Church life

Church life
photo by Kevin Kalunian


Messiah Baptist Church is one of the oldest and most active African-American churches in Brockton, Massachusetts. From youth programs to financial investment groups, the church finds new ways to engage members across generations.
Community service is the foundation of both the church and the members, a quiet tradition spanning decades.
Journalism students at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, enrolled in Advanced Newswriting and Reporting taught by Prof. Maureen Boyle in the Spring of 2016, highlighted some of the service programs at Messiah Baptist Church to give the outside community a glimpse of the work church members do. As part of this class project, students used iPads to shoot photos and videos for the stories.
Special thanks to Rev. Michael Walker, pastor of the church, and everyone at Messiah Baptist for their help with the project. Also, thanks to the Community Based Learning program and Prof. Corey Dolgon at Stonehill, the iPad initiative programs sponsored by the college and Information Technology Department, Stonehill librarian Patricia McPherson and student liaison Liam Dacko for their assistance and support.

Service to community and the church

About Me

These stories and videos were written and produced by students at Stonehill College in the Advanced Newswriting and Reporting course, taught by Prof. Maureen Boyle. Students were supplied with iPads for the semester thanks to a technology grant and partnership with the Stonehill technology department. All of the student videos were shot on iPads and edited with the iMovie iPad app.

Women's Fellowship Celebrates Annual High Tea Tradition

By Erin Cangiano

Each May, Messiah Baptist Church’s Women’s Fellowship brings a quintessential British custom to life—afternoon high tea.

The Women’s Fellowship hosts the high tea on the Sunday following Mother’s Day as part of its annual Women’s Day celebration. Members set up the church’s kitchen so that it resembles a home in the traditional English countryside. From fancy hats and pastries to fine china and table etiquette, the annual high teas have become a favorite for those at Messiah Baptist Church.

Members of the fellowship, along with any other female Messiah member who wants to participate, host a table of eight guests. There are usually between 12 and 15 tables. The hosts bring in their best tablecloths, dishes and china on which tea, finger sandwiches and pastries are served and entertainment is provided. After setting the table, the host prepares the food and pours the tea. Guests arrive around 1 p.m. following morning services and a doorman shows them to their tables.
Deacon Clara Collins

Deacon Clara Collins, who has been part of the Women’s Fellowship since 1987, said the high tea is a gesture of caring and togetherness for the Messiah Baptist community.

“You bring out your best tableware as if you are hosting company at your house. You’re showing people you really care and that you’re giving your best. The fact that someone is willing to dig out the dishes, wash them, and set up a fancy table, to me, shows great hospitality,” Collins said.

Collins attended Messiah’s first high tea before the Women’s Fellowship was formed, she said.

“We had high teas at Messiah before we started the fellowship. It was sometime in the early 90s, probably 1992.  When we had the first one at messiah, we had a fashion show and a tea,” Collins said. “I hosted a table with one of my friends. I was really excited about it.”

Collins said the social aspect is her favorite part about the high tea.

“Most of the time, people just come to church for services and go home after.  The tea, though, is all about socializing. People stay and talk until everything is eaten up a few hours later. Good conversations come out of it,” Collins said.

Jean Harris, a Women’s Fellowship member who has been attending Messiah since 1991, said her favorite parts of the high tea is spending time with her family and enjoying the entertainment.

Members of the Messiah Baptist community
 enjoying their afternoon tea.
“The teas have become a family thing for me. All my daughters come and my granddaughters usually come help out, too. Everyone gets really dressed up. I really enjoy doing it,” Harris said. “The entertainment is nice, too. One year we had a woman from another church come in to perform a funny skit.”

The high teas are becoming more popular in the Messiah community, Harris said.

“This year we’re trying to get more people to host tables because it seems like each year more and more people come. Last year we didn’t have enough so we had to get more chairs and place settings so we would have enough seating. This year we plan to have more tables so we don’t have to turn anyone away,” Harris said. “It’s a successful event for us.”

Like the Messiah Baptist Church, many Baptist churches across the country celebrate Women’s Day. Not all churches have high teas since the type of celebration differs between churches, but they all commemorate the women of the church and surrounding community.

According to PBS’s documentary, America 1900, Women’s Day was founded in the early 1900s by Nannie Helen Burroughs, founder of the National Association of Colored Women and Corresponding Secretary and President of the Woman's Convention Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention.

Burrough, born in 1979, had a passion for empowering women within the Baptist Church. Her speech, "How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping," delivered at the 1900 National Baptist Convention (NBC), led to the foundation of the Women's Convention Auxiliary to NBC, the largest black women's organization in America at that time.

Burroughs proposed the idea for National Women’s Day at the Convention’s 1906 meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. She said the day was to interest women of the local churches in raising money for Foreign Missions, the chief interest of the Women’s Convention. The convention accepted the proposal and National Women’s Day has since flourished among Baptist communities nationwide.

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