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Sat, 10.20.1832

Cornwallis Street Baptist Church Opens

*The founding of the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church is celebrated in 1832. Formerly known as African Chapel and the African Baptist Church, it is a Baptist church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, established by black refugees.  When the chapel was completed, it was evidence that formerly enslaved people could establish their institutions in Nova Scotia.

Under the direction of Richard Preston, the church laid the foundation for social action to address the plight of Black Nova Scotians. Preston and others established a network of socially active Black Baptist churches in Halifax: Preston (1842), Beechville (1844), Hammonds Plains (1845), and another in Africville (1849) and Dartmouth. They also established the African Friendly Society, the African Abolition Society, and the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia (AUBA) from meetings held at the church in the fight to end slavery in America.

The church was renamed the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church (1892). It survived the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and served as a temporary shelter for survivors for the rest of the winter. Soon after the explosion, Rev. William A. White worked at the church for 17 years until he died in 1936. In 1937, William Pearly Oliver became the minister, and by 1945 he and the church developed the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The church was instrumental in supporting the case of Viola Desmond through the courts in the first year Oliver was the minister. Oliver worked at the church for twenty-five years until 1962. Cornwallis Street has continued its history of social action through the years. In 2005 the church was the subject of a three-episode television documentary. The design project renovated the church's lower hall as a dedicated space for Sunday School. In 2007, Cornwallis Street hired its first female pastor in the person of Rev. Rhonda Y. Britton. Under Dr. Britton's leadership, Cornwallis Street began a Rites of Passage Program for youth 8-18 to address the growing violence plaguing the black community.

In 2009, the previous minister, Rev. Richard Preston, was designated a person of national significance by Parks Canada. The commemorative plaque is mounted outside the church. In September 2017, the church announced it would rename itself with a name that better reflects its values and identity as disciples of Jesus Christ. The leadership launched an initiative inviting members of its congregation to submit entries from which a new name would be chosen. In May 2018, the church congregation approved a renaming to New Horizons Baptist Church.

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