The First Baptist Church of Williamsburg originated in the 1700's with a quest by courageous slaves and free black worshipers who simply wanted to worship their God in their own way. In their search, they left the church of the slave owners, Bruton Parish, where worship was restrained and segregated, and built the first brush arbor* at Green Spring Plantation to gather secretly in song and prayer. Worshipers soon moved to a more convenient spot, Raccoon Chase, where Robert F. Coles, a compassionate white landowner in Williamsburg, inspired by the worshipers' stirring songs and soulful prayers, offered the use of his Carriage House on Nassau Street as a meeting place sometime in 1776.
The Reverend Moses, an enslaved person, served as preacher to the worshipers until his passing in 1791. His prodigy, Rev. Gowan Pamphlet, returned to the community and led the congregation of the "African Baptist Church" until his death in 1810.
A new African Baptist Church was built across from the Carriage House and dedicated in May 1856, later to be named First Baptist Church in Williamsburg in 1863. The present location at 727 Scotland Street has served as home since 1956.
"We have come this far by faith"
*brush arbor (a clearing in the woods with posts secured in the ground around the cleared area and across the top. Open spaces around the sides and top were filled with small limbs and branches, leaving space for the entrance. Limbs and branches helped keep the elements out and the sound in.)