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In the Community

Historic Black church grows endowment at community foundation

February 11, 2021

Several years ago, the Rev. Robert G. Murray was pondering how to keep his centuries-old Norfolk church with 1,000 members “buoyant for years to come.”

In 2016, an anonymous donor supplied the answer by donating $200,000 to start an endowed fund to benefit the church, which was founded in 1800. It is known as the oldest Baptist church in the Norfolk, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The First Baptist Church of Norfolk Fund at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation is among nearly 100 designated funds for nonprofits administered by the community foundation. Each year like clockwork, a grant from the fund goes to First Baptist to use for any purpose.

The designated fund has “been used to help individuals and help us expand,” says Murray, senior pastor since 1983. It helps support the church’s scholarship program, maintenance on its 1906 building and the church’s 47 ministries.

Rev. Murray with historic plaque

The church has a long history of helping the community. In 1958 when the state refused to integrate Norfolk, the church opened its doors to tutor the Norfolk 17, the first students to desegregate the city's public schools.

Located near Norfolk’s St. Paul’s Quadrant, the church plays a vital role in a community where the median annual household income is $12,000. First Baptist’s ministries include providing food, housing and job training as well as mobile shower facilities for those experiencing homelessness.

Since the church’s fund is endowed, it will forever support First Baptist in perpetuity with annual grant distributions growing over time, helping the church to continue to thrive and do good work in the community.

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