How Churches Act as the Heartbeat of African-American Communities

The Rev. James Speed leads Allen Temple AME Church in positively impacting the community. Photo by Will Crooks.

The monstrosity of slavery birthed something more powerful than slaveowners could’ve ever anticipated. The church.

Black churches rose among the horrors of slavery to allow African-Americans a safe place of spiritual equality and self-expression. Today, churches in Greenville continue to be the nucleus of black communities.

Community impact

The church plays many roles in the 21st-century black community. The Rev. Darian Blue, senior pastor of Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church, says the church today continues to act, in a sense, as a shelter from injustice and discrimination. 

“While some black churches have moved outside of the communities … it is still a place where people gather to come together, and it’s a safe place,” Blue says. “The black church is still a place that information and brotherhood is still shared.”

The Rev. Darian Blue offers a place
of refuge for the Nicholtown
community. Photo by Will Crooks.

In addition to being community hubs, churches serve their communities through programs dedicated to providing food, housing, and education. Social trauma, Blue says, is one area that’s too often overlooked.

“What happens when a kid gets shot down the street, but there’s no counselors in the community or there’s no trained people to help them deal with that?” Blue says. “You’re feeling all these emotions. Where do you go to get that out? You come here.”

In Greenville, Blue says gentrification is a positive thing. However, he feels nonblack individuals moving in must infuse themselves in the centerpiece of the community, which is the church. “We’re equals,” Blue says. “White isn’t better than black, and black isn’t better than white.”

The Rev. James Speed of Allen Temple AME Church describes the church as a catalyst for change in the community. “[Church] has been the nuclear point where black folk could gather and come together,” he says. “It was a place where we had corporate ownership.”

Growing up in Allen Temple, Speed saw the church’s influence within the community. “As a child coming here and being exposed to those doctors, those lawyers, those teachers, it instilled in me a desire to push forward and to do better as a person,” Speed says.

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Source: Greenville Journal