An Outstanding Early Black Pastor
Thomas Paul was born on September 3, 1773, in Exeter, New Hampshire. The names of his parents and their role in the community are not known. In 1789, at the age of sixteen, Paul converted and was then baptized by the Reverend Mr. Locke, and he began preaching at the age of twenty-eight. He traveled and preached for three years before settling down. In 1804 he made Boston, Massachusetts his home. A year later on May 1, 1805, Paul was ordained at Nottingham West, New Hampshire, and during the same year he married Catherine Water-house.
On August 8, 1805, twenty-four African American members met in Master Vinal’s schoolhouse and formed the congregation known as the First African Church. The white church members’ response to the separation of African American members was minimal. Boston’s two white Baptist churches assisted the congregation in its early stages and encouraged its growth. Finally, on December 4, 1806, Thomas Paul was installed as pastor of the First African Church, which was later renamed the Joy Baptist Church.
Paul presented a plan in 1823 to the Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts, to improve the moral and religious condition of the people of Haiti. His plan was enthusiastically accepted and he was sent as a missionary for six months. During his stay, President Boyer of the Republic of Haiti gave Paul permission to preach at public gatherings. He successfully reached many through his missionary work, but because of his lack of knowledge regarding French languages his overall success was limited.
Thomas Paul passed into the presence of his Lord on April 14, 1831.
The First African Church was an important part of the African American Boston community as it addressed issues and concerns of the day.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: Paul Thomas (1773–1831) – Minister, missionary, Organizes Independent Black Churches in Boston and New York, Missionary Work in Haiti – J Rank Articles