About The Historic Charles Street A.M.E. Church

 

The Historic Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church is interwoven with the history of African Americans in Boston.  In 1818, a small group of free African Americans began gathering in a small house on Beacon Hill to give birth to the First African Methodist Episcopal Society.  The Reverend Noah Caldwell W. Cannon, a firebrand itinerant preacher who traveled throughout New England, was the leading force in the creation of this new church and in 1833 he began serving as its first pastor.  The young church met at several locations on Beacon Hill during its early years.  In 1838, the First A.M.E. Society was received into the membership in the New York Conference.  In the same year, the church, led by Reverend Cannon, submitted a petition for incorporation to the Massachusetts Legislature.  From this modest beginning, the congregation moved to several temporary locations on Beacon Hill.  The Reverend Henry J. Johnson was assigned to the Church in 1843, and he led the effort to purchase the first permanent edifice for the congregation on Anderson Street. 

 

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the church served as a major gathering place for abolition meetings and rallies led by such individuals as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Wendell Phillips, Charles Summer and David Walker (a Charles Street member).  The Church led the local fight against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and other forms of oppression against people of African descent.  The church was a haven for former slaves and a transit point on the freedom trail for runaway slaves fleeing to Canada.  With each succeeding pastor, the church grew in size and prominence in the political and civic affairs of Boston.  The dramatic growth led to the need for a larger building to serve the spiritual and social needs of the African American community.

 

In 1876, the church stepped out on faith to purchase the Charles Street Meeting House located at the foot of Beacon Hill.  The congregation changed its name to the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The church thrived at its new location in the decades following the Civil War.
During the 1890’s, Boston’s African American community began to move from Beacon Hill to the South End and Roxbury sections of the city.  The migration was spurred by the arrival of new immigrant group that were favored over the African Americans for jobs and housing.  During this period, Charles Street’s pastors included Reverends T. Williams, William H. Hunter, John T. Jenifer, W.J. Thomas, Sr. and Jr. (father and son) and Reverdy C. Ransom (48th Bishop of the A.M.E. Church).

 

In 1920, the City of Boston decided to widen Charles Street to accommodate the growing commercial traffic.  The city tried to purchase the building so that it could be demolished as a part of the project. The congregation, led by the Reverend Thomas Henderson, raised money to move the building approximately ten feet to accommodate the city’s plan to widen Charles Street.  The struggle to raise funds to move and save the building strained the congregation’s meager resources.  In addition, the African American community on Beacon Hill and the West End continued to decline and the focus of its social, educational and economic life shifted to their new neighborhoods in Roxbury and the South End.  Hence, the early decades of the 1900’s were difficult for the church.

 

In 1930, the Reverend Oliver Wendell Holmes Childers was assigned to Charles Street.  Reverend Childers led the effort to restore the church to a position of leadership in the African American community and the City of Boston.  Reverend Childers led the congregation in a reexamination of its mission and service role in the African American community.  The church decided to relocate to the heart of the growing African American community in Roxbury.  Through the intervention of the City Mission Society, the church was able to purchase the former Saint Ansgarius Church property at 551 Warren Street.  The Warren Street building was built in 1888 using the rich Roxbury puddingstone and Quincy granite.  This building also represented an important historical period in New England architecture.  On the second Sunday in July 1939, Reverend Childers led a grand march from the old Charles Street building to the church’s new home at the intersection of Warren Street and Elm Hill Avenue in Roxbury.  Although the congregation relocated to a different street and neighborhood, they decided to retain their name as “The Charles Street A.M.E. Church”.

 

The church has thrived at its current location under the extraordinary leadership of Reverend Childers; Reverend Walter C. Davis, who served for twenty-four years, Reverend Donald Luster, and Reverend Mickarl D. Thomas, Sr.  During this period, Sunday worship service attendance increased so that two services were required to accommodate the membership.  Significant renovations to the building including excavation of the lower level to accommodate church functions and restoration of its historic bell tower have placed the church at the center of the local community.  The former parsonage was converted to various community services and a new parsonage was purchased in 1982.

 

Reverend Dr. Gregory G. Goover, Sr. was appointed Pastor of The Historic Charles Street A.M.E. Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts in June 1994.  Since arriving, Reverend Groover has significantly restructured and decentralized the management apparatus of the church, and increased participation, diversity, and accountability to the church’s membership.  In addition, he established new ministries, fellowship clusters, and professional related alliances aimed at building the congregation life and maximizing avenues in which members could share and cultivate their congregational life and maximizing avenues in which members could share and cultivate their skills, talents, and gifts.  Under his pastoral ministry, twenty-eight individuals have entered the ministry.  At the present, he is leading the congregation in the $5 million redevelopment of the former Sky Cap Building in Grover Hall as the facility for the new Charles Street A.M.E. Roxbury Renaissance Center.  The center will offer a myriad of educational and arts programs for all ages.

 

Under Reverend Groover’s Leadership, Charles Street has increased its involvement in the Greater Boston community.  The church has been instrumental in bringing together public school officials, teachers, community leaders, parents and clergy in the planning and the development of the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA) Victory Generation After-School Program ($1.5 million initiative).  In addition, the Charles Street congregation led in the sponsoring of numerous church-based community education summits on the MCAS Exams, School Promotion and Attendance Policies, and other issues.  Charles Street became the city’s model congregation in implementing the Ten Action Steps toward Becoming an Education-Conscious Congregation, which was unanimously adopted by the BMA.  Reverend Groover was appointed a member of the Boston School Committee in 2007 and currently serves as the Chairperson.

 

 

back to top


Meet Our Pastor

Rev. Dr. Gregory G. Groover, Sr. is a native of Freeport, Long Island, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. 

He received his Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University School of Social Work, respectively. Rev. Groover completed his doctoral work (D.Min.) at the New York Theological Seminary. The focus of his demonstration project and dissertation was on the strategic development of faith based educational initiatives by urban African American congregations.y....... read more

 

 

A.M.E. History

The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787.
 

When officials at St. George’s MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation....... read more