Church celebrates mortgage burning

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ALBANI. When members of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church returned to worship in person at the church on August 8, it was a double celebration: joy of meeting and gratitude that they paid off the church mortgage earlier than expected.

The beautiful brick and white framed church at the corner of Spring and Quail is the oldest black church in the metropolitan area, according to the Reverend Christopher A. Hill, Jr., pastor of the church, which has over 300 members. He served in Baltimore and then Monumental Baptist Church for 25 years, before arriving at Morning Star five years ago, where he felt “welcome and welcomed” by the congregation.

The Morning Star was founded 127 years ago when Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church was a white church with black parishioners on the balcony.

“Blacks got tired of standing on the balcony, left the white congregation and started their own church,” said Hill, who lives in Albany with his wife Don.

“In 1894, the church on the site of what is now Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church was named the Tabernacle Baptist Church, and before that the Temple Baptist Church,” said Theresa Graham, church historian and congregation for over 40 years.


Her family roots in the church go back over 70 years: her family served as trustee, bailiff, choir members, and her grandfather, the Reverend Matthew Jordan, was a pastor from 1977 to 1984.

Linda Dorsey of Rensselaer, a parishioner and former trustee of the church, said the original mortgage for renovating the church was $ 900,000 in 1997. In order to repay the loan, many members have made a commitment to tithe, according to the Bible, a percentage of the believer’s income. in church.

In 2009, the church refinanced the remaining $ 465,000 loan for 15 years. By that time, since 1997, the collection had shrunk in size.
The church repaid the loan of $ 40,000 a year. In February 2020, there were about $ 98,000 in mortgage remaining.

“We felt that if 58 people donated $ 1,000 over two years on top of tithing, we could finish paying off the mortgage. We paid extra core money and we had a plan to burn the mortgage, ”said Dorsey, who was the project coordinator and previously on the board of trustees, so she“ understood how the money came in and how it was spent. ”

Every Morning Star Anniversary “We make a $ 1 a year sacrificial commitment to church.” For the church’s 127th anniversary, she said, “some of us paid $ 127.”

In addition, the pastor performs an annual Lenten ministry and asks members to donate $ 40. Not all of the attendees were churchgoers, Dorsey said, but many dedicated themselves and made donations.

Local MPs and the sister church also made financial donations, she said.

In general, the church paid off the 15-year mortgage in 12 years.

According to America’s independent bankers’ community, mortgage burning ceremonies became popular nationwide in the 1940s, when military personnel returning from World War II found it easier for them to become homeowners than their grandparents or even their parents, thanks to government programs and economic boom. Mortgage-burning ceremonies were held by churches, community halls of foreign war veterans, and schools and small businesses during the 1980s and 1990s. Sometimes they included lunch or a picnic.

Hill hopes to “rebuild our church, increase investment in our youth, strengthen our elders, and implement programs such as feeding on the third Saturday of every month. We handed out clothes and over 200 boxes of food during the pandemic. I would hate people living in the shadow of our church to be hungry. ”

“The Lord allowed us enough technology to keep us together virtually,” which enabled the church to hold services, Bible studies and children’s activities while isolating from the pandemic, said Hill, who was born and raised in Baltimore and received his Ph.D. in theology from Judson. … University of Elgin, Illinois. “It was hard not to see the participants. We missed each other. As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow.”

Most parishioners returned for the August 8 celebration in line with COVID-19 guidelines, he said, adding, “People have come to realize that they need someone bigger than themselves to help deal with the challenges of today’s world.” …

When the mortgage burned down last Sunday, parishioners rushed out the front door and followed the pastor to where a metal bowl was on the table. Pieces of paper representing the pledge were placed in a bowl and burned in honor of what the parishioners did together for the Morning Star.

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