The Historic Roxbury Presbyterian Church (RPC) is located on the corner of Warren and Woodbine Streets in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Situated in one of the most socially volatile areas of the City of Boston, RPC is often called upon to respond to various community needs. Some of the issues impacting the area include violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, dysfunctional relationships, hopelessness, and other concerns that plague youth and adults in the neighborhood.Organizing quickly to address community needs is nothing new to RPC members. A group, led by Robert and John Gilchrist, desiring to establish a Presbyterian Church in Roxbury, founded the congregation in 1886. Less than a year after the group’s initial meeting, the Presbytery of Boston was petitioned to organize a formal church.
The reception of a church in the community was excellent. On September 28, 1886, eighty-two people joined the Church and the name Roxbury Presbyterian Church became official. In 1887, the first Pastor, Reverend Frederick Campbell was chosen and during his short stay of three years, he began the process of constructing a new church building. The completion of the task of developing the building layout fell to the Reverend Martin Kneeland. A permit to build a wood frame building with stone walls was granted on May 12, 1891. The building was to be approximately 10,000 square feet and rest on a stone foundation. The cornerstone of the building was laid on July 17, 1891, and the first worship service was held on April 6, 1892.
During the 1960’s RPC became one of the centers for the alternative schools, and held breakfast and lunch programs for neighborhood children. The Reverend Francis D.S. Miller served the church for the longest period, 25 years. It was during his tenure that the church was used to support numerous community activities including Freedom Schools at the height of the civil rights movement.
RPC became the home of one of the largest, predominantly, African American Alcoholics Anonymous groups in Boston. The activism of the church, in support of a more wholesome community was the catalyst, targeting the Church for arson. The Church, just after being redecorated, was fire bombed in 1972. Reverend Miller’s leadership was a stabilizing force during those turbulent times. In 1985, Reverend Miller was appointed Pastor Emeritus in appreciation for his great contributions and personal sacrifices for the Roxbury Presbyterian Church.
Pastors Rick and Toby Gillespie Mobley continued efforts to support a more spiritually wholesome community both, inside and outside the church walls. The Mobley’s laid the foundation for spiritual revitalization that was to come.
In January of 1994, Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, Jr. was elected Senior Pastor. Building on the foundation laid by previous pastors, Rev. Hamilton led the RPC community into new mission fields for Jesus Christ for 17.5 years before moving to California and the Abundant Life Christian Fellowship. Under his leadership, RPC’s community deepened its spiritual life; completed a 3.3 million dollar renovation to its building and has become a powerful Christian force for change in the city of Boston.
In 1996, RPC established the Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center (SIC), Inc. Through this center, RPC has offered computer and tutorial classes along with other services for at risk youth. Today, the SIC is the center of RPC’s “Dream Again Program”. Through this program, RPC has provided the means for Roxbury and Boston residents to pursue strategies to climb out of debt, accomplish vocational goals, purchase home, upgrade their education, and to credibly participate in the work of building a safer Roxbury community while expanding their personal spiritual growth.
In addition, RPC’s Dream Again Adopt-A-School Program has been celebrated by the superintendent of Boston’s public schools and featured on the website for the national acclaimed film “Waiting for Superman”, as a groundbreaking effort.