The Baptist Church
The Baptist Church, which traces its roots to the 17th century, embraces the complete authority of the Bible and openly welcomes any adults wishing to be baptized into the Baptist faith. Baptist philosophy stipulates that individual churches be relatively free from a central body of control. Instead, individual Baptist churches form affiliations called “conventions” which provide much of the leadership and direction.
Before the American Civil War, Baptists living in the North and the South disagreed on the issue of slavery: Southern Baptists condoned the use of slavery, while those in the North condemned it.
Black Americans were drawn to the Baptist Church because of its emphasis on individual freedoms, personal conversion, and lively preaching. Black Baptists tended to be more politically active than Black Christians from other denominations, particularly during the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, was a Baptist preacher. However, the Baptist churches in Alberta were more focused on spiritual objectives and the development of the Black community than on encouraging activism.
In the early 20th century, almost half of the Blacks living in Alberta belonged to the Baptist Church. The Black settlement in the Eldon district of Maidstone, Saskatchewan was also largely Baptist and served by the Shiloh Baptist Church. Edmonton’s Shiloh Baptist Church and Keystone’s Good Hope Baptist Church were the largest Black Baptist churches in Alberta.
In Edmonton, Shiloh Baptist Church was the centre of the Black community from the 1910s to the 1950s. Members of the congregation originally met in private homes; by the early 1920s, they had built their own place of worship. The church changed location several times and now operates at 10727 114 Street. In the early years of its existence, the church was affiliated with the Masonic Lodge and the Booker T. Washington Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Members of the congregation also sponsored baseball and hockey teams in Edmonton’s Black community.
Keystone’s first institution was the Good Hope Baptist Church, a simple log structure built in 1911. The biggest event at Good Hope Baptist Church was the annual Christmas concert, which drew large crowds from surrounding areas.
The community of Junkins also featured a Baptist church. The multi-denominational community of Amber Valley had non-denominational church services held in private homes and in the Toles School. Eventually, however, a Baptist church was built in Amber Valley. Parson Henry Sneed was one of the founding settlers of the community. His status as a preacher and affiliation with the Masons made Sneed a very influential member of the community, and he was able to recruit settlers from the United States to the area.
Currently, the National Baptist Convention, USA, formed in 1886 and boasting a membership of 7.5 million people, is the largest religious organization among African-Americans.