Emmanuel Baptist Church has a deep and rich history in the city of Albany. Emmanuel began in 1810, then known as the Particular Baptist Church. Reaching membership of 327 in 1834, the congregation outgrew a theater where they had been worshipping, so they built a new place of worship, called the Pearl Street Baptist Church. The Pearl Street Church prospered and grew and by 1866 it had outgrown its pews. A new and larger church building was needed, closer to where people lived and away from the expanding commercial area on Pearl Street. The site at 275 State Street was secured in 1869 and a new edifice erected. At the dedication, held in February 1871, the present name Emmanuel was adopted. This has been the congregation’s home ever since.
Over the years many pastors have led the church, each bringing their talents and skills to lead the church forward. Through many ups and downs, wars and depressions, Emmanuel has continued to preach the Good News to the people of Albany. Ministries of previous pastors continue to shape Emmanuel today. In 1968 the Reverend Dr. Ralph Elliott, created a cooperative ministry with nearby Westminster Presbyterian, First Presbyterian, and Trinity Methodist. These Capital Hill congregations became known as the FOCUS Churches. FOCUS ministers to the poor with food pantry and breakfast programs. In 1974 the Reverend Dr. Keith Russell guided Emmanuel in changing the governance structure which affirmed participation by youth and members of minority cultures. Reverend Russell encouraged community use of the church facilities. In the late 1990's, The Reverend Dr. Roy Donkin opened the discussion about Emmanuel becoming a Welcoming and Affirming congregation. This position was confirmed by a congregational vote during the pastorate of Ellen Tatreau in 2005.
Over the years Emmanuel has always supported missions by seeding new churches and sending support and prayers to overseas ministries, most recently to support health care, education, and new churches in Nicaragua and to undergird the work of Global Peace Consultants Dan and Sharon Buttry. For many years, from 1887 into the mid 20th century, a Chinese congregation and Sunday School was housed in the building. For five years, Emmanuel shared space with the Gethsemane Karen Baptist Church, a refugee congregation from Myanmar. We are delighted to sustain a relationship with them which continues even as they have achieved the milestone of moving into their own building. Currently, we provide a dedicated worship space for a house church of Kachin people, who are also refugees from Myanmar.
Since 2003, both the building and the congregation of EBC have undergone dramatic changes. During the pastorate of Ellen Tatreau, we completed the first stages of a building renovation and a capital campaign. Our sanctuary and our kitchen have more graceful, practical and modern appearances. The new lighting, sound system, flexible seating and carpet in the sanctuary have increased our joy and enthusiasm for diversifying worship. Most adult Sunday school space is handicapped accessible. The FOCUS food pantry is now operating full time in a new, designated space as well. The renovation of the sanctuary has enhanced the fine acoustics and we have increased the number of concerts offered to the community as a result. The space continues to be open for use by other community not-for-profit organizations. All of this work utilized large amounts of “sweat equity” and lay leadership.
Beyond our own walls, Emmanuel has been working to bring Christ’s message of love to the world. We have continued to have intergenerational and adult international mission trips. Strong support of the New York State Baptist outdoor ministries has also come about in recent decades and Emmanuel continues to send support, prayers, staff, and campers to Pathfinder Lodge and Camp Vick. Our monthly choir visits to area nursing homes are in high demand. We have reached out to area parents with young children and have seen the attendance of children in worship grow dramatically. Our recently updated website has improved our visibility on the internet.