Before, during, and after World War I, a massive migratory movement took place. Like other Northern
cities, Providence received many people who settled here, and Ebenezer became a haven for many of the growing Black population. Some of the other known names of people in the
growing years of Ebenezer included Ella Carroll, Thomas and Emma K. Diggs, Mary Barker Johnson,
Bertha M. Lewis, George and Josephine Long, Louis W. Marshall, William and Abelle Mercer, Margaret Diggs, Samuel G. and Felisco Paige, AdelIa Parker, Virginia Reid, Robert Rollins Sr., Mary Thomas, Silas Skipworth, Joseph Tolliver and Sally Watson.
In January 1942 while the nation was in the middle of World War II, a crisis was realized on the
home front. Due to the migration of thousands from rural to urban areas, many cities were experiencing
severe housing shortages. Providence suffered from this crisis. In the same year, under the leadership of Reverend J. Isaiah Goodman, Ebenezer was forced to sell the land on which it stood to make room for the construction of the Codding Court Housing Project. After purchasing the property for nine thousand dollars, the Federal Housing Authority agreed to give the building to Ebenezer, provided it was moved to another location. Fortunately, the church was able to locate only a few blocks away from the property at 135 Dodge Street, making the move feasible and keeping the church under one roof and in the same vicinity.
Tragedy struck on Valentine’s Day in 1946 when Ebenezer’s wooden structure was lost by fire. The church vestments were totally destroyed along with all of the personal papers of the pastor and all the church records. Sixty-five years of hard work and sacrifice were lost within minutes. Nevertheless, God’s plan still prevailed. Despite the ruins, plans for the church’s future began. We are grateful and fortunate in that some of the destroyed factual information was gleaned from some of the older members of the congregation.
After a special meeting, Ebenezer made a unanimous decision to rebuild the church. The church set out to relocate to a temporary shelter in order to continue worshipping the Lord as one family. After hearing about the devastating Ebenezer fire, Reverend H. Victor Kane and congregation, of the predominantly white Cranston Street Roger Williams Baptist Church offered Ebenezer the use of their fellowship hall for as long as the Ebenezer congregation needed it, a period of twenty-two months.
On Sunday, December 21, 1947, bells rang at 3 p.m. calling Ebenezer to its new home. On this very special
day, the congregation was filled with joy as the congregation entered the brick structure on Dodge
Through the 1950s Ebenezer’s great concern was to pay off the creditors for their new building. Under the
capable leadership of Reverend Jesse L. Connor, the church came together on March 10, 1957, to make the final payment of the mortgage. God had blessed the Ebenezer family with another great victory in Christ.
In 1964 Reverend Wallace J. Cook became pastor of Ebenezer, and the church began a process of urbanization. His goal was to teach Christians the skills to cope with the environmental and social changes which affected their daily lives. Several new programs and auxiliaries were added in order to address specific needs. By the mid-1960s, Ebenezer had grown tremendously; thus, came a time for Ebenezer to begin anew after twenty years in the building on Dodge Street.
Since the Cranston Street, Roger Williams Baptist Church was suffering from a steadily declining membership, it sold its facility to Ebenezer for ten thousand dollars. In a moving ceremony on June 8, 1969, under the pastorate of Reverend of Wallace J. Cook, the Cranston Street Roger Williams Baptist Church became the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Erected in 1869 this massive and imposing granite ashlars and brownstone, Richardson Romanesque church is a magnificent example of the late Victorian period and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Buildings.
On November 13, 1977, Reverend C. Dexter Wise was installed as the new pastor of Ebenezer. Twelve months after his installation, he founded “The Grapevine”, a monthly newspaper. The Grapevine became an important link for many Black businesses, churches, and fraternities that coexisted in Providence. Reverend Wise also began a radio ministry that gave Ebenezer added recognition throughout Rhode Island.
The church doors were opened to many stranded commuters during the blizzard of 1978. The site of the old church for twenty-two years became a wonderful nursing home for the elderly and was named the Bannister House. The stained glass windows in the chapel of the nursing home were the original windows from Ebenezer’s Dodge Street building. The church cornerstone is also located there. A centennial parade was held in September 1984 in order to commemorate the church’s spiritual witness and presence in the
After being without a pastor for six years, Reverend James S. Wellington came to Ebenezer in October 1989. On March 25, 1990, he was installed as pastor. His theme for the installation was “A New Era of Excellence”. For a brief period, he intensified close harmony throughout the church family. Unfortunately, Reverend Wellington passed away on Good Friday in April 1990.
Reverend Carl H. Balark, Jr., the current pastor is a dynamic, powerful preacher, teacher, and an outstanding administrator. He came to Ebenezer in 1992 and led the church into the twenty-first century. Under his leadership, the church continues to progress spiritually and numerically. Under his administration, the church has installed a ramp making the sanctuary and fellowship hall handicap-accessible, expansion of food distribution, repairing of the framework of the sanctuary stained glass windows, central air system, replacement of the pew padding, new carpeting, renovation of Isom Hall, installation of a fire alarm system, addition of an 8:00 AM service, implementation of additional ministries to ensure the needs of all members from the very young to seniors. Several deacons ordained, deaconess consecrated and ministers licensed to preach and assist the pastor in the overall ministry of the church. He has also ordained and installed four of his Ministers as Reverend who now pastor other Baptist churches. Rev. Balark is also mission oriented; he has established a sister church relationship with the St. Simon Baptist Church, Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa and led in assisting Ricks Institute, a Baptist school also in Liberia.
Ebenezer has weathered many storms, but through it all and by the grace of God, we continue to pray and strive to build on the rich legacy of our forefathers for “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).