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Local church celebrates milestone and history

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Parishioner Yvonne Hughes with one of the bricks manufactured by the brick company that helped Riverview Missionary Baptist Church get its start. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

COEYMANS — A local church celebrated a milestone of its own alongside the town’s 350th anniversary celebration this year.

Riverview Missionary Baptist Church is marking 97 years in 2023, and hosted a table at the Coeymans Landing festivities last Saturday outlining the church’s history in the community.

“This is a display of the men who were recruited to come up from Danville, Virginia; South Boston; Halifax, Virginia,” said the Rev. Dr. Roxanne Jones Booth, co-pastor of the church with her husband, the Rev. Antonio Booth.

The men were brought to Coeymans as part of the Great Migration between the years 1910 and 1930 “when large numbers of African-Americans left the South to find jobs in the North,” according to the church’s display.

Historians estimate as many as 1.6 million families traveled to northern cities as part of the First Great Migration during this time period, according to the National Archives.

“They were recruited to the Sutton & Suderly Brick Company,” Booth said of the men who would later found the church. “The company brought these men up here to work in the brickyard. These men made the bricks and as they made the bricks, they continued to exercise their faith.”

“One day, they built the Riverview Missionary Baptist Church with the bricks that they made at the brickyard,” Booth said. “We stand here now, 97 years later.”

The church collected donations from its future parishioners, and to this day still has photos of several of the women who donated the first $3 to purchase the bricks to build the church.

Fifty years ago, the last time the town marked a historic milestone of this magnitude — back then it was the town’s tricentennial, honoring 300 years of history — the parishioners of Riverview Missionary Baptist Church were celebrating right alongside the town.

A photo of the Brown Sugar Belles, parishioners at Riverview Missionary Baptist Church who helped celebrate the town’s tricentennial in 1973. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

“In 1973, when the town of Coeymans celebrated 300 years, the women of Riverview dressed up in period clothes and called themselves the Brown Sugar Belles,” Booth said.

Booth’s personal history in the town runs deep — her grandmother was one of the Brown Sugar Belles, and now Booth and her husband lead the church as co-pastors.

But time marches on, and the Booths have plans to retire and will pass the torch to the next generation.

“We are retiring and the Rev. Graham will take over as the pastor in 2024,” she said.

Today, Riverview Missionary Baptist Church welcomes the community as a house of faith for people of all races.

Yvonne Hughes is a relatively new parishioner at the church and sings its praises.

“It’s wonderful,” Hughes said. “I have been enjoying myself for the last three years at the church. I encourage everyone else to come because a lot of things have changed and we welcome the community at large.”

Riverview got its start as a prayer band led by the Rev. William Goodwyne, back in 1924. The church was long affiliated with the local brickyards. In the church’s early years, the Reverends Stroud, Staton and Williams were also laborers at the brickyards and assisted with the prayer band. The Sutton & Suderly Brick Company eventually donated a shanty on Route 144 for prayer meetings, and was originally known as Mount Sinai church.

The church was eventually renamed Riverview Missionary Baptist Church.

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