As denoted by local historian John Wolcott from his research on the origin of the Albany African Church, its transformation to the Albany African Baptist Church in1824, and the fact that Welcome Chapel is located within the last building of that church, built in 1870. The story begins in 1812 when a group of eight free Blacks banded together to jointly acquire a 32X50 foot lot at what is now 90 and 92 Broad Street. Here they built the first schoolhouse for Blacks in Albany.

As indicated on City tax rolls, this building had been converted, by 1819 into Albany’s first Black Church: ” The Albany African Church “. It was interdenominational and owned and maintained by the ” Albany African Church Association “. In 1822 this Association under the leadership of their first Minister Nathaniel Paul, either built a new wooden church, or moved the original school house-church, to a site on the north side of Hamilton Street between Fulton and Grand.

In 1824, according to Joel Munsell ‘s Annals of Albany 1858, the Albany African Church Association re-incorporated as ” The First African Baptist Society Of Albany “, but with some degree of controversy. This wooden church was the home of the First First African Baptist Society until 1869. In 1827, slavery was finally and completely abolished in New York. The celebration of this was held July 5th. at The Albany African Baptist Church preceded by a parade through the city led by the African Band and then a speech was delivered by the church’s Minister Nathaniel Paul, known as a richly eloquent orator. For several years afterward, more July 5th. celebrations were held at the Albany African Baptist Church.

What became of Albany’s first African American Church congregation? No one now really knows. Its history has received scant attention. One reason being the mistaken belief that Israel A.M.E. was the earliest Black Church in Albany. An easy mistake. Israel is, indeed, the oldest still existing Black congregation, having been founded in 1829. It’s also on Hamilton Street so the two churches get mixed up historically. The first deed of 1822 for the Hamilton Street African Baptist lot can’t be found because when the deeds were re-indexed in the late 19th. century, a clerk entered it in the Grantee index under Israel A.M. E. by mistake. It’s generally believed that The African Baptist congregation dissolved after they sold their old wooden church to a new congregation of French – Canadian Roman Catholics in 1869.

The last church building of the first Black congregation in Albany is still standing, and Welcome Chapel is in it right now. A certain deed of February 5th, 1870 from John Chambers and Elizabeth Chambers, his wife, attests to ” The First African Baptist Society of Albany”. It is for the lot where the Welcome Chapel sits. The African Baptist congregation built this church in that year of 1870 in a nice Gothic design , under the pastorate of the Rev. John D. Bagwell. That is except for past the archway toward the front, and the present glazed brick facade, the bell tower, the present front stoop , and the brick side gate. These were all added on after removing the original facade by the First Christian Church in 1909 under the pastorate of the Rev. Adelbert Youmans. At time, a new cornerstone was laid, or else the old one relocated with an added date. The First Christian Church also added the two story sections in the rear and the rear side, in 1883 when they acquired this church. The First African Baptist congregation lost the church in 1879 due to mortgage foreclosure proceedings against them, started in 1876 by the National Savings Bank of Albany. Their last pastor was the Rev. Henry H. Mitchell. After a while, the connection of this church edifice with the African Baptists became obscured. One clue, however, has always remained. The elevated baptismal tank up behind the pulpit. It’s amazing that after so many years, history returned full circle when the doors of Welcome Chapel first opened here.

Welcome Chapel Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1957 at its current location of 124 Chestnut Street in the Capital Region. Since its inception God has blessed its membership as it moved the fellowship from an inward focus to outward under the pastorate of Rev. Constance D. Knight, the first female to lead the congregation in 2015. The vision and mission given to the woman of God began with accountability. It was and is God’s desire for his people to yield to his direction and guidance. The vision for the church changed with each passing year and currently focuses on the perfecting of our faith to strive for perfected living.

In the seven (7) years of Pastor Knight’s leadership, the church initiated several programs, The Lunch Box and the Rev. Mary E. “Nana” Wallace Thanksgiving Day Meal of Love. Renovation projects of the Fellowship Hall and Welcome Housing have been ongoing and upon completion will assist the church in meeting congregational and community needs. As the congregation grows so do the ministries which now include Outreach and Women’s. Outreach, under the auspices of the Missionary Ministry will continue to meet the needs of the disenfranchised. And the Women’s ministry, girded with the word of God, will perform complementary support of each ministry while embracing the work and fostering relationships. “Eyes have not seen nor ears heard, neither entering the heart of man; what God has prepared for them who love him.” 1 Corinthian 2:9.

Meet The Pastor

Pastor Constance D. Knight serves as the beloved Senior Pastor of the Welcome Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Albany, New York. She is a native of nearby Troy, New York. Raised in a devout Christian family environment, Pastor Knight received her Christian nurturing from her parents the late Reverend Mary E. Wallace and the late Deacon Spencer L. Wallace who were examples for her to follow. A product of the Troy, New York educational system, she received her degree in Accounting as well as Business Administration. Pastor Knight initiated her Christian Education with the Black Ministers Certificate Program and graduated from Hartford Seminary.

Pastor Knight accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 8 and in heeding God’s call to the ministry, she was licensed in 1995 and ordained in 2000 under the pastorate of Reverend Jackie Robinson, Sr. of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Troy, New York. Pastor Knight earned her New York State ministry title of Chaplin in 2019.

Spirit-filled and dedicated rightly describes Pastor Knight. She has more than a decade of teaching and counseling, which enables her to reach others with her sense of humor, warmth and strength.

With a heart to serve God’s people and her community, Pastor Knight currently serves at Columbia County jail under Chaplin Reverend Richard Turpin. And for over a decade her service commitment, she serves at the Albany County Jail, through the Freedom Bound Ministries. She has ministered at the Hana House in Waterford for those with HIV and AIDS. Her extraordinary leadership skills were exhibited as she served on the Board of Directors for the Capital District Coalition of African American with Aides, (CDCAA) and the Commission on Economics Opportunities. In August of 2019 Reverend Knight became the first woman pastor to be elected to serve as Vice-Moderator of the Hudson Frontier Missionary Baptist Association.

And now, Reverend Knight has shattered a monumental glass ceiling within the history of the Hudson Frontier Missionary Baptist Association, Empire Baptist Missionary Convention, Inc., and the National Baptist Association which is to become the first woman Moderator. Her firsts are not to be understated as she and her mother, Rev. Mary E. Wallace served as pastor’s of two different churches at the same time and she is the first woman Pastor of Welcome Chapel MBC. “Eyes hath not seen nor ears heard…” being mindful that God is always in control.

Pastor Knight’s favorite scripture is Psalm 103:1-2 and she is known to always respond with “To God Be the Glory!” As a spirited and humble vessel of God, Pastor Knight exemplifies the love of Christ. Her heart’s passion revolves around the ministry of God’s people as she endeavors to encourage everyone she meets.

We, the Officers and Members of Welcome Chapel, are prayerful for the vision God has given to our Pastor, Rev. Constance D. Knight. Vision 2022. To God be the Glory.

We extend to you the invitation to stop by and worship with us and Meet the Pastor.