Congregations Across California Try to Save Historic Oakland Church Facing Closure

They need to raise $44,000 by March 16 or the property will be immediately sold

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Congregations from across California came together Friday in hopes of saving one of the oldest Black churches in Oakland.

From 34th Street in a small corner building, to 32nd Street with a building that spans the block, North Oakland Missionary Baptist Church has been rooted and growing in the west Oakland community for 118 years.

“This is our mainline hook up with the past and the legacy is to carry it on for today’s generation,” said Pastor Sylvester Rutledge. 

But now the house of worship is on the brink of closing after learning they owe five years of back property taxes.   

They need to raise $44,000 by March 16 or the property will be immediately sold.    

Rutledge, the church’s pastor of 32 years, says clerical errors led to the tax issue.  

“The houses were torn down and we didn’t pay any taxes on the house, but taxes for the property go on,” he said.

Rutlidge says lower attendance and an aging congregation has added to their financial troubles. But now other churches are answering the call for help 

“It's time for us to reciprocate that back to north Oakland. North Oakland opens its doors for all in the community,” said Pastor Michael Wallace of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. 

He said his church is donating, along with 13 others who have also chipped in, including the church’s state chapter. The goal is to not only pay their past due bills, but prevent this from happening again. 

“We have to make sure that we preserve what we do have, build on it, and make sure it is able to be sustained,” said Wallace.  

Entering the unknown, the church is living out their own sermon -- believing they will continue to keep their doors open for generations to come. 

“After I’m gone, I won't have a legacy,” said Rutledge. “I want someone to be able to say, 'even in all my situations, I still have hope,'”

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