By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The coronavirus pandemic has taken down restaurants, small businesses and now, maybe even churches. The Midtown Collective, also known as the First Baptist Church, is facing a financial crisis after months of closure.

On the corner of 24th and L streets sits a Sacramento icon – whether you know it or not.

“I’ve passed this church a million times,” Jasmine Pickett-Smith, a church member said. “I just assumed it’s another church, they’ll look down on me because I’m a lesbian woman.”

Jasmine and her wife, Terrell found a sense of community in this church. The couple joined the Midtown Collective at the height of civil unrest in the country.

“Being a young lesbian woman, I never felt like my Black life mattered in churches,” Jasmine said.

Happy to have found a place where their faith and love could join, even during some of the most difficult times.

“It feels good to be somewhere where we can be our full selves, without having to wear a mask, even though we all have to wear masks right now,” Terrell said.

Masks have become just one of the changes due to COVID, as well as fewer people coming to church. Pastor Lamar J. Pringle says this year has been tough – no donations, no people and struggling to survive.

“We’re looking at, kind of, our last leg,” Pastor Pringle said. “My hope and our prayer is that this church will continue to go in some way, shape, or fashion – but the realist in me knows there’s not enough resources.”

Now the church could be writing the end of its history book.

“Here we are 170 years old, and our giving has gone down because of our congregation. Our members have been hit extremely hard,” the pastor said.

Though, their congregation has rich roots. Among their monumental monuments: ordaining the first Chinese and female preachers in the entire state. The First Baptist Church also outlawed slavery within their congregation, even years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Pastor Pringle credits those as part of what helped him get to this point, the church’s first Black pastor, decades later.

“We’ve been able to do things churches half our age won’t do,” Pringle said.

The church is now onto its next challenge, overcoming a global pandemic. Jasmine hopes for the best.

“Where do we go from here? How do we continue to give each other that strength?” Jasmine said.

Whether it’s the next chapter or the last one, this entire community says they believe it will still have a happy ending.

The congregation has created a fundraiser for the church but hope others will show interest and show up on Sundays as well.

Heather Janssen


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