Historic churches continue community work


The Second Baptist Church at 401 S. Virginia dates from 1906, although Second Baptist exists since 1884. It bills itself as the oldest black/multicultural Baptist church in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Leo Miletich, El Paso Museum of History Digie Wall.

By Emilio Escarcega, Parkland High School —

In over a century of work, El Paso’s Shiloh Baptist Church, located on 3201 Frutas Avenue, has led numerous efforts for the well-being of the community. Pastor White, leader of the church attacks the conditions in which various individuals persist. He sought to accomplish this goal by donating, sheltering, and alleviating the homeless towards better living conditions.

 “We try to make sure we do things in that community to help those who are definitely in need”, White said. 

 According to White, his objective is to maintain the community unified and to “show them that we care about them because they are our neighbor.”

In this community, this sometimes looks like small gestures.

“So doing simple things such as cutting lawns for our neighbors, seeing what they need and being there for them, is very important,” White said. “I think that’s how we form our community and keep our community in that sense.”

 Additionally, White said his desire to aid the community has enriched his capability to remain active as an advocate.

  “We’ve always tried to make sure we stood on the side of being active and social justice and even to the point of hearing stories about my two predecessors ago, Pastor Humphrey, and some of the work that he has done,” White said.

 While remaining constant in his multiple attempts to lead within the Church, Pastor White has become a figure of guidance, unity, persistence, and accomplishment for many people.

Pastor White stresses his attempts for a change “Within those years that we’ve been in that community, we’ve always tried to make a big difference”, White said.

Furthermore, other changes have come to the congregation, which helps differentiate it from the church it was 113 years ago.

“As we see gentrification happening now with those who have left, there’s more Hispanics now,” White said. This shows how much the community’s religious attributes have been modified ever since.

Not only this, but the pastor of another historically black church, pastor Amelia Elmore-Robinson of Second Baptist Church, also notes a difference in the congregation.

“Demographics have changed because of the concentration of African Americans in that area,” said Robinson. “But since the integration, people started migrating to other areas of the city. It’s the only African American church in the Segundo Barrio, so, people started going to and establishing other churches”

Although both Baptists Churches have entirely changed over the years, they both serve a common mission of worship, and leadership towards the community.

This story was produced as part of the 2023 High School Journalism Camp at the McCall Center. The center hosted a one-week journalism camp where El Paso high school students publlished a special edition of The Good Neighbor Interpreter, a regional newspaper that McCall Center founder Leona Ford Washington once published with news about the Black community. The El Paso History museum sponsored the camp as part of the city’s 150th anniversary this year.

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