People Worshipping in Black Church
Worshipers in the black church (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Pastor William Epps of Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles delivers sermons on a weekly basis to the oldest black church, the same church Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at throughout the 1950s and ’60s. The area that surrounded the 127-year old church used to be comprised of an entirely black congregation. Today, the church is home to black commuter believers who travel to worship as much of the neighborhood has transformed into a Latino population. The identity shift of all of South California has been changing since the ’90s and the commuter church phenomenon has been a growing trend. Christianity Today reports:

Every week as he delivers the sermon at the oldest black church in Los Angeles, pastor William Eps stands where history was written. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Second Baptist Church throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Today social justice remains just as important to the 127-year-old church—but the faces of the community it serves have changed dramatically.

Decades ago, members of the predominantly black congregation lived nearby and walked to services. Today the church is a commuter congregation—its black members no longer live in the neighborhood, which, like the rest of once-black South Los Angeles, is now Latino.

Richard Flory, director of research at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, said that while the city’s ethnic makeup has been changing since the 1990s, the newest manifestation is the identity shift of South Los Angeles churches from community churches to commuter churches.

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