From Whence We've Come: The Development of Black Religious Life and Culture in the Pacific Northwest

“"...where did the Black church folks come from then (c. 1889) and where are we now?" ”

Team Members/Contributors

Tanya March Contact Me
Terry McCray Bethel AME Church Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

Although we ended the conversation as quickly as it had began with no conclusions reached nor recommendations for further discussion, but I've affirmed the parishioner's question as one that is begging to be answered. The core question when unpacked is basically seeking to know how the AME Church was catalyzed by Black Pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the route of the Transcontinental Train.

As mentioned in the case study timeline included in this application, Bethel AME church experienced multiple forced relocations until 1959 when the present edifice was erected. It is conceivable that then there was actually a need for a sanctuary that seated in excess of four hundred (400) to adequately accommodate weekly worshippers; however, in 2019 weekend congregants are scattered among less than twenty percent (20%) of the pews—where are we now? As for where were we then, I am aware that many AME churches were founded along the Oregon Trail and during the early years of the development and construction and of the Transcontinental Railroad.

All the more the sister's question kept tugging at me until my interest peaked to the point of yearning to explore the histories of AME churches that were founded along the Oregon Trail and as the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad were being laid as a backdrop for studying the effect on Black life and culture in the Black Church and the geographic area of what is now known as the Pacific Northwest. How can we initiate a program, in the 21st century for growth in the western states by looking at how churches and faith communities were populated over a century ago? This project will research social justice issues, sustainability of emerging Black communities, societal pressures, growth patterns and racism to determine, how the Black Church in the Pacific Northwest survived then and what's the prognosis is now.