Welcome to Western Avenue! Since our founding in 1916, we have served as a voice in the community located between Central Square, Harvard, and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Western Avenue is a vibrant and multicultural church that welcomes people from all walks of life. We deeply value a casual and traditional worship environment in our appetite for dynamic preaching and worship. This has made our sanctuary atmosphere unmistakably diverse and intergenerational. We are driven by our founders' call to cultivate worship at the heart of Christ and the beloved community. We are a church committed to authentic worship, where people can encounter no uncertain change and spiritual empowerment.
In March 1916, a group of recent African American migrants from the rural U.S. South organized a new church in Cambridge, MA. Like many other African Americans during the time, they were participants in the "Great Migration" to Northern cities. Their priority was to immediately establish a place where they could fulfill the two summary commandments of Jesus Christ - to love God and to love their neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). Pooling their resources together, the migrants purchased an old livery stable on Western Avenue and converted it into a house of worship. The new church was named Western Avenue Tabernacle Baptist Church with the Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Harten as its first pastor.
Over the next decade, Western Avenue Baptist Church, as it became known, developed into a vibrant community church as other Black migrants from the South as well as the British West Indies and Nova Scotia, Canada, joined it. In 1929, the congregation and its minister, Rev. H. C. Daniels, participated in the founding of the Cambridge Community Center, an educational and recreational organization for Black youth. Between 1938 and 1943, under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Jacob Posey, the church reorganized itself to meet the needs of its members during the Great Depression and World War II. The edifice was rebuilt so that the congregation's faith could be turned into an instrument of social and economic action. From 1960 to 1970, the Rev. Dr. H. Benton Harris, a nationally recognized teacher and preacher, led the congregation in its participation in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements.
A "teaching" church in the American Baptist tradition, Western Avenue Baptist Church has always been a learning community. Young seminarians, particularly from Andover Newton Theological School and Harvard’s Divinity School received their first practical experiences as preachers, ministers, and pastors at the church. Some have developed into preachers of the social gospel; others have become pastors of large urban congregations in Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Maryland. Rev. Dr. Roy Allen became president of Bluefield State College in West Virginia and, later, Cheney State College in Pennsylvania. Rev. Dr. Roscoe Cooper served as General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention. Rev. Dr. Everette W. Frye was a leading preacher in the historic African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
In August of 2011, Rev. Jeremy D. Battle began his service at the Western Avenue Baptist Church. He led the church through a complete restoration; it has a new look inside and out that ushers the church into the modern era. During Rev. Battle’s service, Western Avenue Baptist Church has experienced a surge in membership because his commitment to a spirit-filled worship experience. From traditional gospel music to contemporary Christian music, Pastor Battle leads a growing intergenerational and diverse worship community committed to worship and spreading the gospel.
Western Avenue Baptist Church Pastors
Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Harten, 1916
Rev. R.H. Pittman, 1922
Rev. H.C. Daniels, 1926
Rev. Henry T. Myers, 1930
Rev. Jack Minor, 1932
Rev. L. P. Ashford, 1932
Rev. B. H. Richardson, 1937
Rev. Jacob P. Posey, 1938
Rev. William Smith, 1943
Rev. James C. Fields, 1949
Rev. James Ford, 1950
Rev. Roy Allen, 1954
Rev. James Holloway, 1955
Rev. Dr. H. Benton Harris, 1960
Rev. George Scott, 1970
Rev. Dr. Roscoe Cooper, 1971
Rev. Dr. Everett W. Frye, 1974
Rev. Dr. Robert A. F. Turner, 1982
Rev. Edmund D. Henley, Sr., 1994
Rev. Anthony Berry, 2004
Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, 2008
Rev. Jeremy D. Battle, 2011
© 2015 Western Avenue Baptist Church, Cambridge, MA