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First Baptist Church: A Journey in Courage
Founded in 1826, First Baptist Church has the distinction of being both the very first Baptist church and the oldest Black institution in the city of Toronto.
The birth of First Baptist is indicative of the history of African-Canadians in the 19th century. From the 1820’s onward Toronto became a thriving commercial center where jobs were available, and a major haven for fugitive slaves given that it was easily accessible by land and water, yet far enough from the American border to give fugitives greater safety from pursuing masters.
The church was founded by fugitive slaves who were drawn to Upper Canada by the promise of freedom. Like many that came to Canada, the founding members came with little more than their religious faith and their belief in the doctrine of the Promised Land … a paradise where they would find freedom from their earthly misery and bondage.
And so it was that eight years before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, 12 slaves from the Southern U.S made their way via the Underground Railroad to become the first members of First Baptist Church.
When they first arrived, the group was not numerous or prosperous enough to support their own church, so they tried to attend existing white churches. They soon found that they were required to meet two conditions for membership; they needed to produce letters of dismissal from their old churches and repay their former masters the loss of money sustained because of the escape from slavery.
Shocked by the response of the white churches to their request, the group realized that they would not be joining those congregations and under the leadership of Elder Washington Christian – himself a former slave and native of Virginia who had a call to serve among the refugee former slaves – organized the group into a Baptist congregation in 1826.
In the beginning they worshipped in each other’s homes, and sometimes out-of-doors but in 1827 they were able
|Founded||First Baptist Church of Toronto was founded in 1826.|