Our HistoryHistorians John Rodgers and Curtis M. Cofield, II traced the history of The Immanuel Baptist Church to October 1825. Immanuel was once called Third Baptist because there were two other Baptist churches in New Haven at the time. The membership of this great church increased so much that a building was built in 1847, but the expenses and debt proved overwhelming. In 1849, a building located on Park Street was advertised for sale. Deacon Nathaniel Harris sold a house in New York City and loaned the church $1,000.00. Deacon Harris died suddenly of a heart attack in 1851, never collecting any of his money. After his death, the church was given two more years to pay for its building. As the settlement of the Harris Estate could no longer be deferred, the church property was sold in 1853. After this time, a building was acquired on the corner of Whalley Avenue and Howe Street. Sister Harris, the dedicated wife of Deacon Harris lived long enough to see the church find its present home on Chapel Street.
Other meeting places for the church, before finally locating on Chapel and Day Streets, were a school house on Carlisle Street; a building on Davenport Avenue; and Day’s Hall on the corner of Broadway and York Street.
History records that one Sunday morning Rev. Black, filled with the spirit of God, asked those present to start a subscription to purchase a plot of ground on which to build a church. He stated that he would serve the church without fixed salary until the building was completed. When the church was completed, there was yet a debt of $600.00, which was borrowed from the New Haven Savings Bank. Rev. Black went to England, stayed one month and came back with every cent of the $600.00 he had earned.
Under the leadership of Rev. J. Gardner Ross, who had financial ability and influence among some wealthy Baptist of the city, the property on the corners of Chapel and Day Streets was purchased. With the spirit of reconstruction and faith, when the church was dedicated in 1882, the name of the church was changed from Third Baptist to Immanuel Baptist meaning “God with Us”.
Other pastors to serve Immanuel: Rev. Henry H. Johnson remained at Immanuel for two years. Rev. George H. Jackson served for five years and during this time a beautiful chapel was erected at the back of the church edifice. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. came to Immanuel in 1893. Under his pastorate, a $1,000.00 organ was installed and in two years, the Fiftieth Anniversary was celebrated with nearly 200 members, seven ordained deacons, three licensed preachers, (two were medical doctors). Dr. Powell left after sixteen years to assume the pastorate of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.
Immanuel called Dr. David Klugh as its next pastor. At the meeting of 1912, seven deaconesses were elected. In 1913, there were two hundred seventy-five on the Church School roll with an average attendance of one hundred seventy-six each Sunday. Rev. Klugh left for a pastorate in Boston in 1918. Rev. John B. Pharr became pastor of Immanuel about five months later and remained until 1945. Rev. Pharr left Immanuel to organized The Community Baptist Church, New Haven. Rev. William Hall became pastor in 1945 and 115 members were added to the church during his first year as pastor. Rev. Hall left Immanuel in 1961 to begin New Hope Baptist Church, New Haven.
In March 1962, Rev. C. Bruce Goodeau was called as supply pastor. He assumed full-time pastorate in August 1962. The old parsonage next door was torn down. There were dreams of a new church under Rev. Goodeau’s leadership, a blue-print plan for the new church, two Sherman Avenue properties were purchased and over one-quarter million dollars placed in a building fund. Rev. Goodeau resigned as Immanuel’s pastor in 1965.
Rev. Curtis M. Cofield, II came to Immanuel in October 1966. That year, Rev. Cofield published in our city newspaper that most of his congregation were elderly persons, some already on fixed income. In 1972, six short years later, the new church structure, a multi-million dollar building was built. Many auxiliaries were organized under Dr. Cofield’s leadership the church also established a Soup Kitchen, a Food Pantry, and a Clothes Closet as ministries to the surrounding community. Sister Cofield founded and expanded the AIDS Interfaith Network, Inc. at Immanuel. It grew into a celebrated worldwide independent institution. Immanuel is blessed with a life-long faithful, loyal, self-sacrificing congregation!! Dr. Cofield retired after 36 years of devoted service to Immanuel.
As we stand on the threshold of a new millennium, we welcome The Reverend Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee as pastor of Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church. A ative of Florida, Rev. Ross-Lee is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Harvard University School of Divinity. He served for7.9 years as the pastor of The Gill Creek Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina.