WACO, Texas — The Church is so deeply rooted in Black history, dating back to slavery.
For decades after the Civil War, Black churches like Toliver Chapel Baptist Church in East Waco became a meeting place for political activism, plotting for justice and equality.
Today, it's a beacon of hope. A symbol of how far we've come but also the foundation to continue moving the black community forward.
Founded in 1895 by Rev. L Toliver, the church has uplifted the black community for more than a century, being a light in dark times like segregation and injustice.
Across history -- the black church has been that..was that foundation. You can go back as far as slavery period, that's where they found the hope, that's where they found the faith, Pastor Jimmy Hunter said.
And now, it's getting the community through a pandemic.
Serving for 21 years, Pastor Jimmy Hunter is the second oldest tenured pastor at the church, seeing its transformation.
"Toliver has weathered the storms and been here. Toliver was here when there was a railway that passed through here", he said.
He's also seen, firsthand, the impact in the community.
"The movement, the journey from then to now, the church has always been the hub. The church has already maintained herself. But, I'm seeing more and more persons recapturing the essence of what the church was meant to be," Pastpr Hunter said.
It's a place of refuge for spiritual nourishment and support in times of need.
"It's a very prevalent part of the community," church member Robin Erving said. "We do outreach, we have food drives where people can come and get food. We do Christmas baskets, Thanksgiving baskets, we are always helping the community."
That's what makes this church so special -- it's commitment to taking action.
"When there have been certain serious situations in the community, we've found ourselves present in those things. The church has got to stay engaged with community, not segregated from community. I think that's the key part, here," Pastor Hunter said.
When there was hesitation within the Black community about COVID19 vaccinations, Toliver took the lead, becoming a vaccine site to keep people safe.
No matter what, Erving said, the church is there.
"With everything that's going on this is where we come, to the Church and God. We don't have anywhere else to go but to God and the Church," she said.
"It's just a place where you can go and come and feel all your burdens are relieved because you have help here. People here love you. It's like a family," Joe Bishop said.
Bishop has been a member of Toliver Chapel since 1976.
He says, it makes you feel like you are not alone.
"It's just a place where you can go and come and feel all your burdens are relieved because you have help here. People here love you. It's like a family," Bishop said.
Whether it's racism, hair discrimination, police brutality, or COVID19, the Church is the foundation of love and strength to keep pushing forward for generations to come.
"Because when everything is gone, the church will still be standing," Pastor Hunter said.