the place to

DISCOVER

History of The Abyssinian Baptist Church

Our history conveys a rich legacy of leadership and faith, our activist commitment to serving the needs of the local and global community and a dedication to our mission of winning more souls for Christ.

History

A Legacy of Leadership: Keeping Faith: A Historical Timeline of Abyssinian Baptist Church
Dedicated to “the worship of God and the service of humanity.”

The Beginnings of Abyssinian

1808

Reverend-Thomas-Paul_1808

A group of African Americans (12 women and 4 men) who refused to accept segregated seating in the First Baptist Church of New York City formed The Abyssinian Baptist Church in lower Manhattan. The church name was inspired by the ancient name of Ethiopia, Abyssinia.

Reverend Thomas Paul, an African American minister from Boston, aided the new congregation in becoming organized as the first African-American Baptist church in New York state and in purchasing its first church home. The Rev. John VanVessler became Abyssinian’s first pastor.

 

Our First Home

Abyssinian bought property at 40 Worth Street and was located there until 1854. After the property was sold, the church moved to Broadway Tabernacle, then to buildings on Thompson and Spring Streets.

Reverend-Sampson-WhiteThe Reverends Sigel, Benjamin Paul, James Hayborn, Thomson, Loomis, Samson White, Moore, John T. Raymond (served twice), Thomas Henderson and Dutton succeeded Rev. VanVessler.

Top

Abyssinian Grows

1856

Reverend-William-Spellman

The Rev. William Spellman became pastor.  During Spellman’s tenure from 1856 to 1885, membership increased to 1,600.

Top

Abyssinian Incorporates

1859

Abyssinian-Church-at-Waverly Place

The Abyssinian Baptist Church incorporated on April 16.

Top

On the Move

1864

Abyssinian-Church-at-Waverly Place

The $3,000 profit from the Worth Street sale was used to purchase property at 166 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, an African-American hub in the city.

Top

Waverly Place

1885

Reverend-Robert-D.-Wynn

Following Spellman’s retirement, the Rev. Robert D. Wynn of Norwich, CT became pastor of the church. For 16 years he led a growing congregation that completed the purchase of the Waverly Place property.

Top

A Great Migration

1902

40th-Street-Church-1902

Reverend-Thomas-Paul-1902Rev. Dr. Charles Satchell Morris succeeded Robert Wynn as Abyssinian’s pastor.  During Morris’s tenure, the Waverly Place church was sold and the income used to begin purchasing a church and apartment house on West 40th Street. The relocation of the church to 242 West 40th Street echoed a migration of the city’s black population uptown.  When Morris’s health failed, he helped the church secure a new pastor.

Top

The Powell Years

1908

Adam-Clayton-Powell

On December 30, 1908, in Abyssinian’s 100th anniversary year, the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became Abyssinian’s 17th pastor. Powell ushered in a new era in the church’s history, known as “The Powell Years.’’

A Social Gospel

Adam-Clayton-Powell-at-the-River-JordanReverend Powell devoted the first 12 years of his pastorate to the spiritual development and reorganization of the church, while promoting the idea of a model church in Harlem that would respond to the religious and social needs of African Americans. His “social gospel” blended social activism with spiritual leadership and set the tone for the church’s ongoing mission of community service. Powell also was an early member of the NAACP, a colleague of Booker T. Washington, and of W.E.B. DuBois, and a participant in many advocacy activities of the Progressive Era.Adam-Clayton-Powell-in-Egypt

Top

A Renaissance in Harlem

1920

Church-1920

Laying-the-cornerstone-1920Shortly after the start of the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, Abyssinian purchased lots on West 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues for the construction of a new church building and community house.

That summer, the church initiated a tithing campaign through which 2,000 members ultimately pledged to give one-tenth of their weekly income to fund construction.

Top

Breaking New Ground

1922

Exterior-1998

Abyssinian’s West 40th St. site was sold for approximately $200,000. Ground breaking for the new church was held on April 9. Construction of the Gothic- and Tudor-style church—which featured imported European stained glass windows and an Italian marble pulpit—and the adjacent community house* was completed in 14 months for a total cost of $334,888.86.

*This structure is the current church dining hall, administrative offices, rehearsal space, nursery and credit union.

Top

A Church Dedication

1923

On June 17, the buildings were dedicated “to the worship of God and the service of humanity.”

Top

Pouring Out a Blessing

1928

Mortgage-Burning

A 12-year, $60,000 mortgage on the outstanding debt was retired in less than five years. At the mortgage burning service, Dr. Powell, Sr. emphasized the faithfulness of the congregation and generosity of friends as key to Abyssinian’s success.  “Every dollar of the money was brought in through tithes and offerings, and God fulfilled His promise by pouring out a blessing upon us that our souls were not able to contain.”

Top

A Home for the Aged

1928

Home-for-the-Aged

After the church structure was paid for, the congregation began purchase of a $40,000 home for the aged on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Top

Keep the Faith, Baby!

1930

ACP-at-Soup-Kitchen

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. began service to Abyssinian as an Assistant Pastor and Director of Abyssinian’s Kitchen and Relief operations which fed and clothed thousands of Harlem’s needy during the Great Depression.

Top

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

1930

Pastor_Bonhoeffer

While studying at Union Theological Seminary, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who became known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, attended Abyssinian and taught Sunday school.

Top

Welcome Home

1932

Home for Aging St. Nicholas Ave

Abyssinian completed its purchase of the home for the aged, which it operated for 17 residents for over 12 years.

Top

The "Adam" Years

1937

Adam-Clayton-Powell Jr

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. succeeded his father as pastor. Church membership had grown to 7,000 and later increased to approximately 10,000, marking Abyssinian as one of the largest and most influential black churches in America and one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.

Top

Powell and Politics

1941

ACP-demonstration

ADAM-CLAYTON-POWELL-JRRev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. became the first African American elected to the newly constituted New York City Council (which replaced the Board of Aldermen on which African Americans had served). Abyssinian’s membership numbered approximately 14,000.

 

Top

Powell Goes to Washington

1944

Rev-Powell-and-JFK

Rev. Powell was elected to the US Congress, representing the newly formed 22nd District. He went on to serve 14 terms in the House of Representatives.

ACPowell-at-the-Capitol

Powell masterfully combined the Christian message of justice and equality with the militant oratory of a leader over a political movement of African-Americans who sought liberation and equal rights.

 

A Capitol Man

An adroit politician, Powell successfully wielded power as Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. He managed federal legislation that supported the needs of African-Americans. Powell generated or amended nearly 60 public laws to benefit Blacks, the aged, handicapped, Hispanic-Americans, women, and poor whites in the areas of fair employment practices, public education and public school aid, manpower development and training, discrimination against women, increased minimum wage, and the war on poverty. Meanwhile, he challenged the congregation to remain socially and politically active as a vital part of “the Black Revolution.”

 

Social Activism

AC powell-and-Malcolm-X

Under Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Abyssinian offered full-time weekday activities for members and the Harlem community, supported the Suehn Industrial School in Liberia, West Africa, and provided consistent spiritual nourishment for all seeking Jesus. The Abyssinian congregation engaged in boycotts and picketing for the elimination of racial discrimination and for the establishment of better healthcare and broader employment opportunities for African Americans.

AC Powell-with-Robinson-Randolf

Top

A Dreamer Speaks

1965

Rev-Powell-and-Martin-Luther-King-Jr

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-at-AbyssinianThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Abyssinian and preached at services marking the church’s 157th anniversary.

 

 

 

Top

Powell Retires

1971

Rev-Powell-and-Moms-Mabley

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. retired as pastor of Abyssinian.

Top

The Proctor Years

1972

Rev-Proctor-Installation

Reverend-ProctorSamuel DeWitt Proctor, Th.D., succeeded Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as pastor of Abyssinian. The distinguished educator was a former President of Virginia Union and North Carolina A&T universities and a member of the governing boards of the United Negro College Fund and the Council on Religious and International Affairs.

Quiet Activist

While noted for his quiet activism, Dr. Proctor was a forthright spokesperson in his condemnation of racism, militarism and injustice, and often a delegate to national and international conferences focusing on human rights and peace.

Rev-Proctor-with-the-Orchestra

Strong Affiliations

Under Dr. Proctor, the Church became aligned with the American Baptist Churches, USA, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Through these denominational affiliations, the Church is linked with the work of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches in efforts to address concerns of the oppressed at home and abroad.

Lift Every Voice

During his pastorate, significant church renovations occurred including the refurbishment of Abyssinian’s stained glass windows. The fine arts also became a significant part of the church’s evangelistic outreach. The 5-manual, 67 rank, Schantz pipe organ was installed, and the New York Philharmonic, Leontyne Price, Billy Taylor, Andre Watts and other renowned artists performed at the church.

 

Top

Welcome, Beloved!

1972

Aby-building-plan

Reverend Butts Samuel Proctor

Calvin O. Butts, III, D.Min., begins service as executive minister. Forming a partnership in ministry, Drs. Proctor and Butts advanced outreach services through church programs and special projects such as the Abyssinian Crusaders Athletic Association, scouting, tutoring, and release time Christian education for church and community youth.

 

Community Service

Group-shotThe church established a Food Buying Cooperative, a voter registration drive, and a Housing Development Fund company for the construction of Abyssinian Towers, a 100-unit senior citizen’s apartment building on West 131st Street.

Top

Winning Souls for Christ

1989

Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III

Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III succeeds Dr. Proctor as the church’s 20th pastor.

Butts’ ministry has a pervasive impact on the church, and in community development initiatives including homelessness, senior citizen and youth empowerment, cultural awareness and ecumenical outreach.

Throughout his ministerial career, Dr. Butts has been very active in the struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and generate positive images and messages representative of the African-American community.

Top

Uptown Urban Renewal

1989

Rev Dr. Calvin O Butts III

The Abyssinian Development Corporation was established. The ADC, a comprehensive, community-based not-for-profit organization, is responsible for over $600 million in housing and commercial development in Harlem, and the $10 million renovation of the Abyssinian church façade and sanctuary.

Top

Community Outreach

1989

Abyssinian was one of the first churches to respond to the call for a Harlem Week of Prayer, started to mobilize the religious community in support of people with AIDS and their families. This led to the development of Abyssinian’s own HIV/AIDs ministry.

Top

Taking to the Streets

1990

Butts-in the news

Reverend Butts led an effective, nationally acclaimed campaign to eliminate negative billboard advertising in Central Harlem and other New York City communities. The local billboard whitewashing initiative helped further sensitize the country to the evils of alcohol and drug abuse and exploitive advertising.

Rev. Butts- in the news

Top

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

1993

Butts-smashes-CDs

Dr. Butts waged a campaign against negative lyrics and images in the recording industry, specifically in rap music, bringing national attention to the repercussions of negative messages on our youth.

Butts-Music-Campaign

Top

Landmark Status

1993

Church-exterior

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Abyssinian Baptist Church an official city landmark.

Top

Education and Faith

1993

Thurgood Marshall academy

ADC opened the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, the first new high school built in New York City in more than 50 years.

Top

Academia Calls

2000

SUNY college

Dr. Butts was named president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

Top

Teach the Children

2004

Thurgood Marshall Academy

The Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School, a public elementary school that serves students in grades K-5, was established. It opened in September 2005.

Top

A Pilgrimage to Ethiopia

2007

Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia

Pastor Butts and more than 150 congregants traveled to Ethiopia, re-connecting with the country that inspired Abyssinian’s name, as part of the church’s 18-month bicentennial celebration.

Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia4 Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia3

Top

Abyssinian 200

2008

Abyssinian-Bicentennial

Abyssinian 200 year anniversaryAbyssinian celebrated its 200-year anniversary. Anniversary events included special worship services, an original theme song composed by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, an exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, commissioned art work, galas, a musical CD, and Wynton Marsalis’s “Abyssinian 200: A Celebration,” written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the United Voices of Abyssinian choir. The work was performed at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater and at the church.

Much of the celebration was chronicled at www.abyssinian200.org.

Abyssinian-200-Anniversary2008-church-anniversary

Top

The Aby Fund

2009

abyssinian girls

The Abyssinian Fund, or Aby Fund, was established. The Aby Fund is committed to reducing poverty in Ethiopia by partnering with farming communities, providing training and equipment to help them produce high quality coffee.

Abyssinian Baptist Church 1808-2008, Ethiopia PilgrimageKeeping the Faith

Under Dr. Butts’ spiritual leadership, Abyssinian continues a long tradition of community advocacy and empowerment adhering to its mission to “win more souls for Christ through evangelism, pastoral care, Christian education, social service delivery, and community development.”

women w reverend butts

Our Faith Walk

Abyssinian moves forward in faith, a church with a vision to be a vanguard for positive social change. It continues to act decisively on behalf of its members who take seriously the Christian command of justice, peace and love, to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, find shelter for the homeless, clothe the naked, and offer salvation in Jesus Christ to those who have lost hope.

 

Top

Still Standing Strong

2013

the church

Abyssinian celebrated its 205th Anniversary.

Events included “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” a reprisal of Wynton Marsalis’ “Abyssinian Mass.” Commissioned to commemorate the church’s 200th Anniversary in 2008, the piece was performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra during a U.S. tour and at Lincoln Center’s Rose theater with the United Voices of Abyssinian.

Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, preached at worship services marking the anniversary.

Top

Looking Back, Moving Ahead

2014

Witness_Abyssinian History Book Cover

Abyssinian celebrated Black History Month with a special book signing to mark the release of Witness: Two Hundred Years of African-American Faith and Practice at the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York.

Witness is a detailed history of the church beginning with its formal organization in 1809, up to its 200th anniversary year in 2008 and explores the important role Abyssinian played in the history of New York City.

 

Top

The Beginnings of Abyssinian

1808

A group of African Americans (12 women and 4 men) who refused to accept segregated seating in the First Baptist Church of New York City formed The Abyssinian Baptist Church in lower Manhattan. The church name was inspired by the ancient name of Ethiopia, Abyssinia.

Reverend Thomas Paul, an African American minister from Boston, aided the new congregation in becoming organized as the first African-American Baptist church in New York state and in purchasing its first church home. The Rev. John VanVessler became Abyssinian’s first pastor.

 

Our First Home

Abyssinian bought property at 40 Worth Street and was located there until 1854. After the property was sold, the church moved to Broadway Tabernacle, then to buildings on Thompson and Spring Streets.

Reverend-Sampson-WhiteThe Reverends Sigel, Benjamin Paul, James Hayborn, Thomson, Loomis, Samson White, Moore, John T. Raymond (served twice), Thomas Henderson and Dutton succeeded Rev. VanVessler.

Reverend-Thomas-Paul_1808

Abyssinian Grows

1856

The Rev. William Spellman became pastor.  During Spellman’s tenure from 1856 to 1885, membership increased to 1,600.

Reverend-William-Spellman

Abyssinian Incorporates

1859

The Abyssinian Baptist Church incorporated on April 16.

Abyssinian-Church-at-Waverly Place

On the Move

1864

The $3,000 profit from the Worth Street sale was used to purchase property at 166 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, an African-American hub in the city.

Abyssinian-Church-at-Waverly Place

Waverly Place

1885

Following Spellman’s retirement, the Rev. Robert D. Wynn of Norwich, CT became pastor of the church. For 16 years he led a growing congregation that completed the purchase of the Waverly Place property.

Reverend-Robert-D.-Wynn

A Great Migration

1902

Reverend-Thomas-Paul-1902Rev. Dr. Charles Satchell Morris succeeded Robert Wynn as Abyssinian’s pastor.  During Morris’s tenure, the Waverly Place church was sold and the income used to begin purchasing a church and apartment house on West 40th Street. The relocation of the church to 242 West 40th Street echoed a migration of the city’s black population uptown.  When Morris’s health failed, he helped the church secure a new pastor.

40th-Street-Church-1902

The Powell Years

1908

On December 30, 1908, in Abyssinian’s 100th anniversary year, the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became Abyssinian’s 17th pastor. Powell ushered in a new era in the church’s history, known as “The Powell Years.’’

A Social Gospel

Adam-Clayton-Powell-at-the-River-JordanReverend Powell devoted the first 12 years of his pastorate to the spiritual development and reorganization of the church, while promoting the idea of a model church in Harlem that would respond to the religious and social needs of African Americans. His “social gospel” blended social activism with spiritual leadership and set the tone for the church’s ongoing mission of community service. Powell also was an early member of the NAACP, a colleague of Booker T. Washington, and of W.E.B. DuBois, and a participant in many advocacy activities of the Progressive Era.Adam-Clayton-Powell-in-Egypt

Adam-Clayton-Powell

A Renaissance in Harlem

1920

Laying-the-cornerstone-1920Shortly after the start of the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, Abyssinian purchased lots on West 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues for the construction of a new church building and community house.

That summer, the church initiated a tithing campaign through which 2,000 members ultimately pledged to give one-tenth of their weekly income to fund construction.

Church-1920

Breaking New Ground

1922

Abyssinian’s West 40th St. site was sold for approximately $200,000. Ground breaking for the new church was held on April 9. Construction of the Gothic- and Tudor-style church—which featured imported European stained glass windows and an Italian marble pulpit—and the adjacent community house* was completed in 14 months for a total cost of $334,888.86.

*This structure is the current church dining hall, administrative offices, rehearsal space, nursery and credit union.

Exterior-1998

A Church Dedication

1923

On June 17, the buildings were dedicated “to the worship of God and the service of humanity.”

Pouring Out a Blessing

1928

A 12-year, $60,000 mortgage on the outstanding debt was retired in less than five years. At the mortgage burning service, Dr. Powell, Sr. emphasized the faithfulness of the congregation and generosity of friends as key to Abyssinian’s success.  “Every dollar of the money was brought in through tithes and offerings, and God fulfilled His promise by pouring out a blessing upon us that our souls were not able to contain.”

Mortgage-Burning

A Home for the Aged

1928

After the church structure was paid for, the congregation began purchase of a $40,000 home for the aged on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Home-for-the-Aged

Keep the Faith, Baby!

1930

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. began service to Abyssinian as an Assistant Pastor and Director of Abyssinian’s Kitchen and Relief operations which fed and clothed thousands of Harlem’s needy during the Great Depression.

ACP-at-Soup-Kitchen

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

1930

While studying at Union Theological Seminary, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who became known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, attended Abyssinian and taught Sunday school.

Pastor_Bonhoeffer

Welcome Home

1932

Abyssinian completed its purchase of the home for the aged, which it operated for 17 residents for over 12 years.

Home for Aging St. Nicholas Ave

The "Adam" Years

1937

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. succeeded his father as pastor. Church membership had grown to 7,000 and later increased to approximately 10,000, marking Abyssinian as one of the largest and most influential black churches in America and one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.

Adam-Clayton-Powell Jr

Powell and Politics

1941

ADAM-CLAYTON-POWELL-JRRev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. became the first African American elected to the newly constituted New York City Council (which replaced the Board of Aldermen on which African Americans had served). Abyssinian’s membership numbered approximately 14,000.

 

ACP-demonstration

Powell Goes to Washington

1944

Rev. Powell was elected to the US Congress, representing the newly formed 22nd District. He went on to serve 14 terms in the House of Representatives.

ACPowell-at-the-Capitol

Powell masterfully combined the Christian message of justice and equality with the militant oratory of a leader over a political movement of African-Americans who sought liberation and equal rights.

 

A Capitol Man

An adroit politician, Powell successfully wielded power as Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. He managed federal legislation that supported the needs of African-Americans. Powell generated or amended nearly 60 public laws to benefit Blacks, the aged, handicapped, Hispanic-Americans, women, and poor whites in the areas of fair employment practices, public education and public school aid, manpower development and training, discrimination against women, increased minimum wage, and the war on poverty. Meanwhile, he challenged the congregation to remain socially and politically active as a vital part of “the Black Revolution.”

 

Social Activism

AC powell-and-Malcolm-X

Under Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Abyssinian offered full-time weekday activities for members and the Harlem community, supported the Suehn Industrial School in Liberia, West Africa, and provided consistent spiritual nourishment for all seeking Jesus. The Abyssinian congregation engaged in boycotts and picketing for the elimination of racial discrimination and for the establishment of better healthcare and broader employment opportunities for African Americans.

AC Powell-with-Robinson-Randolf

Rev-Powell-and-JFK

A Dreamer Speaks

1965

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-at-AbyssinianThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Abyssinian and preached at services marking the church’s 157th anniversary.

 

 

 

Rev-Powell-and-Martin-Luther-King-Jr

Powell Retires

1971

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. retired as pastor of Abyssinian.

Rev-Powell-and-Moms-Mabley

The Proctor Years

1972

Reverend-ProctorSamuel DeWitt Proctor, Th.D., succeeded Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as pastor of Abyssinian. The distinguished educator was a former President of Virginia Union and North Carolina A&T universities and a member of the governing boards of the United Negro College Fund and the Council on Religious and International Affairs.

Quiet Activist

While noted for his quiet activism, Dr. Proctor was a forthright spokesperson in his condemnation of racism, militarism and injustice, and often a delegate to national and international conferences focusing on human rights and peace.

Rev-Proctor-with-the-Orchestra

Strong Affiliations

Under Dr. Proctor, the Church became aligned with the American Baptist Churches, USA, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Through these denominational affiliations, the Church is linked with the work of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches in efforts to address concerns of the oppressed at home and abroad.

Lift Every Voice

During his pastorate, significant church renovations occurred including the refurbishment of Abyssinian’s stained glass windows. The fine arts also became a significant part of the church’s evangelistic outreach. The 5-manual, 67 rank, Schantz pipe organ was installed, and the New York Philharmonic, Leontyne Price, Billy Taylor, Andre Watts and other renowned artists performed at the church.

 

Rev-Proctor-Installation

Welcome, Beloved!

1972

Reverend Butts Samuel Proctor

Calvin O. Butts, III, D.Min., begins service as executive minister. Forming a partnership in ministry, Drs. Proctor and Butts advanced outreach services through church programs and special projects such as the Abyssinian Crusaders Athletic Association, scouting, tutoring, and release time Christian education for church and community youth.

 

Community Service

Group-shotThe church established a Food Buying Cooperative, a voter registration drive, and a Housing Development Fund company for the construction of Abyssinian Towers, a 100-unit senior citizen’s apartment building on West 131st Street.

Aby-building-plan

Winning Souls for Christ

1989

Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III succeeds Dr. Proctor as the church’s 20th pastor.

Butts’ ministry has a pervasive impact on the church, and in community development initiatives including homelessness, senior citizen and youth empowerment, cultural awareness and ecumenical outreach.

Throughout his ministerial career, Dr. Butts has been very active in the struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and generate positive images and messages representative of the African-American community.

Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III

Uptown Urban Renewal

1989

The Abyssinian Development Corporation was established. The ADC, a comprehensive, community-based not-for-profit organization, is responsible for over $600 million in housing and commercial development in Harlem, and the $10 million renovation of the Abyssinian church façade and sanctuary.

Rev Dr. Calvin O Butts III

Community Outreach

1989

Abyssinian was one of the first churches to respond to the call for a Harlem Week of Prayer, started to mobilize the religious community in support of people with AIDS and their families. This led to the development of Abyssinian’s own HIV/AIDs ministry.

Taking to the Streets

1990

Reverend Butts led an effective, nationally acclaimed campaign to eliminate negative billboard advertising in Central Harlem and other New York City communities. The local billboard whitewashing initiative helped further sensitize the country to the evils of alcohol and drug abuse and exploitive advertising.

Rev. Butts- in the news

Butts-in the news

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

1993

Dr. Butts waged a campaign against negative lyrics and images in the recording industry, specifically in rap music, bringing national attention to the repercussions of negative messages on our youth.

Butts-Music-Campaign

Butts-smashes-CDs

Landmark Status

1993

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Abyssinian Baptist Church an official city landmark.

Church-exterior

Education and Faith

1993

ADC opened the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, the first new high school built in New York City in more than 50 years.

Thurgood Marshall academy

Academia Calls

2000

Dr. Butts was named president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

SUNY college

Teach the Children

2004

The Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School, a public elementary school that serves students in grades K-5, was established. It opened in September 2005.

Thurgood Marshall Academy

A Pilgrimage to Ethiopia

2007

Pastor Butts and more than 150 congregants traveled to Ethiopia, re-connecting with the country that inspired Abyssinian’s name, as part of the church’s 18-month bicentennial celebration.

Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia4 Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia3

Abyssinians-in-Ethiopia

Abyssinian 200

2008

Abyssinian 200 year anniversaryAbyssinian celebrated its 200-year anniversary. Anniversary events included special worship services, an original theme song composed by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, an exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, commissioned art work, galas, a musical CD, and Wynton Marsalis’s “Abyssinian 200: A Celebration,” written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the United Voices of Abyssinian choir. The work was performed at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater and at the church.

Much of the celebration was chronicled at www.abyssinian200.org.

Abyssinian-200-Anniversary2008-church-anniversary

Abyssinian-Bicentennial

The Aby Fund

2009

The Abyssinian Fund, or Aby Fund, was established. The Aby Fund is committed to reducing poverty in Ethiopia by partnering with farming communities, providing training and equipment to help them produce high quality coffee.

Abyssinian Baptist Church 1808-2008, Ethiopia PilgrimageKeeping the Faith

Under Dr. Butts’ spiritual leadership, Abyssinian continues a long tradition of community advocacy and empowerment adhering to its mission to “win more souls for Christ through evangelism, pastoral care, Christian education, social service delivery, and community development.”

women w reverend butts

Our Faith Walk

Abyssinian moves forward in faith, a church with a vision to be a vanguard for positive social change. It continues to act decisively on behalf of its members who take seriously the Christian command of justice, peace and love, to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, find shelter for the homeless, clothe the naked, and offer salvation in Jesus Christ to those who have lost hope.

 

abyssinian girls

Still Standing Strong

2013

Abyssinian celebrated its 205th Anniversary.

Events included “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” a reprisal of Wynton Marsalis’ “Abyssinian Mass.” Commissioned to commemorate the church’s 200th Anniversary in 2008, the piece was performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra during a U.S. tour and at Lincoln Center’s Rose theater with the United Voices of Abyssinian.

Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, preached at worship services marking the anniversary.

the church

Looking Back, Moving Ahead

2014

Abyssinian celebrated Black History Month with a special book signing to mark the release of Witness: Two Hundred Years of African-American Faith and Practice at the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York.

Witness is a detailed history of the church beginning with its formal organization in 1809, up to its 200th anniversary year in 2008 and explores the important role Abyssinian played in the history of New York City.

 

Witness_Abyssinian History Book Cover