A historic black church in Pennsylvania is counting its blessings after an anonymous donor reportedly gifted the establishment over $3 million to help pay off its mortgage.
Rev. Richard Dent of the First African Baptist Church in Sharon Hill told local news he’s giving God all the credit.
“This is a blessing,” he told Fox29 over the weekend. “It’s unexpected, but we just can’t stop giving. We just gave the Lord the credit. This could not have been done without Him.”
Dent said he received a call from Citizens Bank in January informing him that an anonymous donor had gifted the church $3.1 million to go toward its mortgage.
The First African Baptist Church congregation formed in 1903 and has been a staple in the town for decades.
“In the black community, the church is the only thing we ever had to call our own,” Dent said. “When we couldn’t go to Civic Center or Union League, we always had the church. It is here where our children learn how to speak, how to stand before audiences.”
The church has inhabited a number of buildings over the years. The congregation moved into its current home in 2004 with a $4.5 million mortgage. The anonymous gift covered the majority of that sum, and the congregation raised the remainder to pay off the mortgage in full.
“We are paying off a 30-year mortgage in just 12 years,” Dent told The Philadelphia Tribune.
The church celebrated its 114th anniversary in February with a special Sunday service, during which Dent burned the mortgage papers.
“We are relieved of that burden,” Deborah Wray, the church clerk who’s been a member for nearly 30 years, told The Philadelphia Tribune. “We don’t have to leave it for our children to be responsible for.”
Dent said he hopes to pay it forward by putting the funds that would have gone toward the mortgage back into the community.
“The Lord blessed us that we might be a blessing to others,” he said. “My dream is to have every child who wants to go to college — we will have the money to be able to see that they can go.”