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Continued: Minnesota's oldest black church Pilgrim Baptist marks 150 years of praise

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 16, 2013 - 6:22 AM

Now there are close to 100 churches with predominantly black congregations.

Throughout its history, Pilgrim has worked for civil rights, namely for the rights to education and a greater say in taxation issues. The church roster has also boasted big names in Twin Cities leadership, including former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and Bill Wilson, the first African-American elected to the St. Paul City Council in 1980.

Looking ahead at 150

Today, the church continues to advocate for the needy, operating a food shelf, sponsoring men’s and women’s prison ministries and hosting a chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, among other programs.

While the church still thrives, senior pastor Gill can see that many of its nearly 300 worshipers are aging. He says one of the church’s chief goals is to attract younger families.

The 150-year milestone comes with events to attract all ages.

The Friday-through-Sunday celebration includes a dramatic musical performance featuring the church’s choir and local musicians as well as a large banquet at the Crowne Plaza in downtown St. Paul.

President Obama has written a congratulatory letter to the church. Gov. Mark Dayton as well as mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis have lauded Pilgrim’s efforts to help those in need in the Twin Cities.

“This is going to be an anniversary like none other,” Gill said. “What was happening 150 years ago? We look back at that and say, ‘OK, now the Lord has brought us here.’ And we say, ‘My goodness.’ ”


Rose French • 612-673-4352


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    Minnesota's oldest black church celebrates its founding and its staying power.

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    Marking 150 years Pilgrim Baptist Church parishioners recall bumps in the road that made their faith stronger.

  • Above, Angel Myatt Poku, with members of the Pilgrim praise dancers, performed on a recent Sunday in St. Paul. Below, the historic grand opening of Pilgrim Baptist church dated Dec. 16, 1928. In 1863, a group of African-Americans escaped slavery and traveled to Minnesota, referring to themselves as pilgrims.

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