By Sean Mason
There was only one church for black Baptists migrating to Brockton during the Great Migration.
During the Great Migration from the 1940s to the 1970s the only Baptist church in Brockton that was open to black people was the Messiah Baptist Church, according to the current pastor, Michael Walker. The church saw a boom in growth during that time period, Walker said.
During the Great Migration, there were only two churches in Brockton that openly accepted blacks. One was a Baptist church and the other was a United Church Of Christ (UCC). The majority of blacks who migrated north defined themselves as Baptists, according to Walker.
“There were only two black churches in Brockton, a Baptist and a UCC one. So it was easy to see why our church was such a big draw,” Walker said.
The Messiah Baptist Church, founded in July 1897, was started by a group of white business owners in Brockton, Walker said. They started the church because their workers needed a place to worship.
“I can tell you this, if you ask our church folk today, they wouldn’t tell you that white folk started the church. They wouldn’t believe it, but they started it, to give the blacks a church,” said Walker.
The church is an affiliate of the American Baptist church, according to its website.
Walker said the Messiah Baptist Church was very popular for blacks during the migration due its location. It was close to their homes and work, making it convenient for them.
The Messiah Baptist Church’s close knit community was also a factor during the Great Migration, Walker said. Many non-Baptist blacks migrated, converted and became members of the church because they saw the community within the church, Walker said.
Helena Sue Alves, the granddaughter of the founder of the church, said the workers needed a place to meet and the church was the perfect thing.
“They needed a place to meet and because there were no black churches they decided on a church. It was there place they could socialize. It was the only place they could socialize,” Alves said.
The church originally had 22 members, but has risen to well over 300 today, said Susan Brennan, the church secretary.
Today, the church remains at its original 1897 address of 80 Legion Parkway, Brockton. Since its founding, the church added an entrance way and a meeting place where members of the church can eat and a cafeteria where members of the church can eat and congregate after services.