Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church Celebrates 100 Years

OAKLAND, CA – NOVEMBER 3: Congregation members take part in a worship service at Allen Temple Baptist Church on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Allen Temple Baptist Church is celebrating its 100th anniversary. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Step inside Allen Temple Baptist Church on International Boulevard on a Sunday morning and you are sure to hear a Bible reading, a sermon and lots of gospel music.

These days you might also get a history lesson.

This year marks the centenary of Allen Temple, one of Oakland’s oldest black churches. It began in 1919 as a storefront on East 14th Street and Seminary Avenue.

Back then, the 21 congregation members sat on borrowed folding chairs as the Rev. J.L. Allen ministered.

Today, the church occupies an entire city block in the flatlands and boasts a 1,200-seat sanctuary, where white-gloved ushers guide worshipers to their seats during two Sunday morning services.

Video screens on the walls broadcast the service, allowing almost anyone in the congregation to have an unhindered view of what’s happening.

Stained glass windows feature Jesus and pivotal figures of the church, including Allen, the founder. An illuminated blue cross hangs near the choir.

“This is family. This is home,” said Elizabeth Douglas, a church member since 1980. “There is always someone here. There is always something going on.”

Donald Orviss, 81, said his mother first brought him to the church as an infant, carrying him in her arms. He was baptized at Allen Temple at age 9 in 1947.

“This church raised me,” Orviss said. “The lessons that I have learned here, being respectful, kind to others — of holding the door open for the person coming behind you — they still stick with me.”

Allen Temple offers a host of ministries, ranging from reaching out to people with AIDS and those who are incarcerated to sponsoring a Boy Scout troop and offering Sunday school classes.

The church uses social media for daily outreach and live-streams worship services for those who aren’t able to be there in person.

What has remained constant throughout Allen Temple’s 100-year history is linking what’s preached from the pulpit to people’s everyday lives.

On a recent Sunday, the Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson, the church’s senior pastor, wore a purple dress to highlight domestic violence. The men’s choir wore pink ties to raise awareness of breast cancer.

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Source: East Bay Times