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.

Frederick Douglass Park, a symbol of the Underground Railroad

By Lianna Jordan

            A symbol of the Underground Railroad lives on in Brockton, Massachusetts.        
            A large sycamore tree, known to Brockton residents as the Liberty Tree, once stood where the Underground Railroad passed. The tree, cut down in 2004, was replaced by Frederick Douglass Park and community garden in 2014.
            The park runs on Frederick Douglass Avenue from Main Street to Warren Avenue. It is the only designated area of greenery in all of Brockton. 
Jill Wiley from Messiah Baptist Church runs programs at the park, but the church’s ties run much deeper.
            Two deacons of Messiah Baptist Church purchased the land in 2014 on which Frederick Douglass Park stands.
            Deacons Robert Howard and Jimmy Thomas, co-owners of the land where the park and community garden are, bought the land to create an African American historic center after the Liberty Tree, which marked a location on the Underground Railroad, was cut down.
            Howard and Thomas own the property, pay the taxes on it and help with upkeep.
            Frederick Douglass is known as the father of the civil rights movement. He was an African-American abolitionist and social reformer.
            According to the Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association, Brockton is a city of diversity. Its cultural roots reach different parts of the world. Brockton’s cultural roots intersect with the life of Frederick Douglass.
Many of the minority groups Douglass fought for live in the Brockton area. 
Douglass made it his mission to help those in need, from women and veterans to Haitians and Cape Verdeans; no issue was too big or small for him.
            Their vision was to recognize African-American history, Wiley said. This decision was reached after the birth of the Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association, based out of Messiah Baptist, in 2015.
“The Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association, headed by Lynn Smith, hosts events at the park and garden for residents in the area to celebrate the community and promote unity. These events include monthly cleanups, meetings, plant and seed swaps, and beautification of the site with the help of outside groups,” Wiley said.  
Wiley said a garden pathway was designed so that visitors of the park can walk the trail of Douglass and learn from interpretive panels designed by different ethnic groups in the community. Freedom, equality, nonviolent civil disobedience and education are themes of the panels.
             “We run many programs at the Frederick Douglass Park. The neighborhood association collaborates with other groups in Brockton to bring more work to the park. This adds a personal touch to what we are doing. Our goal is to inspire visitors to educate themselves and actively engage in what is going on around them through Frederick Douglass Park and the community garden,” Wiley said.
Fourteen and 15-year-olds decorated the fence surrounding the park for one program. Each picket represents different aspects of the famed abolitionist’s life and Brockton’s rich history.
Each picket of the fence was designated to a different student. They were given supplies to decorate the picket in a way that expressed their feelings about the famed abolitionist and Brockton’s history.
Pickets represented women’s suffrage, the famed Liberty tree that marked a stop on the Underground Railroad, and even red and black for Boxer Pride, Brockton High School's mascot.

The work of the Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association does not stop there.
The Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association gained official status as a nonprofit organization this February. Wiley said it was amazing to see the reaction of the Brockton residents.
“The people of Brockton knew they had a key role in the decision. Their hard work and dedication to the success of the park and garden was vital,” Wiley said.
            One quote from Douglass is said to characterize the park, garden and the neighborhood association’s work with Messiah Baptist, Wiley said.
            The quote, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” is at the heart of the entire organization and its work. The neighborhood association considers the Frederick Douglass Park and community garden a symbol of hope for the city of Brockton.
            The progress of Brockton begins with this, Wiley said. 



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