“The city of New Bedford has a rich Gospel heritage, but sadly it has been all but forgotten.”
As the Puritans boats arrived on shore, the gospel they espoused did as well. It was not long after their arrival that the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ began to spread all throughout New England, and would eventually travel down the Appalachians, and then spread West. But it was New England that would become the doorway for this work to happen.
The bustling little port town of New Bedford would be no exception to the Gospel’s reach. With Roger Williams’ work in establishing the First Baptist Church of America in Providence, followed by John Clarke’s work of establishing the second Baptist Church in Newport… New Bedford was a small port town that was perfectly situated to benefit from the influence of both Williams and Clarke’s ministry.
The impact that the Gospel had on the port city was significant. This Gospel impact lead to New Bedford playing an intricate roll in the underground railroad and the abolitionist movement. The city recognized early on that the Gospel message of the Bible and slavery movement of the day were at odds with one another. It was in 1838 that former slave Frederick Douglass, would settle in New Bedford after he escaped slavery.
The city’s faith was not only felt on land, but on the seas as well. It was at the Seamen’s Bethel that sailors would be prayed for before they set out to sea, and where funeral services would be held for the unfortunate ones who did not return. This ministry would later become famous by the account written by Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” from his visit to the Bethel.
The city’s historic fame has been made known by it’s encounters with Fredrick Douglass, Herman Melville, and Henry Martyn Robert. At one time New Bedford’s ports kept the world lit with its prosperous whaling industry. But initially, it was spiritual commonalities that brought the city together. The first ecclesiastical body was formed by the Quakers in 1699, and from there it would just continue to grow.
But sadly, New Bedford’s Gospel-heritage has been long forgotten. Even the city’s local paper has taken notice of the disappearing churches in New Bedford. The city is dotted with large, closed church buildings, and there are many more on the verge of closing. We would like to invite you to join us in praying for the spiritual landscape of the city.
Below is a gallery of historic churches that have closed and either currently sit empty, or have already been repurposed into commercial use.