NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodNaples


Naples' oldest Black church still stands 70 years after it was built

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 18:09:11-05

NAPLES, Fla — The oldest black church in Naples still stands decades after its construction. The Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church has served as a cultural focal point for the Black community in Naples for almost 70 years.

Situated off Third Street North, the historic Black church was built in 1953, predating the end of segregation.

Ida Lawson, 85, who has been with the church since its inception, fondly recalls the tight-knit community. "Everybody knew everybody. And we worked closely together," she said.

Originally from Alabama, Lawson vividly remembers the area's humble beginnings during the era of segregation.

"It was just nothing. Too much here when I first came here. But then everything just built up around us, and I can't believe it," Lawson told Fox 4.

Voncile Whitaker, the church clerk, explained how the church served as a central gathering place for the Black community in its early days. "The church is rooted in the Black community," she emphasized, noting its significance beyond worship.

"This was the place for people to meet. Voting registration and all of that. This was the central location," Whitaker added.

Despite segregation, Whitaker explained that both communities came together to support the church and fund its construction.

"Everybody was mostly together. You could always get there was always somebody that would give you a hand and help you," Lawson recalled.

However, the church faces challenges in maintaining its congregation and attracting younger members. Whitaker noted that there has been a decline in youth attendance.

The church intends to apply for recognition as a historical site in Naples.