Through tribulations and toils to triumph, Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark, NJ celebrated its 106th anniversary with a service and dedication of an historical landmark plaque. Taking place during Black History Month on Sunday, February 5, 2023, the ceremony was all the more poignant.
Constructed in the classical revival style in 1901 by Newark-born Nathan Myers, the building at 224 West Kinney Street originally housed a synagogue. In 1917, former members of Hopewell Baptist Church organized Abyssinian Baptist Church and purchased the building in 1947. To meet the congregation’s needs, the interior saw upgrades, but the façade remains the same. Mary L. Harris, chair of the landmark dedication ceremony who researched the church’s history, has worshiped at Abyssinian for 62 years. “I love this church and its people,” Harris said.
In attendance were U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and Newark City Councilmembers. Council President LaMonica McIver, Rev. Louise Rountree, Anibal Ramos, Luis Quintana, Lawrence Crump, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dupre Kelly joined Essex County Freeholder President Wayne Richardson, who presented a proclamation that will be displayed at the Hall of Records. Letters of commendation came from NJ Governor Phil Murphy and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver.
Created by the Newark Landmark Committee, the plaque cites the visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1968, eight days before his assassination. The Victoria Foundation and Newark Landmarks funded the cost of the plaque placed in the church’s beautiful sanctuary. The guest celebrant of the 106th church anniversary, Rev. Johnny M. Caldwell, pastor of New Born Baptist Church in Newark; based his sermon on Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Words to live by, indeed.
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