14 May 2017

German Baptist Church

Below is a brief history of the German Baptist Church in Albany.

The origins of the German Baptist Church date back to 1708, when Alexander Mack founded a religious community of eight believers in the Schwartzenau region of the Wittgenstein Province, in the Palatinate. The early religious movement was originally named the Church of the Brethren; but they were identified by other names, such as Dunkards, Dunkers, Täufer, and Tunkers, all relating to their practice of baptizing by immersion. 

Early followers were persecuted, and many immigrated to America. The first American congregation was founded near Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1723. In America, believers were originally known as Neue Täufer or new Baptists; therefore they adopted the title “German Baptist.” 

The first German Baptist congregation in Albany dates to February 1854, when German Reverend Johann Gerhard Oncken began a German Baptist mission in the city. Many of the Germans at the mission originally worshipped at the North Pearl Street Baptist Church. After Oncken baptized nine German converts, the German Baptist Church was organized and dedicated on October 29, 1854. In 1863, 252 Washington Avenue was purchased for use as a church.[1] 

During the year 1865 the German Baptist Church merged with the State Street Baptist Church to become the Calvary Baptist Church. However, Albany city directories still listed the church as the German Baptist Church until 1926. By 1897 the church counted eighty-five members, and its societies included a Sonntagschule, a Jugendverein, and a Frauenverein. 

The beginning of the end for the German Baptist Church occurred when Reverend David W. Zwink resigned as pastor of the church in 1911. He acknowledged that he was advancing in age and that he was troubled by the fact that “…the younger members of the congregation neglect the language of their fathers and speak only English. They subsequently attend the churches of the English speaking people… the attendance of the German church has fallen off to a scant body of about sixty old German residents.”[2] 

David W. Zwink

In 1926, the Calvary (German Baptist) Church burned down and merged with the Tabernacle Church to form Temple Baptist Church, on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Ten Broeck Street- today the site of the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church. Eventually, in 1970, the Temple Baptist Church merged with the Emmanuel Baptist Church at 275 State Street.[3] 

Pastors of the German Baptist Church
Alexander Von Puttkammer, 1854-62
Henry Feltmann, 1863-67
William Argow, 1868-75
Henry Trumpp, 1876-81
John Jäger, 1881- 87
David W. Zwink, 1887-95
A. M. Petersen, 1895-99
F. W. Becker, 1900-05
David W. Zwink, 1906-11
Vacancy, 1912
Adolph Bredy, 1913-1916
Vacancy, 1917-23

[1] n.a., Emmanuel Baptist Church of Albany: One Hundredth Anniversary, 1834-1934 (Albany: n. p., 1934), p. 46.
[2] Times Union, July 3, 1911, 8:1.
[3] n.a., Emmanuel Baptist Church 150th Anniversary, 1834-1984: Our Heritage, With Emphasis on Creative Tensions: 1959-1984 (Albany: Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1984), pp. 4-5, 7, 9.