Restoring a Historic Black Church

Photo of Goodwin Memorial church

Goodwin AME Church, Amherst, Mass.

Minute to Co-sponsor and Support the “Standing Together: Restoring Goodwin” Project

Background of project. This request comes to Meeting for Business from the Race and Class Group. As a group, we are committed to actively challenge both personal and systemic racism and classism in ourselves, in our Mt Toby Friends community and in the wider world, and to actively build an equitable, authentic and inclusive culture (Vision and Goals Statement, March 2019). Two of the ways we are doing this are:

  1. To foster personal connections across race and class, by going to spaces and places beyond our segregated niches.
  2. To learn ways to be active allies with people who have been oppressed based on race or class

In pursuit of this goal, one of our members, Andy Grant, has felt a call this year to begin visiting congregations led by people of color on fifth Sundays with others from Mt Toby. On the first such visit in May Andy visited Goodwin Memorial AME Church in Amherst joined by Peter Blood-Patterson and Sandi Albertson-Shay. During this service it was announced that the church’s furnace had died and must be replaced. 

On further inquiry it became clear that the broken furnace represents only one of many urgent restoration needs the chapel has. Building on existing relationships with members of Goodwin Church, the idea was born that area congregations could join with Goodwin in restoring the church building, similar to the outpouring of interfaith support two years ago to help Hampshire Mosque open its doors. As one of Mt Toby’s representatives, Peter took this idea to Interfaith Opportunities Network. There it developed into a dinner and concert collectively organized and supported by many of the area congregations that make up ION. Planning is moving forward, with shared leadership and strong input from members of Goodwin Church.  

Goodwin Church is the oldest Black church in Amherst. It grew out of an earlier chapel built on Woodside Avenue in 1869 with support from Amherst College. A group of Zion Chapel members formed a new congregation in 1905, affiliating with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, an independent Black congregation founded in 1822 (often called “The Freedom Church”). The new congregation constructed the current building in 1910, and it has been an active congregation ever since. A small, beautiful and spirit-filled building that is cherished by its members, Goodwin is an historically and spiritually important, living resource for the wider African American community in Amherst. It is an old building, in need of many repairs beyond the financial resources of this small but faithful congregation.

Why this is important to do. The Race and Class Group agreed in June to join this project. We are now bringing the following request to Mt Toby to become involved as a meeting. This effort is one way we can fulfill the call we have received from the 2016 NEYM Minute on Challenging White Supremacy and builds on the work we have been doing over the past several years to become a more inclusive and equitable community.

This fundraising effort is undertaken as a concrete step toward restorative justice, in recognition of the long history of systemic racism, locally and nation-wide, that gave ample opportunity, privilege and resources to churches led by European Americans, while denying opportunity, privilege, and resources to this African-American church and its members. This is a way for the wider community to build unity, justice, and authentic relationship, to stand in solidarity and gather the resources to restore a precious building that is home to a vital spiritual community. 


Mt. Toby Friends Meeting supports and co-sponsors Standing Together: Restoring Goodwin, an interfaith collaboration of many area congregations to assist Goodwin Memorial AME Zion Church in replacing its oil burner and restoring its building. We encourage our members to attend the benefit dinner and concert on Saturday, October 26, 2019 and to contribute to this fundraising campaign as led. 

As a further act of corporate involvement in this act of solidarity and friendship with a sister congregation our treasurer will receive checks made out to Mt Toby Friends Meeting with a memo for “Goodwin restoration” and pool these into one or at most two checks to Goodwin Church for its building restoration fund.