4  Combined Congregations

Wed, Mar 16, 2016

Marla Novo

Marla Novo - Exhibitions Manager

MAH Journal Unites Congregations

Written by Joan Gilbert Martin, editor Do You Know My Name?

On Sunday, November 6, the MAH History Journal, Do You Know My Name? became the catalyst for bringing together two seemingly unrelated congregations together. This came about because of articles in our journal on the founding of Calvary Episcopal Church in 1863 and the founding of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church a hundred years later in 1963. As it happens, the churches are neighbors: the Calvary Church at 523 Center Street and the Progressive Church across the street at 517 Center.

After reading about the churches, members of the Calvary Church had an idea. They asked me and two other journal authors to speak at a gathering in their Parish Hall about the history of these churches. They also asked the congregation of the Progressive Church to join us for the talks and refreshments. Previously, the two congregations have only shared a street, never an event. However, the Progressive Congregation came, and it was a joyous occasion.

As the editor, I discussed the journal’s focus on the history of the unknown people who lived in our county. We shared photographs of their respective founders: Eliza and Joseph Boston, founders of the Calvary Church, and the Reverend Samuel Jackson, first pastor of the Progressive Church.

Guest speaker Dana Bagshaw, who wrote the article “The Bostons,” spoke of her research on the young couple who founded the Calvary church. She shared how Eliza and Joseph started this church in 1853 despite great personal difficulties. Their family was undergoing serious distress from a recent suicide in the family and the death of their only son. Dana’s research also led her to the strong possibility that young Eliza (Miss Lizzie Bull) was an abolitionist while growing up in Canandaigua, New York, and later continued fueling that movement in Santa Cruz.

Guest speaker Stanley D. Stevens, who wrote the article “African American Churches in the City of Santa Cruz,” told two personal anecdotes. He spoke of standing in the rain after a rally and holding out his umbrella for Martin Luther King, Jr.—as he said, he didn’t actually meet the great man, but he did come close. He talked about attending a memorial for Reverend King at the Progressive Church shortly after King’s death. Upon arrival to the memorial the current Reverend, Cassius Ellis, asked him if he was a Christian, Stan replied: “No I am not, but I believe in the teachings of Martin Luther King.” Ellis poignantly replied: “That makes you a Christian.”

After the talks, the congregations mingled, discussing with us their newly discovered histories. Then we all went from the Calvary Parish Hall to the church itself, where the two congregations spontaneously raised their voices together to sing the African American Spiritual: “I’m so glad, Jesus lifted me.”

Following the event, Reverend Eliza Linley of Calvary Episcopal Church wrote me to say, “I have the sense that this will not be the last joint effort of our congregations. So thank you, thank you for bringing us together!!”

4  Combined Congregations