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Mariner's Temple Baptist Church

The Oldest Baptist Church Site in Manhattan

Established in 1795

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Due to to the generosity of landholder and philanthropist Henry Rutgers, a place for Baptist worship has been standing on the corner of Oliver and Henry Streets since 1795. Henry Rutgers, born near New York City on October 7, 1745, was the descendant of Dutch immigrants who settled in New York City in 1636 and prospered as brewers. Rutgers graduated from Kings College in 1766, was a colonel during the American Revolution, and later became politically active. He gave lands and funds to his own Dutch Reformed Church, to Presbyterian and Baptist churches, and to schools for children of the poor. Henry Rutgers dies on February 17, 1830. Rutgers College in New Jersey—formerly Queens College—was renamed in his honor.

The first church on the Henry and Oliver Street site was called the Oliver Street Meeting House. Since the establishment of that first church, Baptists have continued to appreciate Henry Rutgers’ gift and have used the original site continuously for more than 210 years.

The early church began as a mission for European seamen who docked at the nearby East River, hence the present-day name, Mariners’ Temple. Rich in history and steeped in the Baptist religious tradition, Mariners’ stands on the oldest site for continuous Baptist worship in Manhattan. It is located on the Lower East Side at the tip of Chinatown, north of the South Ferry, and walking distance from City Hall. Today, the mission thrives as Mariners’ continues to be a sanctuary for those who labor and are tired and a pinnacle of hope for all seeking the kingdom of God.


As maritime activity shifter to the deeper waters of the Hudson, the early Church continued its ministry and gained an additional name, “The Mother of Churches.” As Swedish, Italian, Latvian, Russian, and Chinese immigrants moved through the Lower East Side, Mariners’ gave life to the first Swedish, Italian, Russian and Chinese Baptist Churches, as well as the Norwegian-Danish Mission of New York City. During the mid- to late 19th century, Mariners’ was responsible for exporting the Baptist movement to Scandinavia and Sweden. Most notable in that movement was Captain Gustavas W. Schroeder, a Swedish seaman. In 1844, while attending his first meeting at Mariners’, Captain Schroeder was baptized and joined Mariners’ shortly thereafter. He returned to Sweden as a Baptist missionary and was instrumental in the spiritual awakening of another seaman, F.O. Nilsson. Nilsson was baptized in Hamburg, Germany, and established the first Baptist church in Sweden. Additionally, the early church is said to have sponsored a missionary who took the Baptist teachings to Norway and Denmark.

The First Mariners’ Baptist Church, the forename of Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church, was “formally” established in November 1843. It took over the Henry and Oliver Street building in 1866. In 1867, the First Swedish Baptist Church was organized. That church is now Trinity Baptist Church. In 1844, Mariners’ became a City Mission Field of the Baptist City Mission Society. By 1890, it was lauded as one of the two important City Mission Fields in the world. The First Italian Church was also organized in Mariners’ Temple in 1897.

1900s – 1970s

Throughout the early 1900s, Mariners’ influenced a succession of firsts: The first Norwegian-Danish Baptist Church in 1903; the first Lettish Church in 1905; the first Russian Church in 1916; and the first Chinese Church in 1926. In 1927, the Sixteenth Church united with Mariners’ Temple.

In the period between 1922 and 1940, Mariners continued its benevolence. It was a shelter and soup kitchen for homeless men during the Depression, housed programs for community youth and founded mothers’ clubs and other women’s societies. During this time, Mariners’ conducted worship services in English, Italian, Greek, and Spanish. In the 1940s, Mariners’ Temple became a Christian center for Chinese, Puerto Ricans, and newly arrived African-Americans from the South.

From the middle to the late 1900s, Mariners’ Temple continued to be a spiritual center for all ethnic groups in the neighborhood. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Mariners’ reached beyond the spiritual realm to address the political needs of the community. Locally, there was picketing of low-income housing thought to be urban removal rather than urban renewal. Nationally, Mariners participated in the famous “March for Jobs and Freedom” held in Washington, D.C. in August 1963.

1980s – Present

By the early eighties, the congregation was mainly Chinese and African-American, with separate services held for each. Later, the Chinese congregation moved into its own church in the area. In May 1992, the congregation paid off the mortgage on the church building and celebrated the title transfer from the American Baptist Convention/Metro NY to the Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church congregation.

Today, there are two unique congregations at Mariners’: the Sunday morning congregation and the congregation from Lunch Hour of Power (LHOP), which was established in the 1980s under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook. The LHOP congregation, which is comprised of government and corporate employees in the surrounding area, worships at noon on Wednesdays. In their own unique ways, both congregations are dynamic, on fire for the Lord, and passionate about His people, especially those in the community, who continue to experience the effects of the 2001 World Trade Center disaster. On September 23, 2006 during the Friends & Family Day celebration, Mariners’ unveiled a new street sign, co-naming Oliver Street “Mariners’ Temple Lane”, ensuring that from generation to generation, all who pass by this street will know that the Mariners' Temple Baptist Church, was planted there by GOD.


The Church Building

The current church structure, a three-story   building covering about 250,000 square feet, is the fourth building on the corner of Henry and Oliver Streets. It was built in 1844 by Isaac Lucas using the design of Minard Lefever. Recognized as a Federal landmark in 1966 and a New York State landmark in 1977, the hand-carved Corinthian-column building is one of the few landmark examples of 19th-century Greek revival architecture left in New York City.

The main façade facing Oliver Street is in the distyle-in-antis temple form. The main entrance is set in a recessed portico border by two Ionic columns and plain wall surfaces. These are framed by pilasters and relieved with blind panels. Over the façade is a shallow pediment resting on a simple entablature which continues around the building’s side elevations. Originally, the façade was capped by a bell tower, which was removed in the 1920s and now sits on the landing leading up to the church sanctuary entrance. The side elevations consist of five bays each, framed by pilasters at the corners. Four of the bays are punctuated by recessed, double-height windows. The end bays replace the windows with a blind wall panel. The original exterior was faced with brownstone ashlar. Due to deterioration, the current exterior is stucco.

The interior is characterized by magnificent woodcarving and plaster work, including the elaborately ornamented ceiling and the ornate Corinthian columns that support the gallery. In the sanctuary, the pulpit is recessed and screened by two Corinthians columns set in-antis in a tabernacle encasement. In the late 1920s, under the pastorate of Rev. William Hubbell, the church began a modernization phase with the installation of electric lights, a modern heating plant, soundproof partitions, and new windows. In 1929, the church was further remodeled with new chapels, lavatories, a furnace, a kitchen, storage rooms, and a gymnasium. Interior renovation continues to the present day, including the replacement of the sanctuary carpet, the placement of pew cushions, the partial renovation of the kitchen and the repainting of the fellowship halls and church offices. Most recently, as part of its 209th anniversary celebration, the church dedicated a new ramp and handicap lift to provide access for the disabled. In 2009, the Trustee Board spearheaded the initiative to research, raise funds for, and install new doors for the main entrance to the sanctuary. In early 2010, the doors on the side of the church where the ramp is located were replaced to ensure greater safety for worshipers and to conserve heat.




American Baptist Home Mission Societies

SINCE 1824

From Past to Present and Beyond—

Faithfully Following the Call

APRIL 27, 2010

A Day of Celebration and Consecration

Morning Worship

9:00 a.m. – Continental Breakfast in Fellowship Hall

10:00 a.m. – Celebration and Commitment Service in Sanctuary

Mariner’s Temple Baptist Church

3 Henry Street, New York, N.Y.

On April 27, 1832, on this site—when it was known as Oliver Street Baptist Church—a number of Baptists attending the Sixth Triennial Convention of the General Missionary Convention of the United States of American for Foreign Missions recessed to the nearby Mulberry Street Baptist Church to found The American Baptist Home Mission Society.


THE OCCASION – Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III

HYMN – “Shine, Jesus Shine”



CALL TO WORSHIP: PSALM 33 RESPONSIVE READING – Rev. Liliana DaValle and Dr. Alan Newton

LEADER 1: Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous:

ALL: It is right that his people should praise him.

LEADER 2: Praise the Lord with the harp:

ALL: Make music to him on the strings.

LEADER 1: Sing to the Lord a new song:

ALL: Play skillfully, and shout for joy.

LEADER 2: For the word of the Lord is right and true:

ALL: And all his work is faithfulness.

LEADER 1: The Lord loves righteousness and justice:

ALL: His endless love fills the earth.

LEADER 2: By the word of the Lord the skies were formed:

ALL: His breath created moon and stars.

LEADER 1: Let all the earth fear the Lord:

ALL: The people of the world revere him.

LEADER 2: For he spoke, and it came to be.

ALL: He commanded, and all was made.

LEADER 1: The Lord holds back the nations:

ALL: He thwarts their evil intents.

LEADER 2: God’s purposes are sure:

ALL: God’s plans endure forever.

LEADER 1: Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord:

ALL: Happy the people God makes God’s own.

LEADER 2: The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.

ALL: Who trust in his unfailing love.

LEADER 1: We wait in hope for the Lord:

ALL: He is our help and shield.

LEADER 2: In him our hearts rejoice:

ALL: We trust his holy name.

LEADERS 1 and 2: May your constant love be with us, Lord:

ALL: As we put our hope in you.




HYMN – “We’ve Come This Far by Faith”

SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 11:1-10, 12:1-3 – Dr. Everett C. Goodwin




Ms. Susan Gottshall


Lord, God of yesterday and tomorrow, we celebrate those who have been your home missionaries in every generation. We also confess that our faith has sometimes faltered, that we have been daunted by the challenge of North America for Christ, and lacked the consistent courage and boldness to be your preachers and prophets and practitioners in every season. Reminded of that great cloud of both biblical and Baptist witnesses, we prayerfully renew our personal commitment to mission and ministry in this land and with the world that arrives daily at our doorstep. We resolve, with the help of your Holy Spirit, to offer our gifts and graces in your service; to be the hands and feet of Christ in those places to which you call us. Amen.


HYMN – “May Those Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful”

BENEDICTION – Rev. Isaac Castañeda


Announcements and Instructions

Adjournment to The Interchurch Center

Thanks to Pastor Henrietta Carter and the congregation and staff of the Mariner’s Temple Baptist Church for their extraordinary hospitality and partnership in home mission.