Beulah Missionary Baptist Church awarded $150,000 grant by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Published 6:44 pm Saturday, January 20, 2024

Beulah Missionary Baptist Church has been awarded a $150,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The funding is through the Preserving Black Churches program of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

It will be used for the restoration of the steeple and windows of the 111-year-old structure, according to church officials.

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The church was “overjoyed” at the news, said the Rev. Dr. Johnathan T. Hargrave, the church’s pastor, who learned of the news on Monday, Jan. 15.

Hargrave said the restoration work is “significantly needed” and the grant will make it all possible.

“Beulah has been a beacon in our community for many years, and now we can continue to let our light shine by preserving this great historic establishment,” he said.

“I am elated,” said Deacon Robert Morgan. “I’m so thankful to God for showering blessings on us. With Beulah being a small congregation, this is truly a blessing. This shows that God answers prayer.”

Beulah was founded in 1896 by William Rochester, a U.S. Colored Troops veteran and commander-in-chief of the Mississippi and Louisiana Department of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The church played a pivotal role in organizing for civil rights in Natchez, as it hosted many meetings and rallies.

Beulah is located at 710 Beulah Street or B Street.

It was one of 31 churches out of more than 550 applicants across the United States approved for funding by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which awarded a total of $4 million for the institutions.

The funding aims to help preserve Black churches by addressing ”urgent preservation threats such as deferred maintenance and demolition, but also to strengthen their ability to steward, interpret, and fund these invaluable places and the people they serve,” according to the organization’s website.

Carter Burns, executive director of Historic Natchez Foundation, said the foundation is proud to have assisted Beulah Missionary Baptist Church with its application for the Preserving Black Churches grant.

“We are always on the lookout for grant money, and it is particularly difficult for churches to get funding,” he said. “The steeple and windows on this important landmark building are in dire need of repair and this grant will facilitate their restoration.”

Mayor Dan Gibson praised the foundation and Beulah for their work in pursuing the grant and the vision they have for improving the church and interpreting its history.

“This is truly a prayer answered,” Gibson said. “When I first learned that the steeple of this historic church was in poor condition and might eventually have to be taken down, I became hopeful that somehow grant funds could be sought. And now to learn that the Historic Natchez Foundation, working with Beulah Baptist Church, has successfully obtained this substantial grant is truly a blessing.”

Gibson said the grant “underscores the positive things happening in our community, One Natchez, working together to preserve and better tell our whole story.”

In terms of the Beulah’s history, Hargrave said that while the church was officially organized on Dec. 30, 1896, its original wooden edifice was constructed in 1901.

On March 4, 1911, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1912.

Bricks and an annex were later added to the church, and in 2000, structural improvements were made but did not include restoration of the steeple, according to Hargrave.

“We are more than grateful for being awarded this grant to save our steeple from further deterioration,” he said.

In Hargrave’s view, Beulah is more than just an old church. “It has been noted as the central meeting place in Natchez during the civil rights movement,” he said. “Many activists have passed away, and the survivors of those treacherous times will be happy to see the continued efforts to keep the church open and looking great. Time has evolved us into a peaceful community where we can all live and worship together.”

Hargrave said he is thankful to Morgan and Burns, “who have been persistent and worked tirelessly toward assisting” with the project.

“We never gave up, and we continued to press forward on achieving this goal,” Hargrave said. “I am reminded of a Bible scripture, Isaiah 60:22: ‘When the time is right, I the Lord will make it happen.’”