ABOUT GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH
Just before the dawn of the 20th century, in 1888, the foundation of Grace Baptist Church, one of the most dynamic houses of worship in the nation was laid in the City of Mount Vernon, NY. Grace was built out of a spirit of hope and community engagement. Its founders, “five Negro women” as the church history describes them, organized a Baptist church mission dedicated to not only attending to the spiritual needs of the then small African American community of Mount Vernon, but also to their educational needs as well. Shortly after the Grace Baptist Mission was organized a Sunday School for people of all ages was started.
With the aid of the First Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, a white congregation, the Grace Baptist Mission purchased a plot of land and built its first church home in 1891. Two years later, Grace Baptist Mission elected its first pastor, the Reverend J.L. Montague a proud graduate of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and of Newton Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, thus setting Grace Baptist’s standard of calling educated, seminary trained pastors, a rarity for many churches of any racial category within the Baptist tradition at that time. A more permanent chapel was built to meet the growing church in 1894. The newly constructed chapel had seating for nearly 400 people. Much of the funds for the new building were secured through active fund raising and support from First Baptist Church. Grace Baptist Mission was incorporated as, “Grace Baptist Church of the City of Mount Vernon, State of New York,” a self-sufficient religious corporation in 1906.
Grace Baptist Church flourished in the midst of two World Wars, and the Great Depression. The congregation was tested however on January 15, 1939 when the small wood frame building that Grace called home for 50 years was gutted by fire. However, by the summer of 1939 the congregation of Grace Baptist purchased one of the largest church buildings in Westchester County.
The imposing, red brick edifice of the former First Presbyterian Church had a seating capacity of 900, a large kitchen and dining room. In time the congregation also purchased and renovated a parsonage. Grace burned its first mortgage in 1946 and its second mortgage in 1958. Throughout its history, Grace has been a champion for social justice. One of its early highlights occurred when the Civil Rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King preached from its pulpit on 1959.
Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson became the ninth pastor of Grace in April of 1975. During the church’s 100th anniversary in In 1988, Dr. Richardson led the congregation which had grown to some 3,000 members, into an expanded and renovated church complex that now included a music center, chapel, new banquet hall, additional class rooms and youth center. The $3.2 million expansion and renovation project propelled the churches growth and outreach to greater heights. Today Grace Baptist has extension sites in Yonkers, NY and Port St. Lucie, FL. All three of the Sunday services from Grace in Mount Vernon can be seen around the globe through live webcasting. The church’s community development corporations have built nearly 400 units of affordable and senior citizen housing. Under the leadership of Dr. Richardson the church seeks to build and maintain a regional “Village of Grace” that provides spiritual, cultural, educational, economic and sociopolitical uplift for individuals and families throughout the Tri-State area.
To bring the Village of Grace to fruition the church has embarked on building for the future. From 1990 to 2013 the congregation has purchased properties immediately surrounding its historic sanctuary all in preparation for constructing a new state of the art cathedral complex with seating capacity of 2,500.