By Tommy Farrell
Messiah Baptist Church has been a leader in African-American spiritual prayer since 1897, and is now working to be a leader in the community through its social programs.
“We want to become more inclusive across the board,” said Reverend Michael Walker. “We want to address the issues of justice and issues of mercy. People think that public policy issues don’t happen where we are. I think that public policy takes place in our church. We want to hear more people and address their issues. God is concerned about people and humanity.”
This summer will mark the 118th year that the Messiah Baptist Church will be holding services and meetings. The church recently celebrated their sixth anniversary for jazz based worship services. These services are held every Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Bible Study is held on Thursday evenings as well.
Walker encourages people of all races, sexual orientation, and financial background to join the parish during their jazz worship services.
“Our jazz worship service is intentionally diversified with no judgments or stereotypes,” said Walker.
However, the Messiah Baptist Church doesn’t just want to be known as a church. It wants to be known throughout the community.
Paulette, Walker’s wife, said the church tries to touch peoples’ lives in a wide range of ways.
“The church is not only supposed to be a place for spiritual development, but we want it to be a place for your daily needs,” Mrs. Walker said. “We want the doors to be open for everyone and anyone who needs help. You are encouraged to grow spiritually and socially here.”
“We have a tutorial program that we run in conjunction with Stonehill College,” Walker said. “It serves our community because the 30 or so students are not members of the church. We have piano lessons for children all the way up to retired senior citizens, as well. We have a lot of varied programs here. We want to meet needs for where they are.”
Jason Wheeler, 57 of Brockton, remembers his childhood experiences with faith.
“My mother took me to a variety of different churches while I was growing up,” said Wheeler. “I really liked the singing in Baptist churches though. It’s a lot more interactive and welcoming. I don’t think church is supposed to be designed to send people on a guilt trip. Instead, more people should be encouraged instead of punished. That’s what I like about the Baptist Church the most.”
The core values of the Messiah Baptist Church specifically are inclusivity, integrity, abundance, gratitude, and harmony.
“We’re a church community. We want to do whatever we can to help people,” Mrs. Walker said.
Willie Wilson, Jr., a member of the Brockton Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, said he supports what the Messiah Baptist Church is doing.
“These churches in Brockton really know how to connect to the community, which is why the Messiah Baptist Church doesn’t stop serving,” Wilson said.
The Messiah Baptist Church holds a wide range of programs including a food pantry, a senior citizens social group, a men’s fellowship group, and a women’s ministry. There are also academic advancement programs and tutoring for children.
The “Within Reach” tutoring program provides one-on-one tutoring for up to 31 students in grades 4-12. The program started 20 years ago by Rita Smith. Susan Zandrow, an adjunct professor at Stonehill College, is now at the helm.
The Brockton Interfaith Community also works with the Messiah Baptist Church. Members of the Messiah Baptist Church met at Brockton High School to discuss the demerit system in the high school. BIC’s goal is to hold one-on-one listening sessions with different congregations in the city that can help can help attack issues in the community.
“Concerned students, parents, public officials, and members of the community came together to re-evaluate and change the demerit system at the high school,” Lucas Bradley, communications coordinator for Brockton Interfaith Community, said. “The current design of the demerit system is negatively affecting the youth, families, the community, and our future.”
Veronica Truell, the youth minister at the Messiah Baptist Church, organized a public seminar at the church, transatlantic diasporic development provided information on West Africa’s state of affairs, as well as Hope for Africa. Hope for Africa is a non-governmental organization that continues to work on creating a positive image for Africa’s future.
“Remember that our young people need to hear this information as well,” Truell said. “What we learned may also be impactful for the future of our youth in understanding the affairs of West Africa. It is always my thought to teach our young people now, to train them now, and to empower our youth now; and if possible bring them with you.”
“Rather than just building the church, we really want to build people,” Walker said.