WASHINGTON (WJLA) – A historic African-American church in Georgetown that has welcomed worshippers for more than a century is being sold to a developer. While the pastor blames the sale on a dwindling congregation, some church members are left wondering where they will be able to worship.
Last weekend, as they do every year, blacks who grew up in Georgetown held a reunion picnic with their families to remember old times—the 1940s and ‘50s, that is. All that remain in wealthy Georgetown are four black churches. Soon, there will be only three; the pastor and trustees of 106-year-old Alexander Memorial Baptist Church are about to sell the church—set to be turned into condominiums or townhouses—for $6.5 million.
For members like 76-year-old Charlotte Thomas, the thought of selling the church hurts.
“That’s my home,” Thomas said. “It’s gonna be gone, and we really don’t have no place to go.”
Reverend Jesse Plater, who has been the pastor at Alexander Memorial Baptist Church for the last eight years, declined to speak with ABC 7 News. Church members say Rev. Plater is looking for a school auditorium to hold services in after the sale, since a Maryland property he wanted to buy has already been purchased by someone else.
“So, if we don’t have a place to go, why are you still selling the church?” member Alfred May asked.
In Georgetown, where every house sells for at least $1 million, church members say selling the AMBC lots and buildings for $6.5 million is a fire sale.
“I guess he thinks $6 million is a lot of money, but if you gonna get another church … build another church, that’s no money,” Thomas said.
AMBC will soon be another inner-city church turned into condominiums, like Faith Baptist Church on Capitol Hill and Mt. Joy Baptist Church. According to AMBC members, Rev. Plater said with so few blacks in Georgetown and so little parking available, the church must move or die. Some dispute this claim.
“Don’t sell this church because you can’t maintain a congregation,” May said. “Someone else can. Another pastor can come in and draw the people.”