The Church that Stood Strong

WHAT: Lower Albina has seen a lot of change over the last 50 years, but one constant through it all has been the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, which will celebrate its 75th birthday next month.

The church has withstood decades of gentrification and displacement, and its members today span multiple generations.

WHY IT MATTERS: The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist church is a community landmark and cultural gathering place in lower Albina. The church has welcomed leaders on the regional and national level, including civil rights leaders like John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.

FUN FACT: In 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church to deliver a speech about how making progress on civil rights required everyone’s involvement.

“He helped galvanize and reinforce what we were all trying to achieve locally as well as nationally,” said Raymond Burell III, the church’s historian. “He added a layer of clarity to what the bigger mission was.”

QUOTABLE: “Our history is very grounded in the African American experience, [but] our goal is to serve all the people. So our membership has become a mix of all races and ethnicities,” Burell said. It’s great to see that happen as we continue to evolve.”I