churches have maintained a sense of community is through the hosting funerals reaching out to families establishing legal services and more.
The labor that these Black churches have done to make sure that their communities feel their support inside and outside of the church house have helped to maintain a sense of community for their member as well as those that benefit from the outreach programs that they do. The 19 churches this research looked at were: Shiloh Baptist Church, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Alfred ST. Baptist church, Zion Baptist church, Beulah Baptist Church, Mount Olive Baptist church, Mount Zion Baptist church, Lomax A.M.E. Zion Church, Mt. Salvation Baptist Church, New Mount Zoar Baptist Church, Mount Calvary Church, Mount Olive Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Merrifield, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church(Fairfax County), Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Loudoun County), Mount Zion ME Church Leesburg, First Mount Olive Baptist Church, Mount Zion M.E. Church Hamilton, Oak Grove Baptist Church. Although each of these churches seem to have built a great sense of community, I would be entirely too much to fully delve into how each one has been able to create a sense of community. Instead, I choose to look at Shiloh Baptist Church, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Fairfax County) , and New Mount Zoar Baptist Church. These four churches represent some of the best examples of Black Churches in Northern Virginia maintaining a sense of community.
Shiloh Baptist Church, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Fairfax County), New Mount Zoar Baptist Church showcase their maintained sense of community through how they have been able uphold and support. Shiloh Baptist since its inception has been able to maintain community through being able to provide transportation to its members. (Patterson, 2015) They have also been able to maintain their community through a daycare center. In the 60s to early 70s Shiloh Baptist helped the city of Alexandria to operate a integrated daycare. (Patterson, 2015). Shiloh Baptist has also been able to help maintain their community through food banks. Many of the churches like Shiloh have been able to maintain community through their outreach services like food banks. Mount Olive Baptist church has been able to maintain their community through having things like their transportation ministries and their bereavement team. (Mount Olive Baptist Church) Other ways we can see Mount Olive Baptist Church maintain a sense of community is through their ability to adapt and provide ways for their church member to be apart even when they cannot physically be apart. Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Fairfax County) has been able to maintain their community by being able to have outreaches like education ministry, feed the hungry mission, and music arts ministry. (Mount Pleasant Baptist Church) New Mount Zoar has also been able to maintain their community in many ways looking through their culinary and hospitality ministry and their prison ministry. (New Mount Zoar) Other ways churches in the northern Virginia area were through their church pamphlets that spread encouragement. (Alexandria Historical Collections) Other ways these churches were able to maintain community was through newsletters and more. (Alexandria historical Collections)
The images within this page represent some of the ways that the churches in Northern Virginia have been able to maintain a sense of community. These images showcase the institutional labor of Black individuals within the Northern Virginia area. These images also represent the ways in which Black people in the Northern Virginia have been able to take care of one another. They also represent the way in which community is beyond just living in the same neighborhood but how we support one another. These images also showcase how community is built and maintained through support in tough times.