A famous author once wrote: “We would arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Lincoln Congregational Temple was founded in the Shaw Community 140 years ago. Through our ministry, God’s light has shined brightly on dark corners of injustice, and illuminated new roads in music, Christian education, and community building.
The Lincoln Temple story began in the deteriorating Wisewell Barracks at 7th and O Streets, NW where recently freed slaves would gather for work, community and sustenance. In May 1868, the American Missionary Association (AMA) purchased land on the corner of 11th and R Streets, NW and erected the Colfax Industrial Mission using contributions from several sources. This new building was dedicated for “the use and education of the colored children of Washington.” On January 1, 1869, the American Missionary Association took charge of the new building. The organization was renamed the Lincoln Mission in memory of Abraham Lincoln. A few decades later, Lincoln Congregational Church merged with Park Temple Church. Thus over the last 110 years the names Lincoln Temple Congregational and Lincoln Congregational Temple have been used interchangeably.
The sanctuary has hosted some of the finest voices of our time including: Jessye Norman; Marian Anderson; Roberta Flack; Grover Bullock; Francese Brooks; and Renee Barnes.
Our pulpit has been filled with preachers and scholars such as Shelby Rooks; Julian Bond; Channing Philips; James A. Forbes, Jr.; and Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Members of Lincoln have been leaders in the community: Blanche K. Bruce was the first man of color elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate; Mary Church Terrell and others desegregated lunch counters downtown; Eliza Shippen co-founded Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Inc.; Nellie Quander served as first national president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Doyle Mitchell, Sr. founded the first bank owned entirely by African Americans; Dr. Rev. Channing Philips was the first African American nominated for President at the Democratic National Convention.
Congregants have helped feed participants who marched on Washington and played a role in establishing the Lincoln- Westmoreland housing complex. The American Negro Academy, the first major African-American learned society was started with the help of church members as well as Shaw Community Ministry. Visitors have come as far as Germany to share our sanctuary on Sundays and sojourners from Palestine and Japan have been welcomed. Children have been baptized, weddings have been performed and birthdays have been counted.
Those who have cast their lot with Lincoln Temple have made the church more open to all and have left a rich legacy.